China announced at the beginning of September 2021 that it was cracking down on children playing video games online, reducing gaming time to 3 hours a week, equating them to “spiritual opium” – addictive, personally damaging and culturally corrosive.
This was on the back of Tencent, one of the country’s largest gaming companies, in August stating they were using facial recognition to stop children playing games between 10pm and 8am.
The Chinese state made an executive decision to implement wide ranging changes which, in turn, caused waves across the global gaming market. Tencent already had an 11% stock drop in Hong Kong in August, but after the ban, others fell off a cliff edge – NetEast dropped 15%, BiliBili down 9.5%.
However, China is one of the world’s largest consumers of gaming products, with 665 million players. Even as the pendulum swings back in favour of the USA once again returning the pinnacle of gaming use and consumption, the industry is by no means in decline:
- The video games market was worth over $90 billion in 2020
- It’s stated to grow 2.29% annually between 2020 and 2024
- Players spent $4.5 billion on immersive games in 2020
Console gaming is in decline, however, with mobile gaming on the rise – this is having huge impacts in how the industry gathers investment, pushes innovation and encourages development as gaming studios take stock of the changing expectations and habits of global gamers – mobile gaming market revenue alone is stated to surpass $100 billion by 2023.
So what of the future of gaming, as people turn away from traditional powerhouse console makers and into the mobile world?
What sort of gaming experiences are people looking for, and how are game developers all over the world taking stock of innovative new tech in the gaming industry?
Streaming and non-traditional developers entering the market
- Microsoft already has gaming precedent with the creation of the Xbox, but they are advancing into streaming territory with the creation of their own cloud based gaming system Project xCloud. This has ushered in a new wave of streaming companies trying to get a piece of the gaming pie revenue.
- Google already has a streaming gaming platform – Stadia – but Facebook and even Netflix are entering the gaming space and trying to leverage their already substantial network of customers into a new, highly lucrative and loyal entertainment market.
- The rise of VR (virtual reality) has created a subgenre of game development focused on immersive experiences. Oculus – the facebook owned VR company – have made famous the idea of VR being accessible, and as other developers enter the market there will be innovations in sensory gaming, including the use of touch, voice and gestures ingame.
AI game making
- Procedural content generation is a fancy way of saying an AI system has been programmed to generate objects in a gaming universe – like trees, cliffs, water, whole environments, weather, even NPCs and other characters. Increasingly, game developers are leaning on AI to create ever more expansive and interesting worlds.
- However the next stage of AI development within gaming is focused on experiences – for example, AI “directors” who use neural programming to create gaming worlds personalized for you, after noting and analyzing your gaming style.
In a way, gaming is mirroring the development of hyper-personalized services, such as streaming media for TV and film, social networks, adverts, and ecommerce. Gaming is set to only expand into territory barely scratched by previous console iterations, through a focus on experiences and immersive tech.