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In early 2019, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told shareholders what he thought was the company’s stiffest competition. It wasn’t HBO, Disney+, or Amazon. It wasn’t cable television or movie theaters either. In his estimation, the biggest threat to Netflix’s continued dominance in entertainment was the video game Fortnite.
“It used to be ‘what to watch’ and now it’s ‘whether to watch,’” wrote Matthew Ball, former head of strategy at Amazon Studios. “And the answer is increasing ‘no, I’m going to play a game.’”
Just how often are people choosing to reach for a game controller instead of a TV remote? An overview of the numbers paints an illuminating picture. In 2019, the gaming industry generated $120 billion in revenue, and experts predict it could reach $200 billion within two years; 100 million viewers tuned in to watch players compete in the World Championship of the game League of Legends — a larger haul than the telecast of the Super Bowl; and, by 2021, it’s projected that 2.7 billion people — about one-third of the global population — will be gamers.
So, what can we expect from the world’s most exciting media in the coming years? Both doctors believe that mixed reality will be the big winner, with future games “combining virtual and augmented reality technology”, expanding on the proven popularity, technology, and obvious accessibility of games such as Pokémon Go.
Dr. Powley notes that in its current form, VR goes against the social desires people often crave. “Not only is the hardware quite expensive and specialized, but it involves strapping something to your face that blocks out the real world, which is unappealing to many people,” he says. “I think augmented reality (AR) has a lot of potentials, especially as it’s much more accessible and blends real and virtual worlds, reaching wide audiences with new social experiences.”
If we’re to see a real impact on gaming experiences, both professors believe the role of AI will be bigger than most: not just in the games themselves, but during the development process.
“AI is already massively incorporated into gaming, though at the moment the nature of games design and gameplay requires it to be constrained,” Dr. Shell says. “But understandably, studios don’t want games to have emergent behavior from AI; games would start to evolve outside of their concept.”