Recent­ly there has been a pletho­ra of news about VR devices with just about every major gam­ing com­pa­ny try­ing their hand at cre­at­ing the best VR expe­ri­ence. Even Valve is try­ing their hand at vir­tu­al real­i­ty head­sets. There of course is a cer­tain lev­el of skep­ti­cism, after all the last big push end­ed with the mem­o­rable Vir­tu­al Boy. Vir­tu­al real­i­ty isn’t all there is, new trends are emerg­ing from each new suc­cess­ful game. Open world, social gam­ing and more may shape what we’re play­ing for the next few years.

1) Vir­tu­al Reality

Five Predictions for Gaming

With major com­pa­nies throw­ing so much mon­ey at vir­tu­al real­i­ty, peo­ple are much more hope­ful that this is will be the time it tru­ly takes off. We can already see some new and inter­est­ing con­cepts, but we are also see­ing some of the prob­lems. What has been used in the past for game design can­not be used now or at least not all of it. Devel­op­ers have to come up with new ways that take advan­tage of vir­tu­al real­i­ty head­sets and solve issues like nau­sea and keep­ing immer­sion. How these prob­lems are addressed will like­ly deter­mine the suc­cess of VR. If it does suc­ceed there is going to be a rough peri­od where devel­op­ers are learn­ing. That is not to say peo­ple won’t enjoy the ear­ly games or that the games will all be bad, but there will be some time until a game takes full advan­tage of the new technology.

2) Open Worlds and Play­er Agency

Five Predictions for Gaming

Open world games with play­er agency are an increas­ing trend with­in the indus­try. More and more devel­op­ers are build­ing larg­er worlds that the play­ers are sup­posed to explore. More still are giv­ing the play­ers way to change the world and the sto­ry. Some of this is undoubt­ed­ly due to the suc­cess of the Tell­tale games and of course RPG sta­ples Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls. The open world and play­er choice trend is start­ing to show, 3 of the 10 top sell­ing games of 2014 hav­ing open world and a focus on play­er agency. With vir­tu­al real­i­ty also on the hori­zon this trend of open worlds and play­er choice may pick up even greater speed due to these ele­ments lend­ing them­selves well to vir­tu­al reality.

3) Hor­ror games

Five Predictions for Gaming

The hor­ror genre may very well have a come­back and may also see a sec­ond wind from VR head­sets. Depend­ing on the suc­cess of major hor­ror title like the reboot­ed Silent Hills and the 80s slash­er inspired game Until Dawn, the hor­ror genre may come alive again. As I have writ­ten before the hor­ror genre most­ly died off with only the occa­sion­al indie title released on PC until games like Amne­sia and Out­last brought the genre back into the spot­light. VR in par­tic­u­lar is suit­ed well to the explorato­ry and puz­zle based hor­ror games that have become so pop­u­lar. Already there are ports of Alien Iso­la­tion and Out­last to Ocu­lus rift and both have been well received. If vir­tu­al real­i­ty does suc­ceed hor­ror games will like­ly be some of the first and best expe­ri­ences thus gain­ing a sec­ond life on these new devices.

4) Mobile Influence

Five Predictions for Gaming

Mobile gam­ing is huge mar­ket in gam­ing that is most­ly ignored by the hard­core audi­ence, but may influ­ence gam­ing more than they real­ize. With the free-to-play mod­el increas­ing­ly used by devel­op­ers they will like­ly employ the same prac­tices that mobile games use. Dai­ly incen­tives, the abil­i­ty to buy in-game short­cuts and option­al cos­met­ics are all things that will come up more often in games. While many hard­core fans look down on these prac­tices, there is no deny­ing the prof­it they make. There are signs of these changes already in games that have tra­di­tion­al­ly had the pay once mod­el: GTA, Bat­tle­field, Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty. Ulti­mate­ly most games will fol­low suit with these major series and start mim­ic­k­ing some busi­ness prac­tices from mobile gaming.

5) Social Gaming

Five Predictions for Gaming

With­out a doubt video games are becom­ing more social. Whether it is PC or con­soles, causal or hard­core all games are start­ing to imple­ment social tools for gamers. At the most basic lev­el the plat­forms for our games are becom­ing more social. Both the Xbox one and the PS4 have had a strong focus on being social by imple­ment new ways to con­nect with oth­er play­ers. Even Steam has been improv­ing its already exten­sive social fea­tures by adding the abil­i­ty to stream with­out any 3rd par­ty pro­grams. Unsur­pris­ing­ly our games are also becom­ing more social, some even being built for the ground up to be social. All ten of the best­selling games of 2014 have built-in social tools and most of those titles have mul­ti­play­er as a main sell­ing point. Social gam­ing and mul­ti­play­er is also becom­ing a part of sin­gle play­er games. In The Walk­ing Dead instead of play­ers direct­ly inter­act­ing they com­pare their choice made with­in the sto­ry which is a small way of con­nect­ing play­ers to a com­mu­ni­ty. Chang­ing gam­ing into a social expe­ri­ence rather than a soli­tary one will con­tin­ue to hap­pen and it will be a rare thing to find a pure­ly sin­gle play­er game in the years to come.

Change will hap­pen as new tech­nol­o­gy and new ideas emerge. With this new gen­er­a­tion of gam­ing I believe we will see a greater focus on immer­sion and social­iz­ing. All these new prac­tices and tech­nol­o­gy seem to be both try­ing to accom­plish these two goals whether it is more open worlds, vir­tu­al real­i­ty or mobile gaming.