The last twelve months have been momentous in so many ways. For many people, it feels like the political and social landscape has fundamentally changed. And through it all, technology has been a major player. You only have to look at issues of surveillance and government data to see that tech has a huge impact on almost every aspect of our lives.
In 2016, it was the rise of virtual technology which made headlines. It is remarkable to see just how fast VR has grown over the last five years. It had a shaky commercial start in the form of Google Glass, which didn’t so much improve lives as increase traffic collisions. However, the Sony PlayStation VR headset was released in October and is currently delighting gaming fans.
The success of VR technology means that we’re bound to see much more of it in 2017. It will come to define many of the biggest video game advancements. While the most immediate goal is improving its reliability, there’s no telling what kind of magic developers will conjure up once they’ve ironed out the early kinks. The rise of streaming is also set to continue into 2017, with platforms like Twitch already working on new features and services.
This guide to the most important video game advancements of 2017 will take a closer look at VR, streaming, and other major trends.
Virtual reality gaming is still very new, but developers move fast and there are already talks about the next phase. One of the repeated criticisms of VR is that, while immersive, it continues to be quite an isolating experience. You can’t play with friends. However, the chief of Sony London believes that this will change and that the company is committed to inventing a system which allows two or players to interact with one another in a virtual space.
Physically Involved Gaming
This has been a goal for some time. In fact, the Nintendo Wii was the first console to really incorporate real-time movements with video game play. Since then, we haven’t seen a lot of development in this area. However, the recent success of Pokemon Go shows that the appetite for physically immersive experiences is still there. In 2017, we’re likely to see more live-action titles (like The Bunker), which prioritize sensory engagement over game mechanics.
Incremental Console Updates
If one thing about the future of gaming is clear, it’s that annual console releases are dead in the water. In 2016, Microsoft and Sony committed to incremental updates with the Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Pro. It is a change that makes sense and will drive the gaming industry forward. As a number of key figures have pointed out, what is the point of having a console if it can be outperformed (many times) by your mobile phone before an update is available?
Steam continues to be a very popular platform for avid gamers, but it does have its limitations. In 2016, studies showed that a whopping 37% of all its games are completely ignored. It is not necessarily because they don’t deserve the attention either. With so many titles competing for users, there just isn’t room for smaller, independent games. As a response to this, more specialised marketplaces are appearing. Itch, for example, calls it’s an ‘indie marketplace and DIY game jam host.’ It is already a big hit and it channels a lot of its profits back into independent developers and projects.
Dynamic Indie Studios
It is fortunate that there’s such an interest in indie games at the moment because 2017 is set to see a huge rise in the number of independent studios. While big names like RockStar and Microsoft Studios are not likely to be threatened by these little guys anytime soon, they are marking a splash with more the experimental gamers. Titles like Braid, World of Goo, Olli Olli, Sunless Sea, and Fallen London have captured imaginations and proved that you don’t need an army to create something epic.
One of the most interesting video game advancements of recent years is known as feel engineering. It is based on the principle of putting emotions first. In other words, a developer begins with the feelings that they want to instill in a gamer and then they work backwards. The mechanics and dynamics of the game are secondary to the sensory experience. It is not the most efficient or effective way to create titles, but it is leading to some very intriguing work and projects. For instance, the mobile game SpaceTeam was born when a team of developers decided to try and recreate the feeling of playing a board game with friends.
In September, a huge multiplayer game called H1Z1 was released by DayBreak Games. It gives players a sprawling map and pits them against one another in a Battle Royale style war for dominance. As the clock ticks down, the map gets smaller and the surviving players are forced to do battle, rather than hide and wait it out. While H1Z1 isn’t the first title to use this format (many of its features echo Call of Duty), it is breaking ground with its progressive upgrades and developments. Increasingly, gamers won’t have to wait for a title to be flawless before it is released. Instead, they will follow its journey by directly experiencing its incremental refinements, as and when they engage with it.
There is no stopping the rise of video game streaming platform Twitch. It is a huge force within the industry right now, even if it has a number of defiant critics. Paid for streaming does present challenges, but it is also redefining the way in which games are enjoyed and experienced. In 2017, the introduction of four way ‘Breakaway’ streaming will make Twitch the first to offer real-time stat overlays and participatory feeds. It is promising users that they’ll soon be able to affect streamed gameplay via polls, loyalty points, and other features.
A Blend of Multi and Single Player
The introduction of Grand Theft Auto Online was a major success for RockStar. For the first time, players were able to switch seamlessly between single and multiplayer modes and they loved it. The most recent installment in the franchise took this to a new level, with a narrative that included no fewer than three playable leads (each with their own side quests, stories, and adventures). It was a mammoth undertaking, but the fact that so many people are still enjoying it shows that gamers are still thirsting for diverse, flexible experiences.
Increased Visibility for eSports
The last twelve months have been pivotal for the evolution of eSports. Street Fighter V, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike all secured broadcasting rights for television in 2016. In fact, broadcasting rights for the League of Legends now lie in the hands of a company which streams high profile baseball matches. So, there is no denying that 2017 will be a big year for gaming as a commercial network commodity.