Ten years ago, IGN asked a group of games industry members to predict what gaming might look like in 2020. We recently revisited those predictions to see how accurate they were. And now, we’ve assembled a new panel of more than 30 key figures in gaming to tell us about what they think the games industry and video games might be like in 2030. (Be sure to also check out what the panel thought were the biggest changes in gaming in the last decade and the best games of the last decade.)
Each respondent answered three questions:
What do you think the video game industry will look like in 2030?
How do you think gaming technology will have evolved by 2030?
How different will the games of 2030 be to the games of 2020, and why?
As you might imagine, there was a lot of crossover in the responses, so rather than break this feature up by question, we’ve instead grouped responses broadly by topics. As in previous features, we haven’t used every response, but instead have focused on trying to represent as broad a range of insights and perspectives as possible.
Please also note that these answers were submitted to IGN at the start of the year – before the newly re-energised Black Lives Matter movement and before COVID-19 had been classified as a pandemic.
Gaming Will Be Fundamentally Changed by New Tech and New People
Phil Harrison, Vice President and GM, Google (Stadia): I think the gaming industry will continue to grow even in 2030, led by the experiences that you get on mobile and PC and consoles, as they start to merge. This will mainly be powered by a few shifts in our industry.
Streaming will be the unifying technology that allows everybody to access all the content that they want on any screen that they want. I think it is clearly a direction of travel for the games industry powered by ubiquity of network connectivity. Whether it’s 5G, ultra-wide band fiber, or satellite, there are going to be a number of enabling technologies that quickly make this a reality.
Ultimately, compute on-demand from a data center rather than the specific computers inside the box under your TV will dramatically change the way games are made and played. I think we will see some adjacent technologies like machine learning, AI, and natural language fuel game design tremendously. Imagine being able to walk into a world and have a truly believable conversation with a character, where it feels like you’re talking to a real human being – they remember you, they remember your backstory. I think it will allow games to reach a new level of creativity, have even more richness and depth, creating a new medium beyond just the playing of games.
We’ll continue to make significant strides in graphics. I think that there is an obvious direction of travel for GPUs. As gate density on a chip gets better we’ll be able to process more and more. For example, we’re starting to see the early hints of ray tracing, and we’ll see much more complex 3D graphics and pixel processing techniques get embedded in hardware and that will continue to drive visual reality. And when you combine the ability to render pixels realistically with procedural generation, games will outperform movies in terms of visual performance.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22One%20of%20the%20most%20exciting%20things%20from%20a%20content%20perspective%20is%20the%20new%20generation%20coming%20into%20the%20workplace%20now%20that%20have%20played%20games%20all%20their%20life.%20Games%20for%20them%20are%20completely%20second-nature%2C%20not%20a%20strange%20career%20choice.%22%20-%20Phil%20Harrison%2C%20Google”]
I think one major change in 2030 that is often overlooked is the people who create games. One of the most exciting things from a content perspective is the new generation coming into the workplace now that have played games all their life. Games for them are completely second-nature, not a strange career choice. They’ve played and understood gaming literally since before they could watch TV.
And so that means that there is a much wider and richer diversity of talent coming to make games, bringing more voices, more perspectives and more life experiences. That can only improve the way that games are made and the diversity of the stories and experiences that will be represented within them.
Streaming Games Will Be Mainstream
Gareth Wilson, Creative Director, Traveller’s Tales (The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame): Streaming technology will become mainstream in the next 10 years. As network infrastructure catches up it’ll be commonplace to buy a game and immediately start playing it via streaming. We’ll still download games for some time to come, though, and the best experience in 2030 will still be on a standalone console or PC.
Real-time ray tracing is just around the corner as well. I’ve seen some fantastic demos of this in the past six months which will revolutionise how we build and light game assets.
Denby Grace, Executive Producer, 2K (Mafia III): I think the biggest advancement in gaming technology is already upon us, with cloud gaming. When it gets to a level where you’re truly no longer tethered to the hardware you have at your house – when you can take your gaming experiences wherever you are in the world, on whatever device you have – that’s when it will really open the doors to everyone and anyone being able to access to the content they want, whenever they want it.
Tim Heaton, Studio Director, Creative Assembly and EVP Studios (Total War: Three Kingdoms): My guess is streaming will be the primary method of distribution. 5G should enable it, and the infrastructures for streaming allow the next great leap forward – distributed, scalable power to enable games of incredible sophistication that single boxes simply could not manage.
Procedural content creation and machine learned solutions will help ameliorate the growing cost and complexity of development, but it’s hard to see the trend not continuing towards bigger and more complex development team structures.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22Will%20VR%20or%20AR%20win%20the%20day%20and%20allow%20truly%20immersive%20gameplay%20for%20the%20mainstream%3F%20The%20tech%20should%20certainly%20be%20there%20by%202030…%22%20-%20Tim%20Heaton%2C%20Creative%20Assembly”]
Will VR or AR win the day and allow truly immersive gameplay for the mainstream? The tech should certainly be there by 2030 and it could, and needs to, be driven by entirely new genres of games with new ways to add social elements.
VR Will Win the Day… Or Maybe Not
Viktor Bocan, Design Director, Warhorse Studios (Kingdom Come: Deliverance): I believe VR and streaming will be the most defining technologies in the next ten years in gaming. Virtual reality is the way forward: headsets need to be light, user-friendly, and affordable, but they will be quite soon. Other than that, I think streaming will help a lot; there’ll be no need for every player to have to have a beast computer under his desk.
I think the games will be quite similar, with the only exception that virtual reality will be a much more common component even of non-VR games. There is already almost no reason – aside from technical difficulties – not to include [a] VR mode in many genres like strategy games or platformers. New control possibilities, free independently handled camera and other advantages are far too good and far too interesting to be omitted. Once these systems are more accessible, the games will just support it. You will play StarCraft III the same way you play StarCraft II, but you will look around freely or even walk over the battlefield. Because why not?
Takashi Iizuka, Head of Sonic Team, SEGA (Sonic Forces): I think it’s fair to expect that by 2030, game graphics will be on par with the best CG movies we see now. I also would like to see VR technology become more widespread in video games. Everyone knows that there are some amazing and unique VR games out there today, but they require an initial hardware investment and are still very solitary experiences. These factors have created a barrier to entry for mainstream audiences. I hope that with advances in technology, many of the current hurdles with VR will be overcome. I’m not sure if this can be accomplished ten years from now, but I think that someday people will be able to enjoy a VR experience with their friends and family that is on par with going to an amusement park from the comfort of their homes.
Greg Street, VP of IP and Entertainment, Riot Games (League of Legends): I’m not a huge evangelist for VR and I don’t know if 2030 will really be enough time for it to be something in which a majority of gamers can participate. I still find audio and video communication with other players to be woefully inadequate across a couple of dimensions, so hopefully that experience is technically seamless and player behavior problems are less of an issue by 2030.
Gareth Wilson, Creative Director, Traveller’s Tales (The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame): I hope VR will take a big leap forward, but my hunch is in 2030 we’ll still be saying mainstream adoption is still a few years away.
We’ll See a Merging of the Real With the Virtual
Andy Sum, Director, Hipster Whale (Crossy Road): I would expect to see a big tech disruption in either AR, VR, or Deep Learning. Maybe this is the decade that someone invents a wearable that people actually want to wear. If there’s a headset or sci-fi contact lens that’s as ubiquitous as mobile phones are now, then there will be games for it.
Lars Janssen, Director of Studio Relations, Koch Media: At some point in the next decade, mixed reality will make its mark. I’m looking forward to smart contact lenses that are able to seamlessly blend the real and the virtual. It might be more to the end of the decade but this will be the next major step, not only for games.
Marc Merrill, Co-Founder, Riot Games (League of Legends): I think it is possible that we will move away from mouse and keyboard as the primary input devices for PCs in ten years and the implications of this would be profound and far reaching. It is also likely that graphics processing will continue to shift more and more to the server which will continue to make gaming more mobile than ever. This will hopefully manifest in great wearables that enable better Augmented Reality gameplay experiences that we have only begun to scratch the surface on. I for one would love to play virtual paintball in a live arena.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22I%20think%20it%20is%20possible%20that%20we%20will%20move%20away%20from%20mouse%20and%20keyboard%20as%20the%20primary%20input%20devices%20for%20PCs%20in%20ten%20years%20and%20the%20implications%20of%20this%20would%20be%20profound%20and%20far%20reaching.%22%20-%20Marc%20Merrill%2C%20Riot%20Games”]
Kellee Santiago, Head of Developer Relations, Niantic, Inc. (Pokemon GO): I think a big addition will be technology enabling the merge of digital and real-world games, so that there might even be esports that are both digital and physical, like football – with dragons!
Ryozo Tsujimoto, Producer, Monster Hunter series: As technology like real-time ray tracing becomes more accessible and common, we will push the boundaries of photorealism to the point where graphics will be nearly indistinguishable from reality. MR [mixed reality] will improve its ability to recognise objects in the real world and integrate more seamlessly with our environment, making games that combine reality with CG at a quality level unthinkable today. You might have a Rathalos appear before your very eyes! I also think controllers and their feedback mechanisms will evolve in ways that let us experience games more directly with our senses.
Kellee Santiago, Head of Developer Relations, Niantic, Inc. (Pokemon GO): There will continue to be a growth in ecosystems of players/creators like Minecraft and Roblox, fueled by streaming technology that will continue to offload computing to the cloud. This will also allow more innovation in the Internet of Things space, which will allow us to play games in our real-world spaces and with our bodies, instead of using controllers that are already starting to feel so obtuse.
Saxs Persson, Minecraft Chief Creative Officer: Mostly, we have seen incremental changes [in] the last decade and I expect that to continue. One exception is AR and HoloLens, in particular. I am very interested in AR wearable technology taking the next step and becoming mainstream. I have had unique experiences with HoloLens that I never thought I could experience, but price and form factor is still a limiting factor. Hopefully that changes in the next ten years!
Ville Heijari, CMO, Rovio (Angry Birds): I’m confident of a new type of gaming experience emerging by 2030. For instance, Nintendo has kicked off 2020 in fine form by announcing its tech-infused theme parks with power-up wristbands. As we learnt over the past years with Pokémon Go, people are by no means confined to the living room if the conditions are right and fun; engaging reward-based challenges are on hand.
Mobile Gaming and the Cloud Will Have a Huge Influence
J. Allen Brack, President, Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft): The phone that I have in 2030 will be more powerful than my 2020 desktop PC – what will that enable creators to build?
I’ve been a lifelong PC gamer. When you think about the future, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that there are literally billions of gamers who will never have a PC or console and can only play on their mobile device. That’s an amazing shift in how games might be made and how we think about the future gaming audience.
You also can’t ignore the potential of cloud-based gaming. We are on the cusp today, with many companies attempting to capture this market. Most will fail, but I think a couple will succeed in building in this space. The best game designers design games for the specific platform, and the biggest concern is if you envision what a AAA game looks like, you have to envision what a AAA cloud-based game looks like. That’s a huge problem for designers – a solvable problem, for sure, but it will take a lot of work.
The Console Wars May Be Over
Jeremiah Slaczka, Co-Founder and Creative Director, 5th Cell (Scribblenauts Unlimited): I’m not sure if the console wars will exist in another ten years. The barriers between the platform walled gardens are breaking down so much already, I don’t think they’ll exist in 2030.
Naoki Yoshida, Producer and Director, Final Fantasy XIV: I think the console wars will have neared its end, and cloud gaming will have just been established as the mainstream. Technology will continue to advance, but I think that in ten years’ time the limitations will no longer be on a hardware level and will have instead become a battle of the cloud servers. I’m sure ten years will fly by.
Keith Schuler, Lead Mission Designer, Gearbox Software (Borderlands 3): I expect near the end of the decade we’ll still see the “Big 3” announcing or releasing updated versions of their consoles, heralding the end of this console generation. But, that’ll be the last console war. By 2030, we’ll already see the way the wind is blowing, where video games are simply media that you can play on whatever media player you own. I think we’re seeing this trend already, but it’ll take a long time for the behemoths to figure out what they’re going to do about it. Well, not Nintendo. They’ll keep doing their thing. And you know what? They’ll also release the best Metroid game ever, because I’m making a wish right now.
Home Hardware May Disappear
Lars Janssen, Director of Studio Relations, Koch Media: Local PCs and consoles will go away in the long run with the rise of gigabit and faster internet connections. I wouldn’t be surprised if hardware at home or on the go will be reduced to ultra-high-resolution portable screens and evolved input devices, where all content is coming from servers with minimal latency.
Greg Street, VP of IP and Entertainment, Riot Games (League of Legends): I’m imagining that hardware as a presence will almost disappear. We won’t have these bulky machines under our desks. We won’t have huge TVs on our walls. We won’t think about, ‘I need to be in this room to play this particular game.’
Jodie Azhar, Game Director, Teazelcat Games: I imagine we’ll still be seeing gaming consoles in wide use for playing handheld and touchscreen experiences or those that require specialised controllers, but large consoles may be more integrated with other home technology. This could either go more towards home PCs focused on making it easy to view, download and stream games, or become more integrated with Smart TVs.
Phil Harrison, Vice President and GM, Google (Stadia): In the future, games will surpass the inherent bias where certain titles are only available to specific audiences based on hardware ownership. Content shouldn’t be limited to someone playing it only because they have a certain powerful machine. I think that by the time we get to 2030, we will see a democratization of access to content that is not determined by your ability to buy a hundreds or thousands of dollars box next to your TV or monitor, but by ubiquitous and easy access to the internet. And since more of the world will be connected in the future, I’m optimistic about the future of the games industry.
We’ll Have a More Unified Ecosystem for Games
Ed Beach, Civilization Franchise Lead Designer, Firaxis: We’re seeing the initial move toward cloud-based gaming now and I’m confident it will be complete by 2030. Already we’ve moved away from physical media to digital distribution; by 2030 I doubt we’ll be spending much time worrying about what gaming platform we’re on. That will mean a bigger, more unified potential audience for every game and I’m sure it will be a very, very competitive environment. That will place the emphasis firmly on making sure developers are delivering the most compelling and innovative content.
Viktor Bocan, Design Director, Warhorse Studios (Kingdom Come: Deliverance): Hardware is going to be much more united; mobiles, handhelds, consoles, and PCs will be very similar and interchangeable. It’s possible that the mobile phone will work as a console and a handheld; it already can now, but the hassle involved is irritating. That means it will be a lot easier to make games for “different platforms” as there will be much fewer platforms. Plus, there will be streaming. A lot of streaming.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22Hardware%20is%20going%20to%20be%20much%20more%20united%3B%20mobiles%2C%20handhelds%2C%20consoles%20and%20PCs%20will%20be%20very%20similar%20and%20interchangeable.%22%20-%20Viktor%20Bocan%2C%20Warhorse%20Studios”]
Subscription Services Could Go Either Way
Jodie Azhar, Game Director, Teazelcat Games: By 2030 I think someone will have cracked “Games on Demand”, making it easy to pay a subscription, browse a library of games and try a game out immediately. There are services like this already, but they haven’t quite taken off. I think we’ll still see different games only being available from certain providers and still having the option of buying a personal copy of the game, but if games become accessible directly from our TVs without having to buy specialised hardware or wait for it to download, and can try something we’ve already paid a subscription to access, we’ll see games become increasingly more integrated into our lives.
Tanya X. Short, Co-Founder, Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters): I really hope to all the gods that no streaming/subscription service has succeeded. Please, please, let me sell my games directly to consumers, not have it always get curated and funded by a third-party gatekeeper. If games goes the way of TV and it turns into a primarily Netflix-style medium, the diversity of creators and content that we’re seeing now will absolutely plummet, and games will become samey again. It would set us back into a dark age of gaming, in my opinion, even if the producers throw us a few crumbs that they can take away again whenever they please. See Tuca and Bertie.
Business Models Will Continue to Change
Greg Street, VP of IP and Entertainment, Riot Games (League of Legends): We are going to have to continue to figure out how to pay for the high costs of game development. We’ve tried box sales, subscriptions, microtransactions, loot boxes, and passes. All of them have some problems. I look forward to seeing smart developers innovate on that space, innovate on how we communicate with players, innovate on how players communicate with each other, and not just try and innovate on, say, ragdoll physics.
Development Models Will Continue to Change
Jeremiah Slaczka, Co-Founder and Creative Director, 5th Cell (Scribblenauts Unlimited): I think games will be made differently ten years from now. More of a Hollywood contracting/union model than massive studios building up and laying off between projects. You can easily outsource art, tech, sound, and QA these days; in ten years it should be a snap to work with talented people remotely on a single project.
Masachika Kawata, Producer, Resident Evil series: Development technology will spread further from companies to individuals, allowing indie developers to use modular development and create bigger games than they can at the moment. But the cutting edge of technology will likely focus even further in on a few big companies due to resources and patent-based exclusivity.
Tanya X. Short, Co-Founder, Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters): [Games] will be even more varied, and made by more kinds of people, from all over the world. Whether VR or AR or some other XR comes to the forefront as a new viable platform, people all over the globe are empowered to make games for it. I hope, anyway. If we continue to move our communities online, and the internet continues to spread effectively, it’s possible.
Marc Merrill, Co-Founder, Riot Games (League of Legends): The ongoing democratization of development means we will continue to see the cost of entry remain low as more sophisticated tools become more and more available to creators. More people will be making things and it will be easier than ever to get games in front of people online. This also means there will be “more noise” and it will be even harder for your game to stand out from the crowd. More people will be playing, streaming, and sharing – together – and there will be a lot of gameplay innovation that explores how to integrate “watching” with “playing” in meaningful ways.
Gareth Wilson, Creative Director, Traveller’s Tales (The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame): I’m actually quite optimistic for the future of the industry. I think we’ll look back at the next few years as a bit of a gold rush, as new players really go big in gaming, streaming services get established, and “all you can eat” offerings that require a mass of content to keep subscribers happy. I’m hopeful they’ll re-establish that middle layer of development where specialist titles with reasonable budgets can find a home, as in the recent past the industry has been dominated by huge titles or tiny indie games at the other end.
When it comes to greenlighting projects and expanding games post launch, we’ll see analytics and AI increasingly being used to help make decisions on which games and new content get made. We’re already seeing this in movies and TV, which could mean people get more of the games they want and we get less flops, but equally could mean games get more formulaic to serve established audiences.
Technology Will Help Create Smarter Development Environments
Phil Harrison, Vice President and GM, Google (Stadia): I think that there are some technologies that will have to evolve. With the biggest games from the past few years being made by teams of hundreds of people – in some cases over a thousand people. In future generations, could we imagine ten thousand people working on a game? I don’t think so. I believe that by 2030, the technology that underpins content creation has to evolve at a much faster rate than it has done in the last few years. We have to think differently about the way that content is created, and how vast landscapes of natural law and realistic worlds can be created using machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Keith Schuler, Lead Mission Designer, Gearbox Software (Borderlands 3): Something has got to give with the price point of selling video games versus the cost of making them, and for sake of the industry, that has to shake out in the next ten years. I expect to see more experimental financial models as we go, but what’s probably needed is some sort of paradigm shift. I also expect AI and machine learning to play a rapidly increasing role in many aspects of game development. I think developers will find interesting ways to leverage these technologies.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22I%20expect%20AI%20and%20machine%20learning%20to%20play%20a%20rapidly%20increasing%20role%20in%20many%20aspects%20of%20game%20development.%20I%20think%20developers%20will%20find%20interesting%20ways%20to%20leverage%20these%20technologies.%22%20-%20Keith%20Schuler%2C%20Gearbox%20Software”]
Ville Heijari, CMO, Rovio (Angry Birds): I think the role of AI and how it is used to supplement human developer creativity through content creation will be a huge boon for both game makers and players. At Rovio we’ve been investing in machine learning for a number of years, with the key aims being to lighten the load on our game designers and be able to produce fun content at a faster cadence with less manual grind. In addition, we can also better predict aspects like level difficulty and likeliness of churn, leading to greater personalisation and tailoring of the user experience.
Paul Sage, Creative Director, Borderlands 3: I hope we will see a lot more carefully crafted heuristics that drive cool automation and procedurally generated content. We won’t have to mocap or hand key every animation. We won’t have to craft and place every single blade of grass. And maybe, just maybe, the thing I am really excited about is cloud based AI speech. What I mean is, games can have NPCs that are believable and give believable responses based on their “personality.” I don’t want to move away from great writing and hand-crafted dialogue, but I would like to have “filler” that complements our craft. Using natural language parsing and personality profiles, I think we will start seeing some worlds made that are truly fleshed out. We’ll probably just be on the cusp of this in ten years, but I’m looking forward to it. Because when we can fill out the worlds procedurally in cool ways, we can concentrate more on the hand-crafted experiences that make games great.
AI Advancements Will Change Gaming Forever
Andy Sum, Director, Hipster Whale (Crossy Road): If Deep Learning continues to improve rapidly, then I expect we’ll see a narrative game that takes advantage of conversational AI and being able to convincingly have long interactions with NPCs. This tech is just starting to make an appearance.
Yoshinori Kitase, Producer, Final Fantasy VII Remake: Square Enix as a company, we very much make games which are focused on story and characters, and the player becoming that character and experiencing their story.
I think where we are now, it’s still very much at the stage of having pre-set routes and pre-set story twists and destinations. For example, in the Netflix drama [Black Mirror: Bandersnatch] you’ve got three options, and you select from one of those options and it takes you down a pre-set route to another choice. I think, in the future, that’s going to get a lot more granular, and it’s going to be – with the introduction of things like AI behind the scenes – the story, the drama is going to unfold in real-time based on the player’s actions and everything that happens in the world. There’s going to be developments and changes in the story that the developers, maybe, wouldn’t even understand or have predicted. It’s going to be much more free-form and much more player-driven.
Denby Grace, Executive Producer, 2K (Mafia III): I think visual and audio technology advancements are a given, with more processing power leading to more complex worlds and AI. What I’m hoping will be a byproduct of those advancements, specifically those in AI, is a new generation of games that can explore and exercise social reasoning just as much as the already-established spatial reasoning – providing a more comprehensive set of verbs and therefore a truly interactive and uniquely controllable experience.
Technology Will Drive Game Design
Lee Mather, Game Director, F1 2019, Codemasters: The technology will be one of the main drivers for how games will differ in ten years’ time. If you look at a game such as the original Grand Theft Auto, it’s the advancements in technology which allowed them to take a top down crime game to the open world behemoth it is today. You can be sure the vision was already there, but it took time to be a position to be able to achieve it. Technical advancements will allow the creatives of the industry to go wild, and to give gamers experiences exactly how they envisaged them. Another area of gaming which I see continuing to expand and grow is in the more social and community side of things. Games will be built with this in mind, with gaming becoming a much more social, collaborative and shared experience.
Games Will Evolve for the Better and New Genres Will Emerge
Sam Barlow, Founder, Drowning a Mermaid Productions (Telling Lies): [Games will be] very [different in ten years], I hope. Games have changed a LOT, but… in Zelda I’m still a dude running around hitting things with a sword. In Fortnite I’m still shooting stuff with a range of guns. Minecraft mixed up some paradigms but I still have a button dedicated to melee attacks. Control is weird and funky, but I’m still a superhero shooting and punching waves of enemies. The indie power move in this decade was to take a popular genre and remove combat: BioShock/Gone Home, D&D/Disco Elysium, Silent Hill/Amnesia. Every time we do that, we focus on other mechanics and aspects and grow them out, and the games are stronger for it. We have such a narrow range of mechanics and interactions; hopefully in 2030 we’ll have expanded that wide open.
Tim Heaton, Studio Director, Creative Assembly and EVP Studios (Total War: Three Kingdoms): It’s seems pretty likely that there’ll be hugely popular genres that don’t really exist at the moment. That’s certainly happened over the past decade and it doesn’t feel like we’ve run out of ideas. Of course, these can be enabled by technology, but sometimes they’re just great combinations of systems used in a new way.
It feels like 2030 is a very long way away, but here at Sega we’re dealing with several franchises that are 15, 20, or even 30 years old. Ten years is only three AAA game cycles away… if AAA exists by then (it will).
Games Will Merge With Other Forms of Media
Yoshinori Kitase, Producer, Final Fantasy VII Remake: I think maybe it wouldn’t be categorised as a games industry at that point. I have a feeling that the borders between games and movies and subscription entertainment services, things like Netflix, they may be very blurred by that point. At least, they’ll be seen as rivals as opposed to a different type of media. But there may be that merging together happening. I mean, something Netflix is doing now, they’ve got these interactive dramas, like Black Mirror [Bandersnatch]… the viewer, the player, can choose the outcome, make decisions during the story and that changes how it progresses. I have a feeling there’s going to be that more borderless aspect between different genres of entertainment.
Pim Holfve, CEO, Avalanche Studios Group (Rage 2): Over the coming years, games and all other forms of entertainment will mix and cross-pollinate with each other, generating new and exciting ways for us to express ourselves. I also predict that the borders between genres and markets will be blurred over time. This will generate completely new audiences with new expectations and feedback that will inspire developers to evolve current genres and come up with completely new ones. Finally, the hippie in me wants to see real-world cultures merging within games and create whole new alternative cultures, subcultures, and even new societies – an alternative world where the inhabitants rule together.
Games Will Give Players the Toolbox
Kellee Santiago, Head of Developer Relations, Niantic, Inc. (Pokemon GO): I don’t know that [games in 2030] will be fundamentally different; are they that different now in the grand scheme of things? Humans want to play together, and sometimes that’s creative, sometimes it’s competitive, sometimes it’s as a spectator. These things really haven’t changed much. I think technology is evolving so that digital games can feel more like card games and paper games, in that we can modify them more, have “house rules”, create our own games with the same pieces, etcetera. I think the increased level of comfort and vocabulary around games and how they work will possibly make them more diverse and sophisticated, and will hopefully give me even more people to play with![poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22I%20think%20technology%20is%20evolving%20so%20that%20digital%20games%20can%20feel%20more%20like%20card%20games%20and%20paper%20games%2C%20in%20that%20we%20can%20modify%20them%20more%2C%20have%20’house%20rules’%2C%20create%20our%20own%20games%20with%20the%20same%20pieces%2C%20etc.%22%20-%20Kellee%20Santiago%2C%20Niantic”]
Saxs Persson, Minecraft Chief Creative Officer: If I could have one wish, it would be to narrow the distance between creator and consumer. The gift of creativity is something that will help you, whether this is your profession or just the way you like to wind down.
Cross-Play Will Lead to Bigger Things
Jamie Jackson, Chief Creative Officer, Mythical Games: Player creation will be much bigger, players making their own ways to play and create their own audiences. I also think we’ll see account-level progression across multiple games. It feels like the natural next logical step for cross-play. Give players ownership of their accounts regardless of the game, allow for meaningful levelling up, and enable sweet unlocks or content that bleed into other brands or gaming experiences.
[We will also see] wide adoption of emerging tech like blockchain and how that will open up new avenues of legitimizing digital assets and giving player ownership and agency to what they have amassed through hours of play.
How We Watch Games Will Level Up
J. Allen Brack, President, Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft): We are already spending designer time focusing on the viewing experience. Think about games that have Lead Viewing Experience designers – someone who designs how spectators view the game, both passive and active viewers. What’s the advanced version? How can spectators meaningfully contribute to their favorite streamer’s gameplay experience? And what does it look like when spectators have a voice in the viewing experience? What does an integrated spectating experience look like?
Games Will Be More Diverse, as Will the People That Make Them
Saxs Persson, Minecraft Chief Creative Officer: I hope the move towards more diversity in games continues for the next ten years. I want everyone to have a game that speaks to them – a developer that represents every gamer’s value and ideals. This last decade has shown that there is room for everyone to make a game that’s meaningful to someone. Success has been redefined with a stronger connection between game maker and game player. Often the line is blurred, like in Minecraft or Roblox. In the end, we are all creative. And we can all make games.
David Gaider, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Summerfall Studios (Chorus): I’d like to think [games] will be more thoughtfully diverse – you can already see that becoming more common in games, on a more regular basis. Perhaps we’ll finally reach the point where diversity can exist without being noteworthy. Ideally we’ll also see a broadening of the indie field, where games that don’t aspire to a photo-realistic aesthetic can take up a bigger share of the field.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22Perhaps%20we%E2%80%99ll%20finally%20reach%20the%20point%20where%20diversity%20can%20exist%20without%20being%20noteworthy.%22%20-%20David%20Gaider%2C%20Summerfall%20Studios”]
Greg Street, VP of IP and Entertainment, Riot Games (League of Legends): Honestly, I hope it doesn’t look that different, as an industry, than it does today. As a player, I enjoy that there are giant studios that can create these very long, detailed, polished experiences with multi-million dollar budgets. But I also love that I can play an indie game from Spain and also really admire the thought and craftsmanship that went into it. I do look forward to a more diverse industry, where we have more game teams led by women, less gatekeeping about who constitutes a game player, and we’re talking about the latest indie game from Mongolia or Bolivia.
Joe Neate, Executive Producer, Sea of Thieves, Rare: Bigger, more inclusive, more diverse. Having spent the last 20 years working in the games industry, I’ve seen first-hand how it has evolved, but also how far it has to go. The good thing is that it is evolving, and nothing is going to stop it. We all have our part to play in this, from how we behave, the cultures we create, the games we make, and how we build and communicate with our communities. Leading from the front matters and everyone making games has a responsibility here, to speak out against discrimination, and to influence those around them to behave in the right way.
Pim Holfve, CEO, Avalanche Studios Group (Rage 2): Over the past decade, it’s been amazing to see how more and more people around the world enjoy games, whether it’s casual mobile titles or AAA blockbusters. With new tech on the horizon, games will become even more accessible to bigger and more diverse audiences. My hope is that this will make more people consider a career in games, as different perspectives and experiences make both our games and industry better. At the same time, I wish that more companies will strive to create a sustainable work-life balance for their employees and finally make crunch culture a thing of the past in 2030.
Game Studios Will Focus on Social Responsibility
J. Allen Brack, President, Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft): If you look at the world, we have so many difficult problems – because we’ve solved so many simple problems, all the remaining problems are difficult. They will require thought, compromise, and collaboration across large numbers of humans. We are starting to see companies saying that they are looking to change the world in a positive way and becoming more mission based. I think the trend of mission-based companies will accelerate beyond philanthropic work, and I believe we will see considerable growth in game studios becoming aware of their power around social responsibility. Microsoft just announced that they will be carbon negative by 2030 – a sign of what they value and what’s to come. Changing the world in a positive way is something we, as human beings, want for ourselves. At Blizzard, we believe passionately in the positive power of video games and how they can make the world a better place. All of us – Blizzard as well as the rest of the games industry – should try to do more.
Lee Mather, Game Director, F1 2019, Codemasters: [In ten years] I can see an industry which sits on par with other creative industries, such as TV and film. I can see games being accepted as art. I can also see games continuing to change people’s lives. While games sometimes receive negative press, they overlook some of the biggest positives in gaming. The industry will continue to excite and inspire people, it will continue to be one of the most welcoming and inclusive creative industries, and it will bring positivity and pleasure to the lives of millions. I can also see the industry expanding its support for great causes, already offering people an alternative outlet for people with disabilities or mental health issues.
Game Studios Will Improve in Other Ways Too
Ross Gowing, Game Director, Dirt Rally 2.0, Codemasters: I think we’ll see quality and efficiency continue to improve due to the improvements that are being made at an education level – the wealth of information and resources that are available for people to further their knowledge in addition to what they’re being taught formally is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and that’s only going to continue on an upward trajectory. I’d also like to think that the majority of studios will finally solve the work/life balance issues that the industry has struggled with for too long – we simply can’t continue to operate like that.
Pim Holfve, CEO, Avalanche Studios Group (Rage 2): We’ll see a tighter and more collaborative relationship between our communities and us as developers. The direct dialogue between players and developers will become more important and have an even greater impact on the games we make and especially how they continue to evolve.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22The%20direct%20dialogue%20between%20players%20and%20developers%20will%20become%20more%20important%20and%20have%20an%20even%20greater%20impact%20on%20the%20games%20we%20make%20and%20especially%20how%20they%20continue%20to%20evolve.%22%20-%20Pim%20Holfve%2C%20Avalanche%20Studios%20Group”]
Keith Schuler, Lead Mission Designer, Gearbox Software (Borderlands 3): Plenty will stay the same. But, there will be some big changes in ways we can’t even imagine right now. The generation of bright young minds that grew up with and were influenced by the games of the last ten years will be getting jobs in the industry, bringing their ideas and new ways of thinking to us. I’ve heard it said that directors like Scorsese and Spielberg ushered in a new generation of filmmaking, and I think the video game industry is also going to see that kind of generational shift sometime in the next ten years.
The Games Industry Will Go Through a Correction
David Gaider, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Summerfall Studios (Chorus): Personally, I think the industry is headed for some kind of correction over the next period, where unions start to take hold and the industry deals with the idea it has to make games on timetables that don’t destroy the people creating them. Maybe it’ll be a big fight, maybe it’ll involve some implosion and some high-profile failures, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Consolidation Will Continue, Then Things Will Shift Again
Pim Holfve, CEO, Avalanche Studios Group (Rage 2): On the business side, the acquisition trend, with big corporations acquiring smaller studios and IPs, is likely to continue for a while. I hope that most studio founders who are benefitting from the current shopping spree, will re-invest in the industry and pave the way for rising stars all around the world to disrupt the industry over and over again.
Tanya X. Short, Co-Founder, Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters): Up until 2025, there will be some consolidation, which has already started – indies getting acquired, either by other indies or bigger studios. Trying to shore up resources against the massive amounts of competition. And then I suppose, as always, there will be some new reason for fragmentation – a new platform type, a new market, a new mega-genre, something that encourages risk-taking, which requires smaller teams to break out again. So I think by 2030 we’ll be largely where we are now again.
Marc Merrill, Co-Founder, Riot Games (League of Legends): I would wager that the industry will see continued cycles of expansion and consolidation. Esports will continue to grow, but there will be only a few major esports that dominate the viewership charts. There will be a continuing “hollowing” out of the middle market, where development costs continue to rise and it will be even harder to survive without “hit” titles. Innovation will continue to be driven by indie devs, although there will also be significant innovation in mega-scale games with huge development budgets that enable experiences that simply cannot be realized without massive investment.
Lars Janssen, Director of Studio Relations, Koch Media: [In 2030] we will have fewer and fewer big players in the industry, so the consolidation will continue. Specialization will become very important and almost all of the major large-scale projects will be international co-developments.
On top of that, the video game industry game will be more and more connected to other industries. For example, through learnings from game design thinking and will thus help carry other industries forward as we can already see in automotive, manufacturing, etcetera.
Gaming Will Be Truly Ubiquitous
Takashi Iizuka, Head of Sonic Team, SEGA (Sonic Forces): Over the past ten years we have seen games become a very popular medium of entertainment, but there are still many parts of the world where console games are not sold. There are also many people that do not invest their time and money into gaming experiences. With the introduction of 5G as a new network, developers can deliver affordable gaming experiences to people around the world on their mobile devices. I hope that everyone will be able to experience games as easily as they listen to music or watch videos on YouTube by 2030.
Tim Heaton, Studio Director, Creative Assembly and EVP Studios (Total War: Three Kingdoms): [By 2030] I think [the games industry] will have completed its journey to be accepted as a key element of modern culture, in the way film, TV, music, and literature are now. Everyone will have grown up with games culture all around them, and I hope it will be better understood. It’s not so far off now – it’s easy to see examples of other mass market disciplines feeding off games for inspiration.
The business itself will all be digital and more ubiquitous. Play anywhere, in whatever form you would like. I think it’s likely to be the same major players – games will be vital for the huge tech/media companies but I’m sure there’ll be some consolidation of big publishers into the bigger and even more cash-rich tech corporations. It will be very interesting to see how the Chinese tech companies manage in the West and how they leverage their very significant investments.
Games Will Be Even More Mainstream and That Will Change Them
J. Allen Brack, President, Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft): The generation of people who have grown up knowing games are a part of mainstream culture will be having children of their own. Parents won’t just tolerate or be understanding of their children playing games, they will want to actively participate, which is an amazing thing. I think we’ll see a lot of existing IPs evolve to meaningfully include people with varying time restrictions and budgets together in one big expression of a world, and new games will be developed with that in mind. And we won’t just be designing a game, we’ll be designing whole experiences and interactive expressions of worlds we have created.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22Parents%20won%E2%80%99t%20just%20tolerate%20or%20be%20understanding%20of%20their%20children%20playing%20games%2C%20they%20will%20want%20to%20actively%20participate%2C%20which%20is%20an%20amazing%20thing.%22%20-%20J.%20Allen%20Brack%2C%20Blizzard%20Entertainment”]
Lars Janssen, Director of Studio Relations, Koch Media: [In 2030] there will be more developers focusing on games for the core audience of today which will have grown older by then. That will lead to a lot more games that are not overly skill-based, fast-paced, or difficult to control. The gaming market will continue to grow and the strongest growth will be seen in the segment of players 35 – or even 40 years – and up.
Paul Sage, Creative Director, Borderlands 3: [By 2030] the 30-40 year old gamers will have grown up in the 2000s-2010s. Minecraft, Pokémon, etcetera are nostalgic touchstones for this generation. So, I think we will continue to see the erosion of genres and more amalgamations of blended mechanics. I would not be surprised to see a massively multiplayer metaverse start taking shape. A game where people build towns [and] neighborhoods while still having several great core games in it.
Marc Merrill, Co-Founder, Riot Games (League of Legends): Whatever form gaming takes, it will become even more ubiquitous over the next ten years and be an even larger share of the media landscape. One of the most exciting outcomes of this growth will be the continued de-stigmatization of games as a legitimate form of entertainment, art, sport and technology where more and more third party stakeholders embrace games. This will manifest in more college scholarships for game players, more career opportunities for people in and around games, and more support from advertisers, sponsors and many large non-game companies who will create “digital entertainment” strategies.
Luc Duchaine, Executive Marketing Director, Ubisoft’s Canadian Studios: By 2030, I’ll be in my mid-50s and my generation was the one playing the NES in the 80s so gaming will become more and more mainstream. I dream about a day when gaming news will be treated the same way as other form of entertainment like movies and not like a curiosity. Thanks to big games and big esports events, gaming is more popular than ever and I don’t see it slowing down. With a wider demographic, we might see more diverse games.
Ville Heijari, CMO, Rovio (Angry Birds): [I]t’s estimated that 80% of children, teens, and adults in North America own/use a smartphone device, with 74% of those people playing a mobile game during an average month.
Considering the above, plus the thankfully continuing deconstruction of the tired “gamer” stereotype that has pervaded society for too long, I’m looking forward to gaming’s continual mainstream adoption. An interesting next step would be Olympic sport status, which will become a more and more plausible prospect within the next decade and will further revolutionise what it means to be a competitive gamer.
Many Existing Franchises Will Stay Relevant
Marc Merrill, Co-Founder, Riot Games (League of Legends): We will… see continued franchise continuity that makes generational gaming far more practical. Fortnite has moved the culture forward – it will have many opportunities to remain relevant a decade from now. Minecraft is still beloved by millions of gamers and new players just getting their start. These games and IPs are not vanishing any time soon and will have many opportunities to renew themselves as the industry continues to evolve.
Legacy Brands Will Find a Way
Rebecca Ford, Live Operations and Community Director, Digital Extremes (Warframe): The unknown in the next ten years is franchise fatigue and the war on free time. For franchise fatigue, we celebrated James Bond’s 50th birthday in the last ten years, and we’ll be celebrating Pokémon’s 30th in the next ten. The Sean Connerys are gone – but legacy brands will do their best to live on. For the war on free time, games have no trouble appealing to traditional gamers for time and money; that is, people reading IGN. But when it becomes easier to watch someone else play games between Netflix binges, games have to remind more people about the optimal way to experience them: by playing.
Indie Games Will Excite Us
Hideki Kamiya, Chief Game Designer, PlatinumGames (Bayonetta): I think that video games will continue to evolve as a giant entertainment industry, becoming closer to industrial products in the process. However, it should not be forgotten that indie games are growing as well, and while I’m not sure how they will end up, that’s the part of this industry I’m looking forward to the most.
Dreams May Be Unfulfilled
Sam Barlow, Founder, Drowning a Mermaid Productions (Telling Lies): I would love to see the controllers gone. I would love to get rid of proprietary platforms. No PS, Xbox or Switch. No Apple vs. Android. Netflix-for-games is a confused message, but I’d love gaming to be as cheap and easy to plug into as Netflix. And I’d love it to offer stories and characters as varied as on Netflix.
Integration of performance (by actors!) seems integral to me, in terms of creating character-driven experiences. So I’d love to see that continue to be easier, cheaper, more seamless.
I would love to see some technology-level lock to reverse the exploitative gambling and micro transaction B.S. Games should be places where people are free to immerse themselves and explore worlds and stories, not a place where they’re hounded and psychologically manipulated to spend money. I’d hate to see the experience of playing a game deteriorate in the same way that, say, reading an article online has. So it needs to be systemic – in the same way that Nintendo introduced the idea of the Seal of Quality in response to the early gaming crash.
The Unknown Future Rolls Towards Us
Atsushi Inaba, Chief Creative Officer, PlatinumGames (Bayonetta): I have no idea at all [what the games industry will be like in 2030].
Five years might be possible, but I think video games are a medium in which you cannot foresee what will happen in the coming ten years, and that’s one aspect of this industry that I don’t think will change. If you could predict what’s going to happen, it would mean that video games have become too universal and are evolving at a slow pace, which would make the industry less appealing.
Ville Heijari, CMO, Rovio (Angry Birds): The possibilities are vast when it comes to game development – our industry will never be a completely explored domain… But I think it’s wise for us to heed the famous words of Bill Gates: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” Innovation doesn’t happen overnight and it’s challenging to imagine, let alone develop the next breakthrough innovation. Patience and not being “lulled into inaction”, as Mr. Gates went on to note, is key.[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22I%20think%20it%E2%80%99s%20wise%20for%20us%20to%20heed%20the%20famous%20words%20of%20Bill%20Gates%3A%20’We%20always%20overestimate%20the%20change%20that%20will%20occur%20in%20the%20next%20two%20years%20and%20underestimate%20the%20change%20that%20will%20occur%20in%20the%20next%20ten.’%22%20-%20Ville%20Heijari%2C%20Rovio”]
Yoko Taro, Director, NieR: Automata: Firstly, there will be new forms of “web-based values” such as social media followers and credit scores. Let’s call these “A points”. A points will be the equivalent of money, academic background and position at work, having many uses in the real world. Then, everyone will want to achieve A points.
Of course video games won’t be an exception, and will hold big campaigns saying “Play the game to get A points!”, and the masses won’t be able to live without A points. People will start to steal and kill each other for A points, and they’ll go around seizing the limited A points even though they know it’s a bad thing. It may seem like a dystopian future to us, but even now people are killing each other over money that is only a concept, so it’s not much of a difference.
As such, we will progressively lose our freedom and the ability to think, becoming slaves of the system… What was the question? Something about the future of mankind? Sorry, my memory is failing me lately.