2015 was a great gaming year, and it’s not only traditional gamers who enjoyed all the fun. Latest research by Nielsen, a consumer trends insights company, estimates that 1.2 billion people worldwide are playing online games, with global video game sales expected to reach $86.9 billion by 2017, up from $63.4 billion in 2012 .
I recently spoke to some gaming enthusiasts about what they are most looking forward to in 2016, and here’s what they had to say.
As the gaming industry attracts a wider audience base, it is all about the storyline with many games providing consumers with a Hollywood movie experience.
Developers are creating much larger and more compelling worlds for gamers to explore. The most popular games of 2015, Fallout 4 and Witcher 3, provide a fulfilling, immersive gaming experience, complete with improved scripting, character development and well-conceived storylines. “Deep gameplay, immersive graphics and sound and a sense of nostalgia are what set these games apart,” says Khaldoon Said, Saudi gaming enthusiast.
Augmented reality gets even more real
Virtual and augmented reality are set to become more commercialised. Virtual reality, which has been around for a while, immerses your senses completely in a world that only exists in the digital realm. Augmented reality takes the real world and projects digital imagery and sound into it. For a taste of this, watch the Microsoft Hololens launch to see how to use your couch as a living shield against monsters literally crawling out your living room walls. The Minecraft demo at this year’s E3 also showed off the true capabilities of mixed reality in the gaming world.
Many gamers haven’t had the chance to experience either yet and it can be cost prohibitive, but this year that will start to change, particularly with the anticipated virtual reality headwear, Oculus Rift.
“Toys-to-life games, using Near Field Communications (NFC) to wirelessly enable toys to appear in the game will also be popular in 2016,” says Khaldoon Said.
Gaming in the cloud
Traditionally, computer games are delivered in boxes or via Internet downloads with gamers having to install large and complex files onto their PCs or consoles. Cloud gaming allows for streaming of games over the internet, and is a better way to deliver a high-quality gaming experience. With video streaming services like Netflix taking off, games are next. However, because they are interactive, which presents a much greater technical hurdle for cloud services, it has been challenging. However with faster internet connections and evolving remote data centres, cloud gaming experiences are gaining momentum.
Highly anticipated games such as Crackdown 3 will harness cloud-driven capabilities in a multi-player environment to calculate and render real-time damage to buildings, creating a fully destructible environment. With exciting advances in technology, players can expect even larger-scale productions of online gaming entertainment becoming possible in 2016.
Invite your mobile
In addition to mobile phones being a great way to make gaming more social, they are now part of the traditional console experience.
Xbox SmartGlass, for example, turns your mobile phone or tablet into a second screen that intelligently interacts with your Xbox to elevate your entertainment experience. Second screens allow you to control your TV with your device, surf the web on your TV, use your device’s keyboard for easy text input and search on your console, and get relevant immersive details about a game on your device while you are playing.
Although mobile phones are a great addition to the gaming experience and for staying connected to fellow gamers, it is unlikely the mobile platform will ever take the place of consoles or the PC, but will be used more for their cross-platform capabilities. “I am not an advocate of mobile gaming for serious gamers, it is a nice way to kill time but doesn’t provide enough immersion,” says Khaldoon Said.
Have fun with more friends
Traditionally perceived as loners, most gamers love playing socially. 2015 was the year that gamers took advantage of new features such as game streaming, Xbox app and the DVR function. Many of the games that come out this year will be played by groups of friends or gaming networks in various living rooms. Gamers are increasingly making use of chat functions and are able to record, edit and share clips of games with their friends, providing for a more social environment than ever before. Xbox Live has also brought social gaming into people’s living rooms with Windows 10 devices.
Ultimately, 2016 will be an epic new gaming year with forthcoming releases such as Quantum Break, Crackdown 3, Gears of War 4, ReCore, Elder Scrolls Argonia and Tacoma. 2016 will be the year where gamers will be have more in-depth worlds to explore, larger than life mixed realities and Hollywood storylines that will leave players from all levels, satisfied.