This year has been transformational for the gaming industry. Hot on the heels of Google and Microsoft and Amazon’s forays into cloud gaming, video streaming platform Netflix and chip maker Nvidia have also entered the space. The metaverse has become a familiar term, and not just because of Facebook’s name change. 2021 saw significant advancements in the introduction of metaverse elements into big tech’s business plans.
A lot is at stake – a report by gaming consultancy NewZoo indicates that the gaming industry is currently worth US$175.8 billion and is expected to breach the US$200 billion mark in 2024. It also reveals that over 55% of the world’s three billion gamers are from Asia Pacific.
5G, cloud services and new devices introduced to bring about a metaverse experience are all positioned to transform gaming the same way Netflix and streaming services have revolutionised the video market. Accessible, affordable, and curated content available on-demand is poised to replace other distribution models; however, the success of these new distribution models will depend largely on how seamless the service is for consumers.
This is especially true in APAC, where there is a disparity in access to the latest gaming consoles and high-performance gaming PCs. Further complicating matters, only 64% of the region has broadband internet access; even then, bustling cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are significantly different from the vast island archipelagos of the Philippines and Indonesia. 5G networks are the great bridge to circumvent broadband penetration issues, and the speed and latency advantages they bring could lay the foundation for cloud gaming.
Changing dynamics of gaming
Gaming is at the forefront of advances in new devices. PCs, gaming consoles and smartphones are all commercially successful platforms, but the market is dynamic.
In 2020, 91% of all gaming revenue was digital. 2.8 billion gamers will play their games on mobile devices in 2021 – double the number of PC games and triple the number of console gamers in that same period. Mobile game revenue will also account for half of all gaming revenue this year, to the tune of US$90.7 billion, driven by growth regions (especially Asia Pacific), continued innovations in mobile monetisation and big console and PC publishers bringing their IP to mobile devices.
While the market may be segregated into PC and console, smartphone and online gamers, each audience will be increasingly served with cloud-based offerings that seamlessly provide new curated content, immersive interactions and improved social experiences.
Cloud gaming, 5G networks and new devices
The confluence of cloud gaming and 5G will enable entirely new commercial models. For example, supported by edge distribution and powered by ultra-low latency, 5G creates completely new ways to discover, buy and play games. More significantly, with in-game rendering being handled by edge resources, gamers will unlock new cross-platform playing opportunities.
How does edge distribution change the buying experience for gamers? Saving storage on smartphones or other devices is just one part of the equation. Avoiding lengthy download times to initiate a gaming session is more compelling; the more seamless a service is for users, the “stickier” it will be. The benefits don’t just stop there. Today, if a gamer does not possess the right hardware, they can’t play the latest video games. 5G networks change that by allowing the cloud to edge render the game in real-time, making it available to any device.
Edge rending to enable cross-platform gaming is the zenith for any gamer. With the myriad of consoles and devices available, it is a challenge to sync a gaming session amongst multiple people. Everyone might have the same game, but not the same device. Cloud gaming has the potential to change that. As attractive as it is to play the same games on one’s PC, console or smartphone, the holy grail is to open up the landscape for specialized devices that work in harmony, cross-platform, like virtual reality headsets, augmented and mixed reality glasses and yet-to-be-developed gaming peripherals.
Imagine the implications of new devices such as smart gloves, sensors and other internet of things (IoT) devices paired with 5G networks and cloud gaming simulations. As EA Sports aptly puts it, you could literally be “in the game.”
The metafuture of the gaming metaverse
The metaverse has been getting all the headlines right now, thanks to the recent rebranding of Facebook. Long before Facebook took this step, however, gaming was the central activity at the heart of Ready Player One’s vision of the metaverse. The continued growth of battle royal games such as Fortnite and PUBG and large-scale MMOs, like Call of Duty and League of Legends, simply reinforces the importance of the social experience and connection in gaming. Slack, recently acquired by Salesforce, began its life as a gaming chat app. As we look into the future of the metaverse of gaming, the mixed reality experiences enabled by 5G will be the foundation of its success.
The virtual worlds of the metaverse blend aspects of digital technologies, including videoconferencing, games like Minecraft or Roblox, cryptocurrencies, email, virtual reality, social media and live streaming. While telcos may not be involved in the creative development of the metaverse, the infrastructure they provide will be essential to its growth. Just as with gaming today, the metaverse of tomorrow will require an even more flexible and scalable infrastructure to handle the massive increases in demand that billions of users living digital lives will require.
The combination of 5G and cloud-based resources necessary to lift gaming today will also make it possible to blend physical and digital gaming for tomorrow. In an era of discerning customers with dynamic demands for richer experiences, such as the metaverse, it will be dependent on the ability of telcos providing 5G connectivity to be that secret sauce that makes it possible to keep customers satiated.
Even with such futuristic applications on the near horizon, successful gaming companies will still require content. As with the streaming video business, technology must be easy-to-use and effortless, and content must be compelling to achieve industry goals for satisfying gamers in the digital age. For more complex applications like the metaverse, its true potential – having millions of people accessing and living in the virtual world anywhere, at any time – cannot be realized without a cloud approach and the ultrafast, low-latency internet that only 5G can provide.