As technology has grown more sophisticated, games have moved from the fringes of social conversation to the centre. Seemingly every technological innovation has a gaming angle to it. Gamers can earn serious money pursuing their hobbies, and pop culture fringe topics such as anime have become pillars of conversation thanks to games.
Statista notes that adults in the United States spent an average of 14 minutes per day with a gaming console. This doesn’t sound like much, but combining time spent on mobile games and taking the fact that this is an average number into account reveals just how often adults spend time gaming.
As innovations continue to rise, here are 4 trends to watch out for in the gaming industry.
Growth Of Virtual Reality
Ever since Facebook acquired Oculus, the world has eagerly awaited the rise of virtual reality (VR) technology. On the surface, VR has been a bit of a disappointment. Initial use cases promised fully immersive worlds that users could practically live and work in. However, reality provided a cardboard box with a few lasers shooting at users.
Despite the initial disappointment, VR is finally finding its groove and is set to make a splash in gaming. Oculus’ Quest 2 headset has heralded a new frontier for VR as the number of games available on the platform continues to rise. Crucially, commercially available console titles are also shifting to VR.
For instance, The Walking Dead, a game based on the popular TV show of the same name, is one of the bestsellers on Oculus’ platform. Many VR games mirror simpler PC games, and the day isn’t far when gamers can relax playing simple games such as FreeCell Solitaire in a VR environment.
Since the pandemic, VR is finding even more applications, and gaming has been a beneficiary. The rise of virtual worlds has given people a break from the drudgery of lockdowns. Games have become a means to improve mental health, and VR has played a critical role in this rise.
Rise Of eSports
eSports were the first games to hit the mainstream. The popularity of titles such as EA’s Madden series and 2K sports’ NBA 2K series gave rise to tournaments with hefty cash prizes attached to them. While the initial rise of eSports focused on games centred around real-world sports, this category has seen a shift recently.
While traditional sports continue to be popular, the likes of Fortnite and DOTA have reframed themselves as sporting activities, as opposed to mere entertainment options. Spurred by reports of high gamer earnings, these games are witnessing a massive influx of new gamers seeking to earn living playing games.
Traditional eSports have also received a boost thanks to sporting leagues recognizing their validity. For instance, Formula 1 was a famously staid sport stuck in the past for much of the previous decade, with the sport neglecting basic promotion such as social media. However, in recent years after a corporate takeover, the racing series has heavily promoted its eSport championship alongside its real-world championships.
The validity of Formula 1 eRacing is further boosted by the fact that F1 drivers Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, George Russell, and Max Verstappen (all of them rising and established stars in the circuit) are avid gamers and interact with fans routinely on their streams. This crossover of real and electronic gaming worlds is only set to increase, and it provides sports leagues with a new way of building relationships with their fans.
Games everywhere agree that old is cool. Nostalgia is making a comeback in pop culture, with vinyl records, rotary dial telephones, and cassette tapes becoming collectables. Gaming is witnessing the same trend, with artwork and other paraphernalia connected to older games receiving massive attention.
Another example of this move towards old-school cool is the activity on Runescape 2007, a legacy server running the original Runescape game. One explanation of this move is the appeal of simple gaming rules, as opposed to the complex world-building structures that dominate Fortnite and newer games.
As gaming complexity grows, non-traditional gamers feel threatened by the steep learning curves and tend to stay away. Older games provide a simple universe that everyone can participate in. For instance, older games like Contra, Pacman, Tetris, and Prince of Persia provide simple gaming interfaces that are challenging but allow users to get up to speed quickly.
Rise Of The Metaverse
The metaverse was first mentioned in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash as a fully formed virtual world that people can inhabit. Gaming is moving away from a platform-like structure to a virtual world that gamers can fully immerse themselves in. Travis Scott’s concert on Fortnite is one example of how the virtual world is becoming as real as the physical world.
Close to 46 million people had access to the concert, and 12 million participated in the first live event. In contrast, the largest ever physical concert in 1994 had 3.5 million people in attendance, a quarter of the online audience. Before Fortnite’s event, gamers set about constructing virtual viewing platforms, interacting with one another just as one would in the real world.
The rise of blockchain gaming has given rise to the play-to-earn movement where gamers can invest in NFTs earned from gameplay and resell them for a profit. In places such as The Philippines, play-to-earn is a veritable side hustle and is far from just an entertainment option.
As the Metaverse continues to unfold along with other trends, the world continues to witness significant shifts in the way games are perceived by society. Only the future will tell where these trends end up taking us.