Game Tech Takeaways from CES 2016
CES 2016 was not about new product releases nor revolutionary innovations, but rather about the emerging technologies competing for entering the mainstream.
Slower evolutionary technological changes may not sound very exciting, but in the realm of games and game development the emerging tech trajectory is crucial, as major game technologies mature and plateau: not only the TV-connected game consoles are at risk, but with computers, tablets and even smartphones no longer forecasted to grow as fast as expected (according to Accenture’s report based on a study conducted in over 28 countries) emerging alternatives do present the most viable opportunities.
As we had said before, mobile is now within a “Red Sea” territory, whereas Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality can be seen as being in the “Blue Sea”:
CES 2016 has confirmed that the future of gaming is firmly rooted in Virtual and Augmented Reality, whether it is connected to computers, laptops, TVs or smartphones. Like the wrist phone and video calls from Star Trek that once looked futuristic and are now mundane, the holodeck is now turning from the realm of impossible to being a commercially available product.
Most of these things are not ready for prime time, and many of them never will be (or even if they do get there, they’ll be highly unlikely to find a real audience), but we’ve tried to identify the products that look poised to have actual impact.
1. Virtual Reality in Gaming is Here
From the HTC Vive, Sony’s Playstation VR and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR, many of the top players in mobile, games and media are already planting their flags on the turf of the virtual reality realm. The price of $600 or so for the devices (closer to $2,000-3,000 for a full VR set with a high-end computer with specialty headphones) are still far from mainstream, but are already within reach for the hardcore gamers who are okay with playtesting just a couple of games available in the early days of 2016.
While the initial VR tech fans will be the dedicated gamers, there’s clearly room for arcade game developers, movie theater operators, as well as ambitious creative studios seeking to earn credibility with the hardcore gamers. The long lines and the following video clip clearly demonstrate VR’s power to captivate:
— Steve Kovach (@stevekovach) January 7, 2016
2. Vast Opportunities for Augmented Reality
While virtual reality worlds are still in the making, augmented reality has much more potential in overlaying a multitude of visions on top of the actual world around us. CES 2016 introduced several devices with higher resolution and more applications than Google Glass 1.0. Microsoft’s Hololens is already available, and it may be only a matter of time until you can interact with The Sims and build Minecraft dungeons inside your living room and in your backyard.
Since many game development professionals are already familiar with C# and Unity, making the transition to AR platforms will be a natural next step:
At $3,000 the dedicated augmented reality devices are still not ready for the mass market, but who’s to say the technology won’t find a way into smartphones or other ubiquitous screen-enabled devices?
3. The VR/AR Future, Today?
Not ready to invest in a dedicated VR device like Oculus Rift, but still itching to try out Virtual Reality? You may be the target audience for a VR case-and-viewer transformer – just download the Google Cardboard app on your iPhone 6/6s or your Samsung Galaxy S6. Unlike the actual cardboard cutout by Google, this smartphone case doubling as a foldable VR viewer is a much better candidate for meeting customer expectation of a high-tech VR future.
Expected for sale sometime in the Spring of 2016, Speck’s PocketVR is surely a welcome addition to the device list bringing the VR to the masses. Expect more products and more apps that work with this early stage VR tech.
CES 2016 Takeaways for the Gaming Industry
CES in 2016 has showcased a number of technologies pointing to the future of digital entertainment in general and gaming in particular. We wouldn’t call it a technology revolution, but the trend of virtual reality devices and add-ons enabling new virtual and augmented reality capabilities has gained serious momentum this year. We’re about to play differently, and the opportunity to create new gaming words is now here.
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