Technology Driven Innovation in Gaming

In 2019, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings assured the company’s shareholders that the biggest rival of Netflix is not HBO, Disney, or Amazon. According to him, the biggest challenge for the platform was the video game Fortnite. There are more than 3.24 billion gamers in the world today, with the size of the gaming industry at a whopping $180.3 Billion (expected to reach $256.97 Billion by 2025). If we include the trending concept of metaverse into the gaming mix, we could say it is worth even more.

Today, advertising in the world of gaming is in a league of its own, with organizations like MasterCard, Subway, and Marvel using popular games like League of Legends, Uncharted, and Fortnite (respectively) to promote their offerings. Games like Minecraft have used the power of social media and customer co-creation to amass more than 141 million active players worldwide.

Technology-driven innovation has drastically changed how we look at gaming. We have moved leaps and bounds from the time we used to play games like Tetris (even though it still is a cherished game in the e-sports community). Emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, 5G, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Extended Reality, and even Blockchain have changed the whole gaming ecosystem in ways we could not have imagined. With the industry gaining so much prominence, it was bound to see a transformational shift using technologies of tomorrow.  So, let’s see how tools of the modern era are taking the entertainment to a new level:

Artificial Intelligence

Today, AI is being used to solve problems in healthcare, supply chain, manufacturing, and so much more! The global artificial intelligence market size (valued at $62.35 Billion in 2020) is now expected to grow at a CAGR of 40% by 2028. But do you know that there is a survival game that was released in 2014 out there which incorporated a systemic AI into the play, a collection of decision systems that reacted to what’s happening in the game? The harder you tried to win, the harder the computer tried to beat you. Not only that, it learned from the tactics you used. This means that the same tricks won’t work on it twice.

The game we are talking about here is Alien: Isolation, an award-winning game that used a 2-tier AI system into the play to make it as real as a game can get. Every time you play the game, the alien who is trying to hunt you will follow a randomized pattern, with certain reactions being triggered by your activities like creating noise, using fire, etc. This means that you cannot just look up a video on youtube to see how to clear a level as the alien will optimize its strategy as per your moves. The AI will observe, learn, and improvise to trigger a thrill inside you. This gives you a feeling of constant, believable, and unpredictable threat.

But that game is in the past; what is AI doing for games today? There are platforms like SenpAI, Shadow, and Omnicoach that are using the power of AI to train and coach gamers who want to improve their gaming skills. They will personalize their systems to your playing style. These platforms coach for multiple games, including the likes of League of Legends, Valorant, Fortnite, Counter-Strike, etc.

Esports is expected to grow at a brisk pace in the near future, given that, unlike traditional sports, the factor of genetics plays less to no role in competitiveness. With the growth in Esports, such platforms are bound to gain traction in the coming future.

Game Development & Graphics

We have moved from 2D to 3D graphics in gaming and now are exploring Virtual and Augmented Reality. There still is, however, a lot to be achieved in computer graphics before we consider them perfect and leave them behind to move on to AR/VR. Unreal Engine 5 is one such graphics development tool that has completely changed the game when it comes to game development by introducing Lumen.

For years, game developers have struggled to simulate global illumination (how light bounces off from different surfaces). And to tackle this problem, they have faked global illumination through light baking. Even though that helps them speed up the rendering process, making edits later on, would require them to re-bake the entire environment. With Lumen, Unreal Engine 5 has achieved real-time global illumination shrinking the overall development time and improving the graphics quality drastically.

But apart from Lumen, Unreal Engine 5 has also introduced Niagara, Nanite, Convolution Reverb, and more to make the whole experience even more immersive through virtualized geometry, spatialized audio, functional particle interactions, and predictive movement systems.

Lastly, Unreal Engine 5 has simplified the creation of metahumans, which are considered to be one of the hardest assets to create for games while also being the most expensive part of any production. Now any game developer can create realistic humans within minutes. Even scanning real human faces to create customized metahumans is a possibility. If you’re a fan of Keanu Reeves, you’ve probably already seen the demo of The Matrix Awakens, where you can see a customized metahuman of him developed on, you guessed it, Unreal Engine 5!

Previously we have seen Keanu Reeves in CyberPunk 2077, Michael Mando in Far Cry 3, and Giancarlo Esposito in Far Cry 6, and now this trend will only grow in the coming future. For all we know, Shah Rukh Khan might make an appearance in a game before he makes an appearance in a Marvel movie.

Conclusion

Emerging technologies are changing the way we live. From the cars you drive to your voice-activated speaker, everything around you today is touched by these technologies in some way or the other. Games have made great strides since Snake, Contra, Mortal Kombat, and many more. With further innovation in technologies, we’ll see more miracles not only in games but in the whole gaming ecosystem.

In the next decade, AR/VR will become mainstream. From hardware to software, everything will be very different from what we are seeing today. And with it becoming mainstream, it will also become more affordable for a wider and more variant consumer base. With the introduction of the metaverse, even XR will gain prominence. And metaverse is not the only thing that blockchain will help move forward. There already are gaming-specific NFTs and Cryptocurrencies, and you can expect more of them.

Using the power of 5G and Cloud, services like Google Stadia will gain traction as well. Instead of having to own expensive gaming machines, you would be able to buy a subscription service that allows you to stream Triple-A titles like Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto, and Red Dead Redemption. With organizations like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and more having already made huge investments in gaming, you could say that sky is the limit for where modern technologies and innovation will take the gaming industry.