Tag Archives: future gaming

Steam rises to power

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STEAM: And the future of the video game industry

DIGITAL distribution giant and gaming platform, Steam, has fast become the Google of the gaming world – reaping in an estimated US$468 million (roughly R3.1 billion) in revenues through June 2011, according to mygaming.co.za. This attests to the fact the gaming industry has become one of the fastest growing industries in history.

Using Steam has become compulsory for ardent PC gamers, who are forced to use the platform to buy, install and update several of the latest gaming titles. According to Wikipedia, as of July 2011, Steam had over 30 million active users and offered over 1 300 game titles. It is estimated that Steam has a 70% share of the digital distribution market for video games.

The Steam platform
The Steam gaming platform

The idea of creating a centralised online platform to distribute games and related media online was, in part, a move towards combating software piracy – specifically pirated games. To play a store bought game that is powered through steam requires one to register a Steam account. One then has to be logged into Steam to install the game, update the game, play the game and be offered a host of promotional adverts upon exiting the game.

In bandwidth-stricken countries such as South Africa, one can imagine what a schlep this can be. In my experience, if a newly released game if bought through Steam, it can take up to two days to download and install. Thereafter Steam automatically updates your newly bought game, which can take another day or two. If your bandwidth hasn’t run dry by this point, you then have to log into Steam before you can play your new game for the first time.

The benefits of Steam

One can understand the benefits that gaming platforms such as Steam offer. They have made it extremely difficult for impoverished gamers to play pirated titles; it automatically patches and updates your game collection, and it offers you downloadable content for your favourite titles. It does also offer a lot of specials and promotions, whereby one can easily transfer and convert your money into US dollars and buy games via the web for cheap. In fact, purchasing games through Steam is so simple that it can be dangerously addictive.

This is not to mention that the Steam servers are often running at full capacity whereby one is put on a waiting list to play. I was once informed that my newly installed and updated game would launch in approximately five days. Bearing all this in mind it’s fair to say that Steam is having a negative impact on many game consumers who don’t necessarily want to play multiplayer.

Market research

Anti-piracy aside, Steam most certainly uses its cleverly crafted platform for market research purposes. A Steam user’s page includes some brief personal information, details of any games owned, as well as the number of hours played in each game. Steam admits that it collects and reports anonymous metrics of its usage, stability, and performance and uses this information to justify implementing new features.

However, a lot of this information is collected without notifying the user or offering an opt-out. Some of these metrics are also available publicly, such as what games are being played or statistics of a player’s progress in certain games. Last year, Steam announced that they would begin collecting a list of the user’s installed software as well.

Steam critiques

Steam has been criticised for allowing developers and game publishers to change prices and restrict game availability depending on the locations of users. Despite the reduction in manufacturing, packaging, design and distribution costs, this can cause some games to cost more than their retail prices. Steam has also been heavily criticised by European users for pricing games much higher in Euro-zone countries.

Furthermore, according to the Steam Subscriber Agreement, “Steam’s availability is not guaranteed and Valve is under no legal obligation to release an update disabling the authentication system in the event that Steam becomes permanently unavailable.” – www.gamefaqs.com

Ardent PC gamers can argue for or against the value of Steam. However, with Steam now being in the position of power that it is, has implications for gamers worldwide. In our liberal and democratic age, I suppose the biggest concern is a lack of choice.

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Future of Online Gaming

When gaming, the web and reality cross over

GAMING has become one of the fastest growing industries in the world today. With millions of people currently playing single online titles such as World of Warcraft, while still managing to show a steady growth curve, the sky is not even measurable as the limit anymore.

online gamingEven if you’re not an online gamer, nor are you familiar with massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), it is still interesting to know what the future of online gaming may hold and the impact that it will have on the entertainment industry as a whole. We may even see the first attempts at a crossing over of gaming, the web and reality.

The unique aspect of MMORPGs, such as WoW is that they are constantly changing. With continual updates and expansions being developed, as well as the social bonds that are formed between players online, MMORPGs are perpetual by nature. Player activity actively changes these massive gaming worlds, keeping them fresh and ever-evolving.

For gamers, MMORPGs are exciting virtual worlds into which we escape to have countless interesting adventures. For the rest of the world, a MMORPG is a form of entertainment – comparable to books or movies, just more interactive. Games are also able to story-tell like no other genre and newer technology­ is making gaming more visually appealing than ever before.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!

To put gaming investment into perspective, to develop a MMORPG the same scale as WoW costs anywhere between $60 million and $100 m. With that sort of money you could theoretically buy a new game every 10 minutes for the next 20 years.

dollarDeveloping MMOs is therefore a life or death risk, but with the decade-long success of WoW (which has certainly set the benchmark — reaping in over $1 billion every year) we can certainly expect to see more MMOs being developed in the foreseeable future.

The only scary part is that online games such as WoW are designed to be played at the exclusion of everything else and thrive on how much of the player’s time they can consume. There was even that case in 2009 where a young Chinese girl died of exhaustion after playing WoW for several days straight. However, MMOs are not something to be feared, and it is interesting to follow their evolution and study their compelling nature.

FUTURE ONLINE GAMING

With WoW having monopolised the online gaming market, it may take some time before we see a new and innovative release come to our screens. However, the fact that WoW only covers a single genre, there is a lot of room for the MMO model to evolve and grow in the future. Not everyone is into orcs and elves and medieval folklore. In the near future we may see interactive home décor­ simulations, fishing games, multiplayer­ motoring games or educational puzzle titles — all playable with others in a 3D online environment.

We’re likely to see a lot more user-generated content driving the development of future gaming too. Player-driven content is the lifeblood of MMOs and the fact that players can change the course of a game’s story will result in unique experiences for every player.

We may also see development of social­ games and web-based games in the future. These have the potential to grow and compel gamers and prove to be profitable at the same time. Sponsorship could come in the form of website links and web adverts. Farmville, for example, could have you visit http://www.jerrysfarmsupplies.com to get your new watering-can game card allowing you to progress further in your virtual farming endeavours.

I like my coffee DarthWe may also see a blending in of reality-based gaming in the near future. Having you visit the nearest MacDonalds or coffee shop in your area could form part of a quest for example.

Such ventures could provide the exorbitant funding that is required to develop online gaming further. This means guaranteed customers for selected stores, exercise and sunlight for gamers­ and the neccessary funds to develop multiplayer gaming further; win-win-win. It may be aggressive advertising at its best, but at least it will get gamers­ off their chairs and into the daylight.

The future of online gaming will certainly be something exciting to behold, no doubt. I leave you with one of my favourite gaming quotes:

“When we look at the future of MMORPGs, we think virtual reality. We dream about being able to lead another life where you are the boss and control everything. In real life, you are influenced by everyone else. In virtual reality, you get to choose your paths and if you think something is wrong, you change it.” — http://www.astahost.com

Too hot to handle: Future gaming & PC’s

HAWT: A brief look at gaming on future computers

IT’S the year 2010. You’ve been playing your favourite computer game for the last two hours. You’ve become oblivious to the loud whirring sound your PC’s fans have been making. Suddenly you smell smoke. The next thing you know – your trusted PC has committed arson!

Intel’s Chief Technology Officer Pat Gelsinger predicts that with the current rate of progress PC chips by the end of the decade will be as hot as the exhaust gases emitted from a rocket engine; and not long after that, PC chips may become as hot as the surface of the sun!

Luckily for gamers, Quantum computing and biological computing are two growing technologies that are helping to prevent future risks of our PC’s setting fire to our houses. Refining techniques and computer technicians have found that silicon is just as useful for keeping computer chips cool as it is for enlarging breasts. And as far as speed is concerned, current trends show that the number of transistors on these silicon chips have doubled every two years.

Makin’ bacon on a PC chip …
EishSeveral techno-pessimists have also been worrying about the idea of future computers becoming larger than our flammable houses. In 1949 Popular Mechanics predicted that computers in the ‘future’ would weigh no less that 1.5 tons. Yet the reassuring fact of the matter is that the advance in technology far outruns such predictions, and newer computers have rather shown to be getting smaller.

One prediction that is highly probable, however, is that future technology is bringing us frighteningly close to producing our very own matrix – a virtual, simulated world inhabited by computer programs so complex that we think they are actual people. And with the development of Virtual Retinal Display sets, it will soon be possible to immerse oneself into this virtual world, and in a sense, live it.

It seems that the only technological innovation missing at this point is how to pee without having to go to the bathroom …

Related post: Multi-billion dollar gaming