The online games industry is an incredibly lucrative sector within the overall entertainment market. Gamers can’t seem to get enough of connected, social experiences that let them take on enormous monsters, collect rare pieces of powerful loot, and embark on awe-inspiring adventures with their friends. From fantasy RPGs with wizards and dragons to sci-fi titles filled with aliens and spaceships, online games are a pretty big deal.
This is proven in the massive revenue of the industry. In the United States alone, online games made $11.628 billion in 2018. This figure is expected to increase to $13.203 billion by 2023, with an annual growth rate of 2.6%. But if the sector is to maintain this level of growth, it will need to continue to innovate, and this comes down to the technologies it uses. Here are the top future technologies of online gaming.
VR MMOs to Become Mainstream?
Virtual reality (VR) headsets have already proven themselves to be fantastic for social gaming experiences. Through the comedic reactions of players immersed in horror gaming experiences like Resident Evil 7 to games like The Playroom VR, which lets groups of friends play with one VR headset and four PS4 games controllers. But we have yet to see VR embrace the most social game genre of all: MMOs (massively multiplayer online).
VR would be well-suited to MMOs as it would allow players to fully experience the fantastical atmospheres that these kinds of games offer. Enchanted forests could feel more magical, towering castles would feel more spacious, and battles on far-off planets would feel as alien as intended. We have seen some tentative steps towards this, with OrbusVR: Reborn, an indie VR MMO that is set to offer character classes, character customization, and player versus player combat, but it’s still a work-in-progress. With more development of VR MMO games like this, players will be able to engage with online multiplayer titles in new ways, and it will give people more of a reason to pick up their VR headsets on a regular basis.
Esports Becomes More Interactive
Esports is experiencing unbridled growth at the moment. Online games like Fortnite have drawn hundreds of millions of players, and as they build esports competitions, they have found mainstream interest too. Likewise, traditional broadcast channels such as ESPN have also been involved in getting these events out into the world. People are tuning into these events then, but how much are they engaging with them?
In the future, we can expect esports to become even more interactive, offering more ways for players to get involved in the competitive gaming experience. The future of esports gambling, for example, will allow fans to place bets on their favorite esports professionals or teams. They could even be able to place these bets using their mobile devices as they’re watching the tournament play out; when viewers have actually invested in the outcome of a game they’ll feel as though they are part of it. Other interactive esports initiatives include live streaming platforms such as Twitch, where viewers can use specific emotes and “Bits” to collectively cheer on a team and work to unlock a character skin. Patents have also been filed to let players purchase microtransactions for a game (including characters and skins) as they are watching an esports pro use that very same content on-screen.
Cloud Gaming is On the Rise
At the moment, accessing online gaming experiences entirely depends on what platform you are using. If you’re using a high-powered gaming PC then you’ll be able to play multiplayer games such as League of Legends and Dota 2, if you’re on a mobile device then you can play games such as Pokemon GO and Honor of Kings. While there are multiplayer games in which a mobile/console/PC port is available, this isn’t the case for all of them, so if you can’t afford or don’t have a specific platform then you just can’t access them.
A remedy to that is cloud gaming, with several games publishers having launched or announced initiatives that will allow players to access games on any platform. One such example of this is Microsoft’s Project xCloud streaming technology, which, according to its demo video of the technology, would allow people to play powerful games on their mobile devices. This means that even if you aren’t on the technology a game was initially designed for, cloud-gaming adaptions will let more people access these titles. In turn, this will widen the potential player base for a game and its developer and allow people to enjoy games together.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what online gaming could look like in the next decade or so. The industry moves so quickly and has so many companies (big and small) invested in it that online gaming technology tomorrow could look much different than what it does today.