Ten years ago, we published two roundtable features on IGN; one that asked a broad panel of industry insiders to look back at the decade leading up to 2010 and one that charged them with prognosticating on what they thought gaming would be like in 2020. (We recently took a look at how accurate those predictions proved to be.)
We’ve now pulled together a new panel of more than 30 industry veterans to recreate the same concept, with everything from indie to triple A, mobile to PC, and casual to core covered off. In this feature our panel answers two questions looking back at the last ten years.
Please note that we haven’t included all responses, and some responses have been edited for length. Responses have also been grouped into broad themes.
In the first part of this feature, our roundtable members answer the question:
What have been the most important changes in video games, video game technology, and in the wider video game industry over the last ten years?
Tanya X. Short, Co-Founder, Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters): Creating video games has become much, much more accessible. It used to be that games were all made by people who as children happened to take an interest in programming. A few newbie-friendly engines were around ten years ago, but now they’ve been normalized and rightly celebrated. With all the resources available both online and the variety of tools, you can literally have no experience with programming, and wake up one morning wanting to make a game, and have something playable by dinner. Heck, lunch, depending on when you tend to wake up in the morning. This accessibility has made game development and games themselves much more diverse, but it’s also ratcheted up the competition, in the indie and mid-tier space.
Andy Sum, Director, Hipster Whale (Crossy Road): Every step in the chain from creating to publishing a game has become more accessible. Unity and Unreal are now both free to use and the rapid increase in user generated content means that there’s more tutorials and information on how to start creating games. Because of this, over the past ten years, there have been more games created and many new people involved in the video game industry.
Distribution has changed to keep up with this too. Steam opened up Greenlight, Early Access, and then Steam Direct. Crowdfunding like Kickstarter has also helped fund many developer’s projects. Multiple digital stores have appeared worldwide.
Hollow Knight started out as a Kickstarter project.
Mobile Gaming and Diversification
Ville Heijari, CMO, Rovio (Angry Birds): So many things have evolved radically around gaming, and listing the significant ones is quite a challenge. There’s the growing popularity of esports, the massive phenomenon of streaming, and so forth. Looking from a Rovio perspective, it’s obviously the ridiculously rapid adoption of smartphones as the everyday entertainment platform, but specifically the sensational growth of mobile gaming, which now represents (based on combined smartphone and tablet game revenues) 45% of the global games market. Sure, the iPhone and Android launched in the previous decade already, but the past ten years have represented the lightspeed growth and coming of age for the mobile games industry.
Jodie Azhar, Game Director, Teazelcat Games: The surge in mobile gaming has definitely changed the industry. We’re seen new game genres emerge and new monetisation models become prevalent. But most importantly it’s hugely increased the access to games for the wider population. Rather than having to buy specialist hardware to play games, they’re easily accessible from a device that most of us now already own. So many people now play some kind of video game, whether for five minutes or five hours a day, and we’re accepting them more as a part of life.
Ryozo Tsujimoto, Producer, Monster Hunter series: I think it has to be smartphones and the resulting diversification of the gaming audience and gaming life. There were social games before, but I think it’s only in the last decade that they have really taken off. We can now play everything from meaty console and PC gaming experiences to more casual games that we can pick up and play in a spare moment on the go. Gaming genres have diversified, and we’ve had an increase in the number of players on the casual end of the spectrum.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22Gaming%20genres%20have%20diversified%2C%20and%20we%E2%80%99ve%20had%20an%20increase%20in%20the%20number%20of%20players%20on%20the%20casual%20end%20of%20the%20spectrum.%22%20-%20Ryozo%20Tsujimoto%2C%20Capcom”]
Mobile Gaming and the Death of Diversity
Yoko Taro, Director, NieR: Automata: I think it’s “the death of diversity, brought on by the rise of the flat-screen smartphone”. The iPhone’s design of “touching the screen with your finger” is a simple and well-made UI, and all smartphones in the world (the most common gadget in the world) have been unified to “a flat screen that you touch with your finger”.
On the other hand, all other inputs using pens or buttons have become extinct, and smartphone games are (almost) limited to “games that you touch”, despite being the biggest gaming market. I feel that it was an example of an advanced design that revolutionised the world yet took away diversity from the world.
Phil Harrison, Vice President and GM, Google (Stadia): I think without a doubt, one of the most important changes in our industry has been the rise of networks as a distribution methodology for the games people want. In particular, the app stores on iOS and Android allowed the games industry to go from being tens of millions of gamers to hundreds of millions… and now billions of gamers. The biggest fuel of economic growth has been mobile.
But as it relates to PC and console, the rise of digital distribution led to improved access to games, without requiring a trip to your local retailer. On the whole, it has been a very healthy positive trend for creativity in the industry. Games that would not otherwise have been made or had the right distribution. Of course this was an incredible opportunity for independent developers, using that new distribution to reach audiences they wouldn’t have before.
Jeremiah Slaczka, Co-Founder and Creative Director, 5th Cell (Scribblenauts): Easily the most important is the proliferation of digital platforms. It completely reinvented the landscape of games. From mobile games, to the indie scene to even the rise and fall of Facebook games. The old gatekeeper that held control over what games got distributed no longer exist and have allowed a golden age of development. Of course, some of those things were abused like free to play and loot boxes, but overall it’s been a wonderful time to both make and play games.
Rebecca Ford, Live Operations and Community Director, Digital Extremes (Warframe): The means of distribution has been one of the most important changes – the mobile app stores setting the pace for ‘instant digital access’, and major platforms following suit. The physical market is one for collectors, the digital market is one for convenience. Distribution changes have had a bigger impact than anything else. We at Warframe are working on a seven-year-old game and not once has anyone physically touched our game – our success is all ones and zeroes.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22We%20at%20Warframe%20are%20working%20on%20a%20seven-year-old%20game%20and%20not%20once%20has%20anyone%20physically%20touched%20our%20game%E2%80%94our%20success%20is%20all%20ones%20and%20zeroes.%22%20-%20Rebecca%20Ford%2C%20Digital%20Extremes”]
Ross Gowing, Game Director, Dirt Rally 2.0, Codemasters: I think digital marketplaces stand out as being very different to ten years ago – in 2010 I was only purchasing small-ish games on Xbox Live Arcade, and all of the blockbuster games I’d play would be on disc from a bricks-and-mortar shop. These days I think nothing of buying and downloading a 70GB game and never having to leave the house before enjoying it!
Sam Barlow, Founder, Drowning a Mermaid Productions (Telling Lies): Digital distribution was the biggie. It allowed smaller creators to connect directly to an audience of millions and overnight that enabled a whole strata of games to become financially viable. There was no world where I could have released Her Story through a boxed game publisher or even a more niche publisher – but with Steam and the App Store I had access to millions upon millions of eyeballs and the game found its audience.
It’s also made the games industry more international – I have discovered and played games from Africa, China, Iran that would never have showed up in Gamestop. And players from every country in the world (at least those plugged into Steam) have played my games. There’s a lot more to be done in both these cases – as the market has exploded, the freedom of the digital stores has been eroded. The onset of Platform thinking and subscription services potentially adds back in a layer of gatekeepers that turns back the clock somewhat. The market still isn’t truly international – there are all sorts of barriers to entry and on the surface the mainstream videogame industry chatter is still mostly focused on the English speaking perspective. But there’s reasons to be positive. In film they’re still wrestling with the foreign film category and in gaming it feels like we’re already over that – Ingmar Bergman never had a hit like Minecraft.
Her Story was one of the best games of 2015.
Kellee Santiago, Head of Developer Relations, Niantic, Inc. (Pokemon GO): Certainly, faster and more accessible internet connections. It powered the breadth and depth of online multiplayer gaming which has exploded in the last decade. It enables real-world games like Pokemon GO! It also led to new ways of gamers and game makers interacting with each other through streaming, play through commentary, and the live-streaming of actual development. And it supports the continued growth of online distribution of video games, which means instead of competing for a miniscule number of slots of a shelf in a retail store, anyone can distribute their game to anywhere.
On the flip side, we saw the Indie-pocalypse happen, when there became so many games released every day it was hard for an independent developer to stand out. We saw and continue to see online distribution channels struggle with the balance between enabling game makers at all levels to be able to share their creations, while also providing some level of quality control to make sure gamers are seeing the games they want to play. I imagine we will continue to see innovations in this space in the coming decade.
Free to Play and Games as a Service
Gareth Wilson, Creative Director, Traveller’s Tales (The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame): In 2010… I said many things will be the same, and on the surface they are. The big three are still battling it out in the console wars. But scratch the surface and things have changed massively. Very few people predicted the rise of free to play in 2010, first on mobile and then on PC and console. If you’d told me ten years ago the biggest game in 2019 was a free to play multiplatform shooter I would have been very surprised! Speaking of multiplatform, I’m delighted we’ve finally broken the walled garden of the consoles and have crossplay, it’s a massive step forwards which I wouldn’t have predicted. The rise of the YouTube star was a surprise, we predicted people watching live “e-sports” type championships of the best players, but not the massive growth of the “let’s play” video. Finally, the beginnings of game streaming and subscription services are game changers. I think they’re incredibly healthy for the industry and allow quality indie titles to reach audiences they could only previously dream of.
Tim Heaton, Studio Director, Creative Assembly and EVP Studios (Total War: Three Kingdoms): I think ‘free to play’ becoming a prevalent part of the gaming market is the trend that has had most impact. Sure, it began earlier than 2010, but it’s matured all the way through the last decade, with the latest thinking trying to restructure the negative aspects it can create – with initiatives like banning loot boxes and services like Apple Arcade.
The long life of individual games has also become more and more important. By that I mean both the long sales curves, driven by the digital storefronts, and the long engagement times that players have with a single game. These games-as-a-service are designed from the ground up to engage players for months and years, driven by new content and multiplayer opportunities. It’s changed every element of the business, from design, through the way the games are marketed, to the demands for ongoing support services.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22Games-as-a-service…%20%5Bhas%5D%20changed%20every%20element%20of%20the%20business%2C%20from%20design%2C%20through%20the%20way%20the%20games%20are%20marketed%2C%20to%20the%20demands%20for%20ongoing%20support%20services.%22%20-%20Tim%20Heaton%2C%20Creative%20Assembly”]
Luc Duchaine, Executive Marketing Director, Ubisoft’s Canadian Studios: While games like DOTA and League of Legends were pioneers in the games-as-a-service genre, the past five years really confirmed the importance of those games. At Ubisoft, we have Rainbow Six Siege that is entering its fifth year, For Honor it’s the fourth year and we have brands like The Crew and The Division that are still updating their offers for the players.
Ed Beach, Civilization Franchise Lead Designer, Firaxis: I see two major developments that have changed the nature of gaming in the past decade. First, games have gotten much, much bigger. We now have so many open world games and those all have numerous areas to explore; it can easily take hundreds of hours to experience it all. That’s an amazing change and great for players, but has also made development very expensive and challenging. In a similar vein, the shelf-life for games has gotten a lot longer. Most developers are adopting a games-as-a-service model which means they will be supporting their titles with fresh content over many years. Once again, as a player I love this. However, as a developer I certainly am aware of this as a big new hurdle to overcome.
The Rise of Streaming and Let’s Plays
Joe Neate, Executive Producer, Sea of Thieves, Rare: The growth of games-as-a-service, and the growth of streaming games to audiences.
It’s been fascinating to see player behavior evolve, and to figure out what kind of experiences would convince players to both give you a chance and then stick with you. We’ve had people playing Sea of Thieves since our first Technical Alpha three years ago who are still with us and as excited as ever! It has also been fascinating to start thinking about how you design a game to not only be great to play, but also to watch. I love when you see a random game blow up because everyone has suddenly started streaming it and you’re trying to figure out how it happened and what you can learn from it.
Masachika Kawata, Producer, Resident Evil series: [O]ne of the biggest changes in video games as a whole has probably been that, on top of the basic enjoyment of playing a game oneself, watching others play games has become a form of entertainment in and of itself.
Obviously, people have always watched their friends play alongside them or crowded around arcade machines, but the sheer number of people who found an additional way to enjoy watching games played by other people has really expanded the reach of gaming as a medium.
Let’s Plays have become a huge part of gaming.
The Power of Celebrity
Marc Merrill, Co-Founder, Riot Games (League of Legends): There’s been so many: the steady growth of esports, the rise of streaming technology, games gaining more mainstream acceptance, the influence of China, and the rapid growth of mobile both from a market perspective but also as a platform that can credibly deliver high quality experiences.
I would argue it’s the power of celebrity that has been the most transformative and impactful. I’m not referring to famous players (although special shoutout to Rick Fox), despite the obvious star power they bring, but more the way that players have embraced streaming/video platforms to share their passion and engage directly with other players. Videogames are best when played with friends; streaming platforms in particular have made it possible for committed, passionate content creators to grow an incredibly large audience where it’s clear that the future of celebrity is along digital pathways.
Jamie Jackson, Chief Creative Officer, Mythical Games: For me, the most important change happened in the latter part of the decade: cross-platform play! This was a huge game-changer. Seeing all the major platform players fully embracing gamers and allowing and encouraging them to play together for the first time was incredible. It does give us developers new challenges in terms of matchmaking and balance, but being able to holistically think about audience really helps with launching new IP and continuing to establish existing brands.
Lars Janssen, Director of Studio Relations, Koch Media: Video games have become a core part of our culture and have an impact beyond the traditional video game community. Games are focusing on providing social experiences more than ever before, communities are stronger and create movements that span way beyond the actual game world. Connectivity in-home and on the go allows players to stay connected to their games and their friends regardless of time and location. Most games are not a one-time experience any longer but rather a service that connects people and keeps them entertained for many years.
Creating these experiences, on the other hand, has become much more complex and surprise hits are a lot less likely. It was leading to consolidation in the market and fewer companies succeeded in building up new global IPs from scratch.
The Connection Between Players and Developers
Saxs Persson, Minecraft Chief Creative Officer: The role that strong communities now play influencing and driving game development has been the biggest change I have felt the last ten years, as well as having direct communication with our players as a game is being developed. Early access, Kickstarter, etcetera, are all different ways that we try and get players involved as early as possible to get feedback and mold games to what people really want to play.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22The%20role%20that%20strong%20communities%20now%20play%20influencing%20and%20driving%20game%20development%20has%20been%20the%20biggest%20change…%22%20-%20Saxs%20Persson%2C%20Minecraft%20CCO”]
Naoki Yoshida, Producer and Director, Final Fantasy XIV: Personally, I think it’s the relationship between the player community and developers (or video game company) rather than the technology. Back in the day, there was quite a distance between gamers and game developers, and in the case of MMORPGs, I think that there was a strong sense that “the developers are the enemy”. Thanks to the growth of social media in recent years, messages from developers and dev companies have become close to gamers, and I feel that communications have become more direct. Feedback from gamers are taken more seriously and gamers are able to receive messages from developers, and various games have progressed as a result.
J. Allen Brack, President, Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft): [I]n ye olden times, MMO communities and developers enjoyed a special relationship with their players, where developers and the community encouraged feedback and dialog throughout the dev and live play cycle.
Today, many games have dedicated communities of players, irrespective of game category. So, the most visible and important changes are the ways online communities have evolved and the more direct relationships developers have with their players. This has greatly accelerated over the last ten years. Now most games from giant AAA titles to smaller indie games have online communities of all kinds – from dedicated Discords to sub-Reddits, not to mention Twitter and Instagram communities. It’s never been easier to engage with like-minded people. Whether you’re a hardcore player, or a casual player that enjoys watching streams of people playing the game you love, or a fan artist, or a cosplayer, no matter how much time you have to give, there are places for you to engage with your favorite hobby.
The rise of player streaming has been instrumental, giving players a tool to create or participate in tight-knit communities around the games or game genres they love. Good streamers and content creators are super important to us – they are faces of the game experience and incredible sources of feedback that keep us honest. Along with streaming comes the accelerated rise of esports, and what an incredible expression of love that is. To see professional players dedicate their time to pushing the limits of what we create, to their mastery, is humbling for us as creators. For fans of those professional players, it gives them another outlet to express their passion for a game.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22To%20see%20professional%20players%20dedicate%20their%20time%20to%20pushing%20the%20limits%20of%20what%20we%20create%2C%20to%20their%20mastery%2C%20is%20humbling%20for%20us%20as%20creators.%22%20-%20J.%20Allen%20Brack%2C%20Blizzard”]
David Gaider, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Summerfall Studios (Chorus): You know, I’m going to say that there haven’t been any astounding advances in game technology. You can look back at games which came out in 2010 and be justified in saying they’re just as pretty as anything put out today. Most of the changes, I think, have been in the evolution of the genres as well as the audience. Social media, in particular, has led to fans becoming armed camps with vested interests in their games giving them exactly what they expect – the relationship between fans and creators has never been more tense.
The Discourse Around Games
Paul Sage, Creative Director, Borderlands 3: Players streaming games, alternate revenue streams [and] digital sales, procedural systems [and] machine learning tools, better physics and graphics.
Out of all of these, however, I think one that should be expounded upon is the shift in the culture and discourse surrounding games. The fact is that we work in a subjective business, and while there are objective quality elements in games, the invective present sometimes in the press and community harms our industry. Having a huge variety of games and entertainment, even in areas you find uncomfortable, is a blessing, not a curse. I hope we start seeing a move away from this mentality and instead we just keep seeing growth of many points of view. Which means we as developers have to keep encouraging a diversified industry.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22Having%20a%20huge%20variety%20of%20games%20and%20entertainment%2C%20even%20in%20areas%20you%20find%20uncomfortable%2C%20is%20a%20blessing%2C%20not%20a%20curse.%22%20-%20Paul%20Sage%2C%20Gearbox”]
Atsushi Inaba, Chief Creative Officer, PlatinumGames (Bayonetta): The rise of subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime in the film industry. The fact that all content is accessible after a fixed payment changes the way we look at entertainment, not just as consumers but also as creators. It will take more time for this business model to be fully incorporated into video games, but I strongly feel that it could change our industry in many ways.
Accessibility and Acceptance of Gaming as Mainstream
Denby Grace, Executive Producer, 2K (Mafia): Great gaming experiences are more accessible than ever before. Variation in hardware, delivery methods, price points, and ways to engage with content has allowed a wider audience to consume games in an assortment of ways. The industry has never been in better health.
Takashi Iizuka, Head of Sonic Team, SEGA (Sonic Forces): Over the past ten years, games have become a much more accessible and popular form of entertainment to people around the world. Thinking back to a decade ago, the Wii had just come out and I believe that was around the time that games started appearing on smartphones. Prior to 2010, most gaming experiences consisted of sitting in front of a television set and using only your fingertips to control the game. Since then, controllers have adapted to allow players more ease of use and mobility. Players can now make commands by shaking or moving the controller or inputting actions by gestures and posing with their bodies. Advancements in controllers have also increased the accessibility of games for novice players that may not have owned a console before and has allowed players to engage in a variety of different gaming experiences.
Xbox’s Adaptive Controller welcomed even more players to the fold.
Lee Mather, Game Director, F1 2019, Codemasters: The most striking changes to me have been in the acceptance of video gaming, not only as a creative medium which is seen on the same level as film and TV, but also as an industry where you can cultivate a career. When I joined the industry back in 1992 I could never have foreseen we’d be experiencing game launches with the same level of exposure and excitement as a Hollywood movie or films and TV series being made off the back of video games. From a technology perspective, I think we’re in an iterative phase right now. As the big ‘wow’ moments in mobile phone tech have slowed, it’s a similar case with gaming hardware. It’s all going to be about giving users access to the highest quality experiences possible in as many different ways as possible.
Expanding What Constitutes a Game
Keith Schuler, Lead Mission Designer, Gearbox Software (Borderlands 3): The ever-expanding definition of what a video game is, and what they can offer. I’m not just talking about pushing more polygons and shaders to the screen, though that’s part of it. Mental health, politics, cancer, civil liberties, and more, are all legitimate topics for games to explore. They always have been, but as our audience grows and our reach expands, these sorts of conversations are more and more accepted as legitimate discourse, and that influence expands outward beyond just video games. It’s not just the independent studios, either, although they are certainly leading the charge. These past ten years, it has become easier than ever to point to video games and say, ‘This is art. This is an important facet of human society.’[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22These%20past%2010%20years%2C%20it%20has%20become%20easier%20than%20ever%20to%20point%20to%20video%20games%20and%20say%2C%20%E2%80%98This%20is%20art.%20This%20is%20an%20important%20facet%20of%20human%20society.%E2%80%99%22%20-%20Keith%20Schuler%2C%20Gearbox”]
Viktor Bocan, Design Director, Warhorse Studios (Kingdom Come: Deliverance): As a developer, what I feel most is the shift in reporting about games. What was the domain of professional videogame journalists before, is now an open battlefield for streamers, YouTubers, and the Reddit community. I don’t see it necessarily as bad, but it is very different. And sometimes quite unpredictable and unfathomable.
And now for the second part, in which our roundtable members answer the question:
What technology or concept seemed within reach in the last ten years but never quite delivered? And why do you think that is?
Gaming’s Hidden Depths
Sam Barlow, Founder, Drowning a Mermaid Productions (Telling Lies): Well, I think the dream is of gaming as accessible and mainstream and deep. And we missed that one. Phones opened things up, but the market quickly raced to the bottom of the barrel and – generalizing hugely here – never really offered up experiences as deep as you’d find in other media. Netflix and iTunes and Kindle and Criterion Channel might frequently raise my understanding of humanity, move me deeply, whilst the value proposition of mobile gaming is still largely to help me waste time on the subway. And consoles resolutely stuck to the same old model, again and again – a $600 box for space marine shooter games. It’s the economics and the short term interests of investors – looking to cash in on the reliable audience, looking to sell phones, subscriptions, consoles, and hit their growth numbers rather than lay the foundations for a medium. Hopefully the convergence of TV and gaming will help us get to a place that feels more wholesome.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22Consoles%20resolutely%20stuck%20to%20the%20same%20old%20model%2C%20again%20and%20again%20%E2%80%94%20a%20%24600%20box%20for%20space%20marine%20shooter%20games.%22%20-%20Sam%20Barlow%2C%20Drowning%20a%20Mermaid%20Productions”]
Truly Living, Breathing Worlds
Joe Neate, Executive Producer, Sea of Thieves, Rare: I chatted about this with Mike Chapman, the Sea of Thieves Creative Director, and I agree with him that what we’ve not really hit yet is truly immersive, living breathing worlds. Despite the advances in sandbox games, despite the incredible worlds that have been built, if you peek behind the curtain they still feel like scripted worlds with scripted quests or events. There is still so much more promise in this area. Creating truly immersive worlds for players to escape in together, to feel like they are genuinely adventuring in another place, to have that true form of escapism – there is so much potential here.
Tanya X. Short, Co-Founder, Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters): I’m disappointed that the indie/innovative MMO as a genre hasn’t really taken off, with only a few exceptions. Yes, yes, there have been a few popular lower-budget MMOs, but almost all of them are very post-World of Warcraft, to their detriment. With the tools available for the past five or six years especially, people should have been innovating new bizarre multiplayer worlds, but they haven’t, really. It’s just been… more quests. Things like One Hour One Life give me hope that maybe we could enter a new realm of digital worlds, but… it’s not being talked about enough, not by a longshot. There are many reasons why this is – multiplayer is harder to develop, it’s riskier business-wise if it doesn’t also accommodate single-player play, etcetera – but the most persistent reason seems to be that there’s a cultural side-eye against MMOs among game devs, possibly because we all played them too much as teens? Or because the play experience can be so truly, remarkably varied that it’s difficult to even compare for purposes of reviews [and] analysis.
VR and AR
Pim Holfve, CEO, Avalanche Studios (Rage 2): Despite showing great promise in the early 2010s, we never really saw the virtual reality and augmented reality revolution. I think that there are several reasons for this, such as the maturity of the technology, cost of the headsets, setup time, hardware requirements, and no standardized control schemes. While there certainly are some great VR and AR games and experiences out there, the technology still feels more aspirational than fully realized.
Kellee Santiago, Head of Developer Relations, Niantic, Inc. (Pokemon GO): Accessible and meaningful VR. It seemed like we were getting so close in 2016! Google Cardboard was fantastic, but somehow never picked up enough of an audience to make it self-sustainable to creators. StreetView VR was my favorite thing to do. Even though it was the lowest-fidelity VR experience, it allowed me to still feel like I was standing somewhere else on Earth for a moment. Of course, the price on materials to create more immersive experiences then stayed too high to gain wide adoption. The Oculus Quest is a great piece of hardware, and a step towards this balance between high-fidelity and lower price-point. Unfortunately, the industry as a whole didn’t make it there before 2020.
Saxs Persson, Minecraft Chief Creative Officer: I’ve been excited for VR since I was a kid! A few years ago, it felt inevitable that VR would be a mass-market experience. Oculus, Vive, and Sony all did a great job getting unique games for their respective platforms, but so far VR as a whole has not quite delivered on the utopian future where we are having deep experiences in amazing, immersive worlds. That said, the recent release of Oculus Quest has me more optimistic. It being untethered and easy to setup has made it a regular platform of choice in my household. Hopefully, we will see more unique games in the next couple of years that make VR a platform more gamers will want to own.
When will VR be mass market?
Andy Sum, Director, Hipster Whale (Crossy Road): VR and AR still haven’t kicked off as much as many would hope. I lump them together because they suffer from a similar issue which is adopting them into your everyday life. Even though VR experiences are very fun and unique, it’s still a large effort to use them. They take a lot of configuration, they’re uncomfortable, the battery doesn’t last long (or they have long cables), and they’re quirky in public. It’s not so much the underlying tech as the usability issues preventing adoption.
Atsushi Inaba, Chief Creative Officer, PlatinumGames (Bayonetta): VR, MR, and AR technology.
I’m still confident of the potential of these technologies, but we are far away from a point in time where these can be enjoyed by everyone. When you can dive into a VR or MR world that is so immersive that you totally forget about the device you’re using, that’s when I believe the technology is ready to cause a true revolution.
At the same time, I think that it should be questioned if this technology should really become easy to access in the first place. Just like the debate on whether AI technology should be restricted or not, new technology that can fundamentally change the everyday life of human beings is always a double-edged sword. However, as a creator I think it’s very interesting.
Greg Street, VP of IP and Entertainment, Riot Games (League of Legends): Cross-platform play. It seems (from the outside) like something that should be incredibly valuable for a player, but (from the inside) there are a ton of technical, design and even business reasons why it may not even make sense as a goal.
Cloud Gaming and Streaming
Lee Mather, Game Director, F1 2019, Codemasters: I feel like streaming gaming services have had a number of false starts in recent years. We’ve seen it tried numerous times over the last ten years, but the network infrastructure in most countries wasn’t up to scratch, the titles themselves weren’t there or quality was compromised, or users weren’t comfortable with not having ‘physical media’. Now the internet connections have improved, and will continue to do so, both in the home and over the cellular networks, that’s one barrier to entry which is slowly being removed. People are now familiar and comfortable with streaming services for TV and film, and are used to a subscription based model, which again lends itself well to a streaming gaming service. With the likes of Google Stadia and Microsoft Project xCloud we’re seeing some of the world’s most powerful software companies backing streaming, already with massively versatile and powerful back-end services in place.
Takashi Iizuka, Head of Sonic Team, SEGA (Sonic Forces): Personally, I was hoping that the technology behind 3D displays would have been more widely adopted. When Nintendo launched the 3DS, I fully expected there to be more content available that utilized the realism of 3D visuals. We even worked hard to put 3D support on console for the release of Sonic Generations in 2011! Ultimately, the day that 3D overtook 2D displays never came, which is too bad.
AI Controlled Digital Actors
Yoshinori Kitase, Producer, Final Fantasy VII Remake: [I]n my experience of working on story-based games, things like Final Fantasy X for example, you’ve got a performance that you can get from a computer-generated [character] – having programmers do everything to create it, or you’ve got the other option of using real-life actors and motion capturing it. The big difference there is, with the completely computer-generated side, it won’t do anything spontaneously off its own back. The programmers have to write every little detail in, they have to decide it down to the letter. Whereas with real-life actors, you can, for example, give them a very small bit of direction… you [may] want a scene where the characters cry, and they come up with a really different approach to crying and express it in a way that we’ve never seen before.
[W]hat I really hope we can get to [in the future], is a stage where you’ve got full AI-controlled digital actors, and the director of the game can give them very simple instructions, like we need this kind of performance, and it’ll come out with a beautiful nuanced performance from AI processing. Obviously, we’re not there yet, but that’s where I really think we’re going. That’s what I really hope we can see.
Hideki Kamiya, Chief Game Designer, PlatinumGames (Bayonetta): I was hoping that somebody would evolve the Game Room you had on Xbox 360, and that you could have arcade cabinets lined up in a virtual space, which would essentially be a VR Game Room, but nobody created it. I think that’s because the higher-ups in video game companies don’t care about the history of video games. That’s too bad.
Japan is still home to many incredible arcades.
Yoko Taro, Director, NieR: Automata: Dedicated hardware for vertical shooters and pinball. I think they didn’t become a reality because the hardware manufacturers weren’t motivated enough. Show us what you’re capable of! You can do it!
Cam Shea heads up IGN’s Australian content team and loves CCGs. Check out his feature analysing what the games industry thought 2020 would be like in 2010. He’s on Twitter.