In an industry as tight-lipped as gaming, speculating about the up-and-coming trends is like navigating the stock market with tealeaves. Big news is kept under lock and key because even a small leak will end up on the front page of the Internet. Though it’s difficult to predict which tech innovation or new entertainment trend will pop up next, I’d wager that if you really know the industry, you’d be able to paint a picture of what lies ahead. Take a look at my painting—Monet or Picasso?
What’s VR Got to Do With It?
People have been enamored with virtual reality for what seems like forever, but we haven’t seen overwhelming application of the technology. We’ve gotten a taste of what gaming would look like in virtual reality, but the opportunity for mass consumption just hasn’t been available. That is until Facebook’s release of the first Oculus Rift consumer units. Other VR devices have been lauded over the past year, but until now, there hasn’t been a gaming option—it’s been strictly for viewable content. With this development, I have no doubt VR will shake up the gaming market and impact the traditional gamer experience in the year ahead.
Oculus may be the first mover when it comes to gaming, but the new headset doesn’t come cheap—try $600. For true gamers, that’s a drop in the bucket, but this will certainly price some folks out of the market. Since smartphones occupy a pocket in virtually every pair of pants these days, I see the VR market trending towards the low-cost alternatives (i.e., Google Cardboard, which retails for roughly $20) once they’re able to suitably replicate the gaming technology. Developers will quickly realize the accessibility of VR for mobile and begin designing games for mobile platforms in order to achieve more widespread adoption. The Oculus Rift is a game-changer for the gaming industry, but it’s only a matter of time before others significantly lower the cost to entry. Either way, this is going to be one massive wave for gamers to ride in 2016!
Crowdfunding has been one of the hottest buzzwords of the past year. It’s also opening doors for people who, in years past, would not have had the same opportunity. The exciting aspect of this craze is the opportunity for collaborative game development. Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platforms are providing gamers and developers the money and means to create new genre-specific games. These are games by the people, for the people. Opportunities are popping up in niche markets and no-name developers are getting their chance to shine and capture some of the ultra-competitive gaming market; for example, Star Citizen and Mighty No. 9.
Why is this a revelation? Because gaming has been dominated by the major game labels since gaming began. Open source code is flipping the script and allowing users to create games that fill needs the market wouldn’t ordinarily take a chance on. These young coders are adding value to the market by creating games that stray from tradition, utilize different formats, and blur the lines historically between players and creators.
Based on growing ratings in the past few years, eSports is ready to take off. Having already amassed enough views internationally to rival the World Series, eSport franchises are well on their way to becoming as mainstream as America’s favorite past time—I think I've made my views on that pretty clear. But I’m not here to repeat myself; I’m here to explain what this all means—mainstream media coverage.
Championship gaming competitions already surpass NBA and NHL finals in viewership numbers, and are on their way towards NFL numbers. Until now though, that’s all been done online via Twitch. It’s about time these eSports competitions begin airing on major stations like ESPN, and I see that happening in the very near future. Gaming leagues will have weekly TV slots and who knows, maybe you’ll even see some highlights grace SportsCenter’s #Top10 reel. I certainly won’t be shocked when, in a couple years, eSports franchises are sharing the Staples Center with the Lakers and Clippers.
The gaming industry continues to boom and the opportunities for growth continue to accumulate. What once may have seemed like farfetched predictions are now on the brink of reality. Strap in, because the gaming world is going to take us on a wild ride.