Every year, gamers converge on the Develop conference in Brighton, an opportunity for people from the world of gaming to get together and to discuss the trends for their industry. For the last decade or so, the conference has been focused on either PC, mobile or console. But come 2016, things started to change. All of a sudden developers began to realize that gaming wasn’t something you did, it was something that you experienced – literally.
Here’s what the gaming industry was talking about this year.
VR With Friends
The VR industry got off to a big start in 2016. Dozens of products launched, all promising users an immersive experience like nothing they have experienced before. We had HTC launching the Vive, Oculus launching the rift, and Samsung launching its own variants.
Many analysts have suggested that the industry has gotten off to a slow start, but they forget that before 2016, there were no consumer VR devices on the market whatsoever.
One of the criticisms of VR thus far has been the fact that it is isolating. Many people inside and outside of the gaming world see VR as a technology that could remove the need for real human interactions, instead providing individuals with a make-believe world in which they can carry out their lives. Developers are keenly aware of this, and so they’re fighting back by making VR gaming a more social experience. Developers know that the most successful games, like Counter Strike, World of Warcraft and Team Fortress, stand the test of time because of the communities that they generate. The future of VR isn’t, therefore, in space simulators and racing games. Instead, it’s in providing people with virtual environments in which they can chat with their friends and do missions together. According to Solomon Rogers, the co-founder of a creative agency that deals with VR, virtual social spaces will be so advanced, you’ll be able to work out who the avatars are, just from their hand gestures and mannerisms.
The Rise of Mobile
Games like Clash of Clans Online did a lot to spur the development of games in the mobile space. This year, these games are going to become increasing augmented and collaborative in their nature. We already saw games like Pokemon go prototyping an early version of augmented reality, where digital images were overlaid on the real world. Now, we’re going to increasingly see collaborative strategy games that do the same. Rami Ismail of Vlambeer told delegates at the conference that Pokemon Go beat everything last year, including Twitter and Tinder, meaning that it was in the right place at the right time. Whether it means that AR will beat VR in the long term remains debatable, Ismail says. We’ll just have to wait and see how the two ecosystems develop.
Steam has been at the epicenter of online game purchases for well over a decade, thanks to the success of games like Half Life 2 and Counter Strike. Now, though, developers are suggesting that the market may fragment. More specialized sites, like Itch.io are now providing gamers with access to Indie titles that’d usually get buried on Steam.