The last decade has been an exceptional year for studios and gamers alike. If you told a Hollywood executive in 2010 that Fortnite would rake in more cash than in a year than the box office’s biggest blockbuster they would probably tell you to do something else with that big mouth of yours. Crazy how those guys talked before Weinstein and Epstein were caught huh?
Just as our perceptions of sleezy executives have changed, so has the game industry. We began the decade with a boom of sandbox survival clones which all attempted to imitate Minecraft, followed by a boom of zombie survival clones jumping on the DayZ craze and now we are on the back end of the battle royale trend. What’s next for gaming?
Oh, how the Platforms Shift
The biggest surprise in the last decade is how the platforms we use to play games have completely changed. Phones have taken over. Mobile gaming has tripled its market share whilst all other platforms have seen negligible growth – some even shrunk, remember the PS Vita?
This increase is fuelled purely by lucrative microtransactions and the growing accessibility that comes with the freemium model – capitalism at its finest.
Unfortunately, the unfathomable amount of revenue mobile game companies make, such as Supercell, has caused the rest of the games industry to peer over the fence and copy their business models.
I remember in 2010 microtransactions in a full priced AAA game were a cause for outrage, even if they were solely cosmetic. However now it appears as though microtransactions are an expectation, something we rejoice at when a developer announces their game won’t have any. Sadly, though they may not know it, this is a stronghold the consumers have ceded.
It’s executive, business minded decisions like this that have caused the flagrant transition of games from art to products.
Whether you like it or not that’s what video games are now – products. You get the odd few that are strokes of pure artistic genius, such as This War of Mine or The Stanley Parable, but for the most part studios don’t begin development by saying “I want to express myself by making a game about blank” instead they tout “We need a game that will guarantee a profit otherwise we’ll all lose our jobs”.
It hasn’t all been Doom™ and Gloom
One of the best things about this decade has been the celebration and recognition of gaming. It’s taken more than forty years for gaming to finally be taken seriously, but at last, it has come.
I remember around 2010 just mentioning the word “Minecraft” made you seem like somewhat of a weirdo. Now gaming is everywhere, from Fortnite getting a cameo in the Avengers that rivals even Stan Lee’s performances, to Pokemon GO taking the world by storm in 2016.
People are finally realising its potential, not only in its traditional form (escapism, connecting people, storytelling), but in other forms like education and therapy. For example, Dr. Andrew Huberman at Stanford University has been using virtual reality to study the brain and figure out ways to reverse vision loss. A clever use of the technology for research that benefits everyone.
There have never been more games studios than there are now. All because of how accessible learning game development has become.
Anyone with an idea can learn how to make a game, in some cases you don’t even need to know how to program. This is great for the consumers. They get games that are artistic and unique, games based on ideas a room full of AAA Lead Designers could never dream of coming up with.
However, this also comes with the problem that anyone can make a game – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – or more accurately: one man’s treasure is everyone else’s trash.
Steam appears as though it’s been invaded by steaming piles of rubbish when you compare it to the state it was in at the start of the decade. The bar for quality is non-existent. An inevitable consequence of the freedom to create.
What does all this Mean for the Future?
Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window, said Peter Drucker, but we have to get there somehow right? So, what does the next decade entail for gaming?
Firstly, the battle royale trend is going to die. Its killer: the next big cash-cow trend.
The next big change will be how easy it becomes to make a game, I believe the development software will evolve to a point where even the least computer literature could make their own games if they put in the time (just look at Dreams). However, the software will be heavily monetized which will inhibit most indie start-ups.
One thing I cannot believe hasn’t already happened is a porn industry takeover. A combination of machine learning AI avatars i.e. virtual girlfriends, with VR and pornography is an industrially lucrative market waiting to be tapped.
Finally, I think games, especially AAA titles, will take longer to develop. It may be wishful thinking, but by 2030 I imagine developers will be through with abusive crunch hours, perhaps even a union will form.
Those are my predictions. I look forward to coming back in ten years to see just how wrong I was.