The gaming industry always quickly catches up with the latest technological developments. It’s a massive and innovation-thirsty industry with a global market size above USD 280 (GBP 220) billion, according to Fortune Business Insights for 2023 estimates. Virtual and augmented reality are among the hottest trends in this niche. They’re a success fuelled by increased accessibility of such gadgets and more availability of games.
The first VR game, Quake, was released in 2000. The AR version of the classic FPS game required a head-mounted display and a backpack with a computer. This technology took considerable strides in the past two decades, though. Nowadays, there’s a vast variety of games, and LEGO has joined the trend with LEGO Bricktales. Come with us and learn how VR and AR are shaping the future of gaming.
The first versions of VR gear weren’t portable, let alone accessible. The first attempt dates back to the 1960s, when scientists from the MIT Lincoln Laboratory developed “The Sword of Damocles.” The device was so heavy it had to be hung from the ceiling. Still, it brought ground-breaking innovations, such as the magnetic tracing system, adjusting the monitor to the moves of the player’s head.
Indeed, Quake’s VR gear was already miles ahead of The Sword of Damocles but still clunky and costly. The game began to change in 2012 when Oculus Rift released the first commercially viable headset, including the latest computing technologies and portable enough to go along with smartphones. Facebook quickly understood the potential of the new headsets and purchased Oculus for about USD 3 billion.
It didn’t take long until other tech giants like Google joined the competition, driving prices down. Google went as far as developing super cheap Cardboard, mounting a special lens on a cardboard structure, and providing a much more affordable VR experience. Finally, the sci-fi-like device was taking flight, becoming accessible to much wider audiences, allowing users to play games ranging from online poker to sports games and more.
Nowadays, VR/AR is a market with a projected global revenue of USD 32.1 (GBP 25.3) billion in 2023. More impressively, the user penetration rate for such devices is likely to rise by 104.9% by 2028. The widespread availability of this technology indeed attracted the attention of game developers, catering to a huge and still expanding audience. The global VR/AR market has never been so big and is unlikely to stop growing anytime soon.
This market, once dominated by Facebook and Google, now has a long list of heavy-weight contenders, including Samsung, Activision Blizzard, Valve, Disney, Qualcomm Technologies, and even Zeiss International. It’s undoubtedly good news for users who now can enjoy fast-developing devices for much more affordable prices. It’s also good news for game developers since those devices can handle more complex and immersive adventures.
Is Reality Overrated?
Realism is a core feature across the gaming industry. Although the term means “accurate and true to life,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, the concept itself is much vaguer. It doesn’t necessarily mean life-like human figures and landscapes. For instance, games based on the comic book genre, like The Wolf Among Us, wouldn’t look true to the original without a comic-based design.
So, realism doesn’t always mean cinema-like graphics in games. While high-quality graphics are indispensable for games, many games can do without Hollywood actors and “realistic” scenarios. The art style makes a game memorable and unique. Moreover, complex graphics will always depend on high-end engines to come to life. Once again, a clever art style can deliver similarly immersive experiences while bypassing technological limitations.
Exploring New Worlds
When it comes to developing successful games, immersive storytelling and gameplay seem to be more important than “life-like” graphics. Graphical quality is still a core feature, but not necessarily in a cinema-like way.
For instance, RPG games like Cyberpunk 2077 allow players to “live” the character’s life, providing a deeply immersive experience. You can also feel like a guitar legend with the right gear in Guitar Hero, even if the graphics have nothing to do with the real world.
Here’s where VR and AR gears have an immense potential to excel. You’ll see nothing but the game while using a VR headset. Meanwhile, AR glasses bring action to your living room and even to your neighbourhood, like in Pokémon GO. Such technologies take gaming out of the traditional flat screens, raising the gaming experience to entirely new levels.
The More, The Merrier
The increasing penetration of VR and AR gadgets allows for online multiplayer games, bringing the gaming community together. Online multiplayer games are on the rise, as it’s much more interesting to play against human opponents than against machines. Titles such as Star Trek: Bridge Crew and Rec Room already bring players to a VR environment, borrowing from a sci-fi concept called “holodeck.”
Extended reality platforms such as the metaverse could pave the way forward into a new kind of gaming. The metaverse has indeed a huge potential for even more immersive games, connecting larger communities with smart glasses and allowing for more engaging multiplayer environments.
Those new technologies do more than create more engaging gaming environments. They also allow for greater interactivity between players. VR-based social platforms like VRChat hint at how this technology can strengthen the relationship between players. Such potential can be expanded even further with the integration of virtual gaming platforms and social media networks.
Virtual platforms with seamless interaction between gamers can do wonders for the gaming community. They can turn gaming from a mere pastime to an actual social activity. Digital technologies are evolving at neck-breaking speeds, and companies like Oculus have already developed standalone and wireless devices, a trend that’s likely to rise. It means more comfort, interactivity and even more sophisticated gadgets.
Additionally, VR and AR devices are no longer restricted to consoles and computers. There are many options for Android and iOS devices that are ready to run 3D games and videos. Global figures for smartphone ownership went above 90% in 2023, meaning there’s a vast market to explore.