In July this year Pokemon Go – the game in which players use their smartphones to catch virtual Pokemon superimposed over the world around them – shook the gaming industry with its overnight success, establishing itself as arguably the first augmented reality game with mass appeal. That said, for those who loved the innovation of this free-to-play smartphone app, there are many more companies out there using new technology to put a spin on old classics.
Virtual Reality Headsets
The virtual reality headset, which uses motion tracking to let you look around a virtual space as if actually there, has been a glimmer in the eye of the gaming industry for decades now, with the first head-mounted video game display, Mask, patented in the 1960s. However, virtual reality never really caught on, since gaming technology at the time meant they would have been too cumbersome for practical use. Now that companies are able to produce far lighter consoles – and now that have graphics have advanced so as to be almost indistinguishable from reality – virtual reality has far more potential to change the way we play video games. Accordingly, this year major companies such as Oculus, HTC and Sony have all released headsets, with other companies planning to in the near future. Fan-favourite games such as Minecraft and EVE, as well as indie darlings such as Keep Talking and No One Explodes, can now be more immersive than ever before.
No Man’s Sky, released in August this year, is the latest game to have achieved widespread coverage after Pokemon Go, heralded as the first procedurally generated and therefore essentially infinite open-universe game. The player explores an expansive universe of planets generated by computer rather than designed by a developer, meaning that there are over 18 quintillion possible planets to explore, all with unique ecosystems, flora, fauna, artificial structures and inhabitants. Open-universe games – such as the Grand Theft Auto, Fallout and Saints Row series – are remarkably popular due to their freedom and ability to offer a truly unique player experience, since finding new content the game hasn’t directly pointed you towards makes for a more satisfying experience. While No Man’s Sky now faces backlash – and is even being investigated by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority after complaints of misleading promotional material – the technology used to produce this game could be utilized in future to create a new wave of open-universe games that provide near-endless entertainment.
Bitcoin is a virtual currency, invented by developer Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, which is now beginning to be accepted as a form of payment by major companies such as Microsoft and Subway. Bitcoin is attractive to game developers and players because it is universal, has greater transaction security and fees 5.5 times lower than standard credits cards. We are therefore now seeing a rise in bitcoin casinos, able to offer players near-instant pay-outs. Though previously bitcoin has been an overlooked or even maligned phenomenon, websites such as Bitcoinpokies.com, dedicated to reviewing bitcoin slot games, demonstrate that the potential of this cryptocurrency is being newly appreciated by the online gaming industry. Game companies such as Steam are also offering games that can be purchased using bitcoin, with the aforementioned No Man’s Sky only one example.
All in all, technology becomes exponentially more advanced every year and now the only limit to what new forms of gaming can be produced is developers’ imaginations. Virtual reality, computer generation and bitcoin usage may mean that video games in as little as half a decade are vastly different – and arguably improved – from the ones we know and love.