Games development, being a multidisciplinary field; innovations are widely spread out. Recent advancements in mobile device technologies, app stores, social networks and freemium business models have resulted in drastic shifts in the gaming industry, says Anand Bhojan, who teaches Game Development at School of Computing, National University of Singapore (NUS). He goes on to explain each in detail.
Mobile Games to continue to lead the market
In general, there is an upward interest and shift towards mobile and web including social networking such as Facebook-based casual games as the market size for such games is huge. iOS and Android platform and their self-publishing model (developers can publish directly without looking for a publishing partner, own their own IP, manage their own community and keep 70 per cent of the amount that the players spend) gave a greater push to the success of mobile games. These games have low cost of production and shorter time-to-market. Due to the same reason, Indie-game development (small game development teams/studios) has become very popular. Even big studios such as Ubisoft, Capcom, Square Enix, Eutechnyx and EA that produced several successful AAA (rating) title games, have embraced mobile games wholeheartedly. EA reported that for the first-time ever, it made more money through the iOS App Store than they did through any other distribution platform, including its own Origin service in 2013. However, with large number of players, the challenges are escalating. This competition may lead to consolidation of smaller teams to bigger ones developing feature-rich mobile games. Its massive success has even led the console makers to look beyond games and to incorporate social elements and integration with mobile devices to offer clever “second screen experiences” (enhanced viewing), enabling sharing of game videos through popular channels like Facebook, YouTube or Twitch, amongst other features.
Learning from the publishing models of mobile Appstores
Recent release of several low cost and open source Android-based microconsoles such as OUYA, GameStick and MOJO opens up huge opportunities for game players and developers by pushing up for a self-publish model. For instance, Ouya offers 1080p gaming experience and contains tons of free-to-play and affordable games at $99. Top console platform manufacturers like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo were all courting indie-game developers, inviting them to help them boost their software lineups. Recently, there were significant shifts in publishing policies — PlayStation 4 and Xbox One that remove the barriers for indie-game developers to develop and market their games for these platforms. Importantly, console developers follow the self-publish model of ‘Mobile Appstores’ on consoles. This is good news for developers to enter into this highly marketed platform.
Freemium Model rules
With increased number of players and self-publish model, it becomes essential for game developers to shift their focus on reaching more players and retaining them in their games to be successful in the market. The game developers hugely embrace free-to-play or freemium model to reach more players. This is easily apparent when we look at the 100 top grossing games on the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. More than 90 per cent of the games are free-to-play. Significant part of the revenue is generated only through selling in-game items. We can also see the shift in MMORPGs, which used to be mostly subscription-based.
Virtual Reality returns
Virtual Reality immerses a physical presence within a computer-simulated environment, either in the real world or that of imagination. With increased hardware capabilities in technological advancements, Virtual Reality gets back to the main stream to provide immersive gaming experience. For example, the head-mount display Oculus Rift features a massive field view (107 degrees), quick-response (ultra-low latency) head-tracking system, and incorporates immersive stereoscopic 3D rendering capabilities as well. Immersive games with Rift are already being demonstrated in several trade shows and conferences. On March 25, Facebook announced that it had agreed to buy Oculus VR. The consumer version of the product is expected to become available later this year. In GDC this year, Sony has also announced a VR headset in the works for PS4.
In recent years, due to reliable and faster internet connections, cloud-computing services have been increasing in greater pace. High penetration rate of mobile devices and resource-limited devices escalate the demand for cloud services further. Cloud computing conventionally follows three fundamental models, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Lately games have also started to make an appearance into the cloud scene with Games on Demand (GoD) which has tapped onto the SaaS type of cloud technology. A cloud gaming system must collect a player’s actions, transmit them to the cloud server, process the action, render the results, encode the resulting changes to the game world, compress, and stream the video (game scenes) back to the player. With cloud gaming, we can play latest version high quality games without the need for version updates. The game will be centrally controlled which improves the overall security.