Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

From the death of physical copies to eSports at the Olympics: what's next for video gaming?

With the PlayStation 5 and new Xbox on the horizon we look to the future of gaming to see what’s next

We think more games than ever before will now be played on your phone. Getty.
We think more games than ever before will now be played on your phone. Getty.

There’s no mass media industry that moves as swiftly as the videogames business. By comparison, film, TV and music are lumbering beasts that take years to launch innovations. But gaming is as nimble as a powered-up Super Mario when it comes to ushering in change.

From tech advances such as virtual reality, which can immerse players into digital worlds, to free-to-play business models such as Fortnite’s, which turns a billon-dirham profit overnight, there’s nothing like the games industry.

A new Xbox and the PlayStation 5 are due to be released next year, but this is just the start. The videogame industry is about to take another giant leap forwards. Taking current trends, rumours and insider information into account, here’s what we believe the future holds for gaming.

The end of physical copies of games

Just as digital-only services from the likes of Apple and Netflix have practically killed off both CDs and DVDs, a similar fate awaits videogame discs. PC games left physical discs behind a long time ago, thanks to online stores such as Steam and Epic Games.

And it seems Sony, ­Microsoft and Nintendo’s digital shopfronts are now experiencing the same influx of customers.

'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare' is one of the most talked about releases of this year. Getty.
'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare' is one of the most talked about releases of this year. Getty.

Gamesindustry.biz reports that console game sales in Europe alone are quickly shifting to a digital future. The immediacy of purchasing a game within seconds is now key among consumers who want the latest release.

One of the biggest problems with downloading videogames rather than getting them on a disc is that you ­inevitably must delete them to free up space for a new one. But with PlayStation 5 and the new Xbox arriving next year, with much bigger storage, this will no longer be an issue.

The days of queuing up at midnight to get the latest videogame release will very soon be over.

Cyclical console updates to grind to a halt

The new Xbox and PlayStation 5 could mark the end of the console cycle as we know it. This was the hot topic among developers and publishers at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

It makes sense, too. Rather than with PC gaming, where you can continuously upgrade to get the best sound and graphics out of your machine, consoles are stuck with the same electronic guts for five to 10 years. We often get to the end of the cycle with videogames wringing out the very last drips of power.

But with future-proofed hardware being served up by Sony and Microsoft, developers can now realise their wildest dreams and build games without fear of restrictions.

The new Google Stadia cloud-based gaming system controller. EPA
The new Google Stadia cloud-based gaming system controller. EPA

Increased controller feedback

Haptic feedback – that little rumble you get from a games controller – is set for a major overhaul. You’ll soon be able to feel the difference in various on-screen activities.

PlayStation 5 architect Mark Cerny revealed to tech magazine Wired that different surfaces would provide different feels through the controller. Ice will feel slippery and mud will feel slow and soggy. There’s even talk of the haptics being able to replicate the difference between a shotgun blast and assault rifle spray.

Increased cross-platform gaming

Games such as Fortnite, Rocket League and Minecraft already bring players together online regardless of what platform they’re playing on. And although Sony is still reluctant to join the party, the future of multiplayer is surely cross-platform.

Google Stadia has already announced it will play well with others when it rolls out next month.

It’s almost inevitable that all versions of the same game will meet up online eventually.

eSports could be about to be an Olympic sport. Getty.
eSports could become easier to get into than ever. Getty.

eSports access from your sofa

Although eSports is gaining mainstream media coverage, getting into it is still a mystery. It certainly feels like a clandestine pursuit where word of mouth is your only way into the serious competitions.

But as publishers take control of their own tournaments and competitions, the ability to enter high-­ranking games will come at the touch of a button. Fifa, Call of Duty and more already host their own qualifiers that you can find through the in-game menus. And with the eSports market being so lucrative, publishers will want to tempt as many players as possible to take part in their version. It’s perfectly sensible to make the process far more streamlined for gamers.

A complete revolution of mobile gaming as we know it

In the past, mobile gaming amounted to flinging irate feathered creatures through the air or tapping on colourful jelly beans. It was sneered at by the so-called hardcore gamers, but the winds of change have come through like a hurricane. Games such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Call of Duty: Mobile and, of course, Fortnite have millions of players already. They’re big-budget titles that work intuitively with on-screen controls. These aren’t outliers any more, either – they’re about to become the norm. Just look at Apple Arcade. The recently released subscription service has burst on to the scene with a host of excellent titles without any adverts or – the bane of mobile gaming – in-app purchases.

eSports could be about to become an Olympic event. AFP
eSports could be about to become an Olympic event. AFP

eSports to become an Olympic event

“So-called killer games. They, from my point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted,” Thomas Bach, International Olympic Committee president, told AP. But that was back in 2018 and it appears that the IOC has softened its stance. In fact, from July 22-24, the Olympic-sanctioned Intel World Open will take place in Japan, a few weeks before the Summer Games begin in the country.

Rocket League and the definitely-still-violent Street Fighter V will have a prize pot of $500,000 (Dh1.8 million). It appears to be the IOC testing the waters of an official inclusion of eSports in time for Paris 2024. ESports is often thought of as something only lazy, unfit people do in their spare time. What many people don’t realise is that these athletes train for up to 12 hours per day, have strict healthy diets and a team of experts on hand – from nutritionists and physiotherapists to sports psychologists – to keep them in peak condition. This is something to bear in mind if/when darts finally gets lobbed into the Olympic Games mix.

More big tech companies to enter the market

Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft have had the playing field to themselves for too long. Now, Google is about to play its hand with Stadia, Apple has entered the market with Arcade and Amazon is rumoured to have a game streaming service in the works. Facebook has also dipped its toe into the multibillion-dollar industry with its pseudo-mobile gaming features. The social media network has more than one billion members, so all it would take is one great game for Mark Zuckerberg to dominate.

Updated: October 29, 2019 10:12 AM

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