Recently there has been a plethora of news about VR devices with just about every major gaming company trying their hand at creating the best VR experience. Even Valve is trying their hand at virtual reality headsets. There of course is a certain level of skepticism, after all the last big push ended with the memorable Virtual Boy. Virtual reality isn’t all there is, new trends are emerging from each new successful game. Open world, social gaming and more may shape what we’re playing for the next few years.
1) Virtual Reality
With major companies throwing so much money at virtual reality, people are much more hopeful that this is will be the time it truly takes off. We can already see some new and interesting concepts, but we are also seeing some of the problems. What has been used in the past for game design cannot be used now or at least not all of it. Developers have to come up with new ways that take advantage of virtual reality headsets and solve issues like nausea and keeping immersion. How these problems are addressed will likely determine the success of VR. If it does succeed there is going to be a rough period where developers are learning. That is not to say people won’t enjoy the early games or that the games will all be bad, but there will be some time until a game takes full advantage of the new technology.
2) Open Worlds and Player Agency
Open world games with player agency are an increasing trend within the industry. More and more developers are building larger worlds that the players are supposed to explore. More still are giving the players way to change the world and the story. Some of this is undoubtedly due to the success of the Telltale games and of course RPG staples Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls. The open world and player choice trend is starting to show, 3 of the 10 top selling games of 2014 having open world and a focus on player agency. With virtual reality also on the horizon this trend of open worlds and player choice may pick up even greater speed due to these elements lending themselves well to virtual reality.
3) Horror games
The horror genre may very well have a comeback and may also see a second wind from VR headsets. Depending on the success of major horror title like the rebooted Silent Hills and the 80s slasher inspired game Until Dawn, the horror genre may come alive again. As I have written before the horror genre mostly died off with only the occasional indie title released on PC until games like Amnesia and Outlast brought the genre back into the spotlight. VR in particular is suited well to the exploratory and puzzle based horror games that have become so popular. Already there are ports of Alien Isolation and Outlast to Oculus rift and both have been well received. If virtual reality does succeed horror games will likely be some of the first and best experiences thus gaining a second life on these new devices.
4) Mobile Influence
Mobile gaming is huge market in gaming that is mostly ignored by the hardcore audience, but may influence gaming more than they realize. With the free-to-play model increasingly used by developers they will likely employ the same practices that mobile games use. Daily incentives, the ability to buy in-game shortcuts and optional cosmetics are all things that will come up more often in games. While many hardcore fans look down on these practices, there is no denying the profit they make. There are signs of these changes already in games that have traditionally had the pay once model: GTA, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty. Ultimately most games will follow suit with these major series and start mimicking some business practices from mobile gaming.
5) Social Gaming
Without a doubt video games are becoming more social. Whether it is PC or consoles, causal or hardcore all games are starting to implement social tools for gamers. At the most basic level the platforms for our games are becoming more social. Both the Xbox one and the PS4 have had a strong focus on being social by implement new ways to connect with other players. Even Steam has been improving its already extensive social features by adding the ability to stream without any 3rd party programs. Unsurprisingly our games are also becoming more social, some even being built for the ground up to be social. All ten of the bestselling games of 2014 have built-in social tools and most of those titles have multiplayer as a main selling point. Social gaming and multiplayer is also becoming a part of single player games. In The Walking Dead instead of players directly interacting they compare their choice made within the story which is a small way of connecting players to a community. Changing gaming into a social experience rather than a solitary one will continue to happen and it will be a rare thing to find a purely single player game in the years to come.
Change will happen as new technology and new ideas emerge. With this new generation of gaming I believe we will see a greater focus on immersion and socializing. All these new practices and technology seem to be both trying to accomplish these two goals whether it is more open worlds, virtual reality or mobile gaming.