It’s an exciting time for all types of games. From hypercasual mobile titles to global multiplayer smash hits, there is an incredible amount of excitement and engagement from players across the world. This energy continues to spur new advancements in game development, powering the next wave of gaming innovation in the cloud. As the game industry continues to push the developer envelope, development companies of all sizes will need to leverage the support of cloud solutions and services to have the flexibility and freedom to build amazing games without worrying about underlying infrastructure.
Here are four trends I predict will impact the industry in the near future:
1. Increasing exponential growth of multiplayer
To support the fast growing multiplayer game industry that’s prevalent across the globe, game developers will need to adopt a new approach to meet player’s thirst for great gaming experiences. To scale globally, game backends will need to run seamlessly across hybrid and multi-cloud to meet player demand.
We are seeing a shift toward game developers containerizing backend workloads in order to manage multicloud deployments more simply — building on Kubernetes’ popularity, and a trend that we expect to continue. By abstracting away the underlying infrastructure, containerization and open source allows game developers to run their game where it makes the most sense while reducing management overhead.
2. Embrace of diverse games played across platforms
Games are increasingly moving towards platform agnosticism — and while we are in the early phases of players being able to enjoy a game across any device, we are seeing tremendous strides towards a truly cross platform future. For developers looking to build games in this new paradigm, open source solutions provide an effective pathway to delivering truly cross platform services, lessening the burden on developers to build their own services from scratch or to rely on proprietary services.
Open-source (OS) has already benefited scores of industries over the past 20 years, from security to science and more, and we’re going to see an even bigger appetite for OS solutions within the game industry. Game developers can rely on a common stack of services to simplify infrastructure design and customize preexisting solutions to drive down production costs and time-consuming administrative work.
As the borders between players across the world are being demolished by ever increasing internet connectivity and access to better gaming hardware at lower cost, the community of game developers are coming together in open source forums to build tools and services that lower the barrier to entry to creating a great game.
3. Free-to-play requires robust analytics and new content
Historically, mobile companies have relied on data and analytics to optimize game monetization and engagement. The continuous optimization cycle that mobile has pioneered has been fueled by the explosion in the amount of data available to developers. As platform barriers continue to fall and we see games of all platforms transition to games-as-a-service models, moving from post-event analysis to predictive modeling of player outcomes will be even more important to deliver better player experiences and keep players engaged.
Finally, games-as-a-service implies not only longer monetization cycles, but shorter content development cycles and additional pressure on content development teams. To stay relevant, hit games must provide an unyielding stream of content updates, adding a layer of dynamism to the industry. Developers will need tools and insights to massively accelerate their velocity to keep up with, and more importantly, effectively respond to, player demand.
4. Continued innovations in AI and ML
Artificial Intelligence’s past is closely tied to the game industry, and the industry’s future will be incredibly tied to AI. Much of Google’s success in AI is owed in part to Deepmind, who’s algorithms were tested against various Atari games. Early GPUs that were mainly used for graphics rendering turned out to be incredibly useful for training machine learning (ML) models and we’ve seen AI tested in games like AlphaGo and Starcraft. So, it’s no surprise that the future of games lies in AI. Recent AI advancements are inextricably linked with gaming and we’ve already seen positive impacts — companies can predict player lifetime value, detect toxicity and cheating, and enhance non-player characters’ skill level, today.
But the truth is that we have just scratched the surface of what AI can do in games. There are opportunities for generative development. Imagine game levels that automatically change to fit the skill level of the player. Furthermore, new types of game modalities will be invented as we continue to better codify human attributes of vision, speech and sentiment understanding and combine those capabilities with the increasing advances in AR and VR. For example, we’re seeing voice control being added to many games today, but that is just the beginning. AI will change the way we play games.
As we look towards the future of the game industry, the biggest questions game company face today is really around the developers. How do we, as the video game industry, continue to lower the difficulty of building a great game and enable its success?
Perhaps most excitingly, all these developments will lead to an explosion of creativity from this increasingly diverse developer base. Developers from different countries and all walks of life will start to create their own hit games, and new ideas and different types of games will start to surface in the mainstream. It’s never been a more exciting time to be a game developer.
(Editor’s Note: the author is not involved in the creation of Google Stadia.)
Sunil Rayan directs product, engineering and business teams on Google Cloud to bring more innovative solutions to the game developers across the world.