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article imageQ&A: Gaming trends for 2020 Special

By Tim Sandle     Dec 10, 2019 in Technology
What does 2020 have in store for gaming? A leading expert predicts that indie developers will be forced to collaborate more with publishers and that more indie developers will enter the market.
With the gaming world, it's also likely that more spin-off games and sequels will be launched than original games; reinvention vs. innovation. It could also be that in-game forums and influencers will be increasingly popular among both gamers and developers.
To learn more, Digital Journal spoke with Patrick Weekers, director of marketing for PC gaming subscription service Utomik, to discuss 2020 gaming industry predictions.
Digital Journal: What types of technology are driving gaming?
Patrick Weekers: It’s a very dynamic time in the gaming industry as we’re seeing consumer behavior shift from purchase-only to embracing subscription platforms. Similar to the growth of other entertainment subscription services, gamers are embracing the variety and game discovery that can only be accessed through subscriptions. To that end, we’re seeing new technology players enter the space as they try to take hold of the potential subscription market share. This is bringing more options than ever before to players across every sector of gaming.
Furthermore, gaming is also being embraced by a wider community of players. Through family subscription plans, multiplayer games, eSports, live streaming and tournaments, there are new ways to get involved with gaming.
The ongoing improvement of mobile devices and the networks they rely on is enabling improved mobile gameplay, with complex games available in addition to the traditionally simple mobile games. The development of mobile technologies has also allowed for the expansion and upgrade of gamification, as gamers can receive rewards, points, challenges and other notifications from their games more directly and intimately via their mobile devices.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies have also been progressing in development and increasing in adoption, making gaming more immersive and experiential. VR requires significant hardware and physical space, so it’s mostly been adopted among very serious gamers. AR is easier to implement and has become extremely popular in gaming (most prominently through Pokémon Go).
There’s no question, however, that the technology that truly has the most potential to impact the future of the gaming is the cloud. Cloud gaming provides easier access to a wider range of games, less latency, compatibility with a greater variety of devices and reduced costs for developers (which can be translated to the gamers). It also enables improved security, customer support and reduces piracy.
DJ: What can we expect to see in 2020?
Weekers: A lot of platforms that have been in beta will come to the mainstream market which will enable more player feedback on the new technologies. The rollout of 5G will also make its way into the industry and try to solve the problem of network speeds and download times. Any lag, even for less than a second or problems with connecting devices could make or break a game. Next-gen consoles will have to meet even higher expectations to remain competitive.
What is the market like for game developers?
The market is drastically changing for developers and it presents both opportunities but also new challenges for sustainability. Developers are going to be faced with more decisions than ever before as they position themselves in the new landscape. We’re seeing the rise of developers that are funded by a platform for exclusive rights to their game. It’s still left to be seen what impact this has on the developer’s success and on players as they search for favorite titles.
The biggest concern in this new model is the payout structure and possible cannibalization of sales. If the amount of content is growing and the cost for unlimited play is decreasing, where does that leave the developer and publisher? We need models that put developer sustainability at the forefront, for example a fair minimum content engagement fee, thus removing the risk with Day One releases.
DJ: Will the number of indie game developers increase?
Weekers: The number of indie game developers has increased significantly over the past years, and will continue to do so, as new development tools have lowered the barrier for entry. With having an open storefront for anyone to upload their game, and Steam only requiring a $100 fee, there are many ways for people to get their game out into the world. This has created an industry that only remains sustainable for developers who either team up with a publisher, get exclusivity with a platform and the accompanying bag of money to secure the game’s success, or have a proper marketing approach and execution from the start of development.
DJ: What strategies do indie developers need to adopt?
Weekers: Gamers now have access to a larger volume of games at a more affordable price, making it even harder for indie developers to stand out. After the significant time and financial investment in development, indie games can lose out on exposure due to blockbusters and AAA games taking the spotlight. It’s becoming harder for indie developers to garner media attention and build communities for their projects.
Developers need to align themselves with platforms that are committed to supporting their success. There needs to be assurances around Day One releases that remove the financial risk and create a mutually beneficial launch. If platform providers are invested in supporting creativity that brings innovation to their players, then developers will have more opportunity for success. Developers can also do this by finding the right publishing partner to really propel their hard work to the forefront.
DJ: What will the balance between original games and sequel games be like?
Commercial game development is set to become more important than creativity. Expect to see more spin-off games and sequels being launched next year rather than original games. We have already seen this trend over the last few years with movies (think the Marvel saga and Disney live-action remakes) and gaming looks set to follow.
Reiteration vs innovation is almost the new way to define AAA vs indie gaming. More so than ever before, expect that the new creativity is going to come out of the indie market not AAA.
DJ: Will the gaming experience become more interactive?
Weekers: The gaming industry in 2020 will rely on creating a community as a driving force more than ever. With in-game chat options, influencers, apps and forums, gamers have more channels to join a larger discussion. Social media and forums are connecting players to each other and the game, creating a deeper level of engagement. While ‘interactive’ leads most people to think about VR or AR options, with the big focus and opportunity available to create communities now this will be the true way that the gaming experience becomes more interactive.
Community is also becoming increasingly important in terms of marketing. It creates press beats and gets pre-sales and pre-interest ahead of launch. As consumers educate themselves on the new gaming marketplaces and buying options, the power of the people will ultimately drive a game’s success. Building communities is the way games will become hits and must-plays. It’s no easy feat but will be what companies strive for.
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