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I had no clue that a good number of Accenture’s 720,000 professional services staff are working on game projects for the world’s biggest game companies. And that group of staffers is spread around the world, according to David Reitman, managing director for games at Accenture.
Reitman recently moderated our panel on the future of AI and gaming at our GamesBeat Summit Next 2022 event, and I also interviewed him about what Accenture has been doing in games over the past decade and its plans for the future. Going forward, helping studios deal with AI is the topic du jour.
“The firm basically made a decision to formalize it as the games industry is the largest interactive entertainment industry in the world,” Reitman said. “We wanted to take all our games experts, which are [a lot of] people around the world, and create some structure and then leverage the 720,000 people across all of Accenture as well.”
While many of those folks are business consultants who help work out strategies, a huge chunk of the employees at Accenture are also engineers who do a lot of the work in these categories, Reitman said.
The Accenture services break into a couple of functions for the top 25 game companies with $2 billion or in revenues or more. They include helping studios with backend operations that they need to operate and functions, akin to enterprise resource planning or customer resource management.
“It’s all of those software functions that make a business run, from traditional finance to human capital management,” Reitman said.
On the other side, the company helps with game platform services, which is everything from game creation to gameplay. Accenture is applying AI to these services for better data analytics and more. With the game platform business, Accenture focuses on live operations, backend services, development, customer engagement, commerce, and community.
Accenture helps with development pipelines for content, builds, and delivery. Companies are moving that to the cloud and they’re also trying to figure out how AI can accelerate all of that, Reitman said.
“We’re looking at it from technical conformity perspective and training AI engines to basically check the packages, do quality assurance validation, and more,” Reitman said. “The overarching theme of it is to reduce the time to market and accelerate development.”
Accenture looks at IT asset libraries and how to deal with them and organize them using AI engines as they get bigger.
“In the user-generated content (UGC) domain, which was also a very big topic at GamesBeat Summit Next, there are several motions that are applicable, but the big thing is using AI engines to validate what UGC creators are submitting,” said Reitman. “Are they infringing on copyrights? Are they using AI to accelerate the creation of assets? There are tools on both ends of the spectrum.”
Automation is the big theme of the day at Accenture, as game companies have to figure out how to meet the expectations of gamers while keeping costs under control. So Accenture teams are figuring out with game companies how to automate game logic, validate code, and automate pipelines.
“We don’t move down to the indies. But we do collaborate with cloud providers to enable them to commercialize the assets that they have within their clouds,” said Reitman. “I think the most interesting thing that AI provides, in that old David and Goliath scenario, is enabling the Davids to have triple-A capabilities that they never really had before.”
In the past, indies couldn’t afford triple-A graphics teams building shading, lighting, environments, and more. They also couldn’t do much with regional language community support, but AI makes that more and more possible going forward.
“What you’re going to see is a higher quality of game that comes from the indies based on what the AI engines can provide to them from an actual game development perspective, where before they would have needed a lot of funding money and hired very expensive talent to do that,” Reitman said.
As gaming worlds get bigger and we start thinking about the metaverse, it’s almost impossible to get enough people to do all of the gameplay simulation that you need to properly test a virtual world, Reitman said. You have to test game mechanics and game economies. So you have to simulate it instead.
“If you’re running alpha and beta tests and you have your community running, you’re able to mine the community conversations and see the topics that people are talking about,” Reitman said. “And if they’re talking about a particular challenge or something that they don’t like in the game, you’re able to easily capture that with the AI engine and circulate it back to the development team so they can get on it.”
While many game development studios often use outsourcing companies for their services, Reitman said his company can also help provide value alongside those services firms. Figuring out player patterns and strategies based on data, such as heat maps, is another key service. That’s because AI and properly analyzing data are specialties that many companies haven’t properly executed yet.
“I don’t view us as competitive to those services,” Reitman said. “I view us as a creative if we’re doing it right.”
Reitman believes that a ton of technology comes out of the game industry that can be useful for other industries that are trying to improve engagement through things such as gamification. Accenture partners with a lot of companies that can be valuable to game companies, from digital agencies to cloud providers like AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure.
“There have been a lot of hacks in the games industry. So we help people understand how to protect themselves as it relates to their code, how to actually recover from a ransom attack, which isn’t the way that you might think about it,” he said. “And we have proprietary assets in the AI domain.”
Over time, Accenture predicts we’ll go through a period where AI is a competitive advantage, but then it will change so that AI becomes more democratized across game developers, publishers, and platforms.
“The democratization of AI is only going to grow,” he said.
On top of that, Reitman believes the metaverse will start growing faster once open standards are figured out. Decentralization and interoperability will become important trends in the future. Big game companies will have to deal with talent shortages, developer ecosystems, UGC, and interoperable virtual development. And Accenture wants to help game companies deal with that.
“We’re 720,000 people. So there’s a lot of competency here within the firm that’s probably very unique in the world,” Reitman said.
[11/18/22: 9:37 am Pacific: This story has been updated for accuracy.]
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