With the soaring popularity of augmented and virtual reality games, 2016 could prove to be a watershed year in gaming, a point when the line separating the real world and the computer generated reality began to blur. Here’s a quick look at a few developments in gaming from the year to date – and a few predictions for the future.
1. AR Gaming is a One-hit Wonder
Whether you like it or not, it’s hard to describe the impact of Pokémon Go as anything but phenomenal. Niantic’s augmented reality (AR) game has been downloaded 500 million times as of September 2016, with players walking a combined 2.9bn miles to capture their favourite pocket monsters.
However, despite the media’s excitement, AR is not a game changer, at least from an entertainment perspective; the popularity of Pokémon Go owes a great deal to nostalgia and the Pokémon brand itself rather than any particular type of software. Niantic’s previous experiment with AR, Ingress, was a niche app with a comparatively tiny player base of 500k – 1m.
It’s hard to see where AR gaming will go from here. The technology enhances the world we already live in rather than offering gamers something genuinely new so it’s always going to have a limited canvas in that respect. That’s not to say that AR isn’t without its uses but its true potential lies outside gaming, in marketing.
After all, if you swap the Pokémon in Pokémon Go for pieces of furniture, you’re not far away from Ikea’s 2013 catalogue app.
2. Mobile Gaming Continues to Explode
Developer, Konami, recently suggested that mobile is the future of gaming and, while that might sound like a nightmare come true for conventional gamers, it’s probably true. The mobile market is much more lucrative than the console market ($30.3bn to $24.6bn in 2015), something that Nintendo no doubt had in mind when it announced plans to begin mobile development earlier this year.
Mobile gaming provides developers with access to an immediate, enormous, and expanding audience. It also includes unique demographics and apps like Betway Casino, an online gambling portal, which, traditionally, don’t feature on consoles. Statista indicates that the number of smartphones on earth will exceed 2.5bn by 2019; by comparison, the highest selling console in history, the PlayStation 2, shifted a paltry 157m units. Everybody has a phone – but not everybody has a gaming machine.
Over the next four years, the mobile gaming market in China could increase from a $5.7bn industry to an $11.1bn one, a development that should finally provide a definitive answer to the question of whether mobile apps have any longevity. There’s still money to be made in India and Brazil too, two countries that have yet to truly embrace mobile gaming.