What a year it has been for gaming. Over 77% of people said they played more games over the past year than ever before. People flocked towards games and game platforms. Animal Crossing probably saved many of us during early lock-downs. As we slowly start to get back to the regular swing of things, it’s interesting to see how games have changed culture in the last year. What better timing than to start by looking at the new trends that came out from last week’s E3, the largest worldwide trade event for the video game industry.
The 26th annual E3 took place June 12th- 15th. After last year’s hiatus, it was great to get to see so many new game announcements and emerging trends in the world of gaming. We saw new IP announcements from many prominent game companies. Bethesda announced their first new IP in over 25 years… Yes, it’s been that long since we saw the first games from the Fallout series and Elder Scrolls franchise. Their new IP, Starfield, set to release at the end of 2022, will bring fans to space. And though space as a location may be a bit saturated in games, I really look forward to seeing what the Bethesda developers will do to create not only an interesting game but a great universe that many of us will be playing for years to come.
Another favourite new IP announcement comes from Arkane Austin, with Redfall. Redfall is an open-world co-op FPS with vampires. The trailer looks dope! The character design is spot on, with a diverse set of characters and impressive looking NPCs. The game is built on the Unreal Engine so no it’s no surprise that things just look pretty darn awesome. Two other new IPs that I’m also excited to see announced are Elden Ring, a new creation by George R.R. Martin and Hidetaka Miyazaki, a beautiful looking action RPG. And finally, Guardians of the Galaxy, another game many years in the making. And let’s be honest, so long as the game reflects even a bit of what we saw in the trailer with its awesome soundtrack (and of course getting to play alongside Groot) then there’s high hopes for success!
Another trend that came out of this year’s E3 was the large number of non-violent games that were highlighted. 33% of games shown were categorized as non-violent, up from 17% in 2019. This increase was partly because of some new industry events, like the Indie Games Showcase: Wholesome Direct and The Future Games Show, which gives a platform to new creators to show off their games to wider audiences. And of course, Nintendo had a handful of non-violent game announcements as part of their showcase as well.
One of the major trends in gaming this past year has been the explosion of game creation platforms that enable kids and creators of all ages alike to create their own experiences and games. From Dreams by Media Molecule, to platforms like Roblox, a number of gaming platforms have come out that enable creators to build game worlds of their own at home. Chances are, if you have a kid or know someone with a kid between the ages of 7 and 15, they’ve probably spent countless hours in Roblox. Roblox currently has over 42 Million active daily users on their platform and recently went public in the past year with a valuation at over $41B. With user bases that large, and creators spending a lot of their time building worlds, and visiting the worlds of others, it is no surprise that brands are looking towards how to use these game platforms to promote their products in new and innovative ways. Earlier in May, Gucci hosted their first virtual immersive experience in Roblox entitled Gucci Garden, celebrating the Gucci house in Italy and allowing people from around the world to interact in unique ways with the digital world. Another recent example was Roblox’s activation for the premiere of the movie In the Heights. For two weeks leading up to the launch of the movie, users were able to enter the digital world based on the vibrant Latinx community of Washington Height. Games, experiences and custom collectibles were built just for the activation. It opened up a really interesting avenue for how the entertainment industry could utilize some of these gaming platforms to create bespoke promotional digital experiences, and get to reach out to a whole new younger generation.
Roblox is just one of the many great examples where Advertising meets Game Engine Technology. In the past year, we’ve seen many brands collaborate with our Immersive Experience team to create digital experiences that leverage game technology to create compelling content.
Late last year, we worked with HBO to create a multi-part Virtual Reality experience called Lovecraft Sanctum to celebrate the world of Lovecraft Country. Users were transported to an interactive virtual world to experience different live events, including a live poetry theatrical performance inspired by the words of James Baldwin, as well as a virtual out-of-this-world musical performance by the one and only Janelle Monáe. Another interesting example was the Immersive Experience entitled Virtual Realms we designed with Kojima Productions and the Barbican in London, where we built an interactive art experience at the ArtScience Museum. A great way to bring the art of the game world to the real world, and expose people to the game of Death Stranding, in new, accessible and fun ways. Recently, the Transformers brand announced an upcoming partnership with Niantic. Where, like Pokemon Go, players will experience the world of Transformers through Augmented Reality content and Location-Based gameplay. The game is expected to launch globally this year, with a soft launch in select countries soon.
ABOVE: HBO ‘Lovecraft’ Case Study
Augmented Reality is something we are seeing more and more of, both in gaming and for branded marketing experiences. Social AR and WebXR are areas of AR that we’re seeing a lot of brands become more and more interested in, because of the accessibility & playfulness that this form of AR can provide. League of Legends and Louis Vuitton launched an AR filter that our team created to celebrate the launch of their combined collection. We also launched an AR filter with FIFA and EA SPORTS to promote their new game. So what are some of the new trends coming for Augmented Reality? Niantic not only announced their new AR Transformers game, but have also announced their new open beta launch with the Lightship ARDK. Allowing Creators around the world to start utilizing their platform and tools, build their own AR enabled experiences and games for the real world! Snapchat has also recently announced the launch of Spectacles, a next generation of Augmented Reality enabled glasses to bring AR content to the real world. These new platforms for AR will open up opportunities for new kinds of games and new kinds of branded immersive content using AR.
Finally, it’s no surprise that with so many people at home over the past year, esports players and viewership numbers have increased significantly. It is currently estimated that the esports market will surpass $1.5B by 2023. Some of the trends we’ve seen with esports include the rise of mobile esports. As mobile devices and streaming capabilities with 5G become more and more accessible, games like PUBG Mobile, Garena Free Fire and Arena of Valor gain more viewership than popular esports games like DOTA and CS:GO. Another massive trend we’ve seen is for non-traditional-gaming content. Platforms like Twitch became immensely popular for viewers to watch esports games, but we’re seeing the same platforms be used for areas outside of traditional gaming. Virtual Concerts and Virtual Events blew up over the past year. We saw platforms like Fortnite embrace this non gaming model, when they hosted the Travis Scott virtual concert in their virtual world which had over 12 million live viewers. Another great example is what Wave XR has been doing. Wave XR is a new streaming platform focused on combining the best of live music, gaming and broadcast technology to transform the live music experience. Over the last year, one of their record-breaking events for The Weeknd hosted over TikTok, had over 2 million live users tune in, breaking records for the TikTok platform as highest ever peak users at once for a live event.
It’s been an exciting year in games to see where things are going and what’s in store for the industry and gaming fans alike. I’m most excited to see how new platforms and tools for games will open up opportunities for new experiences and new audiences that transcend traditional gaming. The metaverse is coming… but that’s a whole other article. Happy Gaming.
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