Around half of the world’s population now plays video games, the proportion is slightly higher in countries like the United States and Canada and lower in some others, though the gap is shrinking fast.
Video games of all kinds have become more popular over the last decade as they have become more accessible and the societal perception of them has drifted from being an activity for “nerds” to being accepted as the norm.
Technology has played a big role in driving both of these factors. Smartphones have made it easier for people to have their own personal gaming device and removed the need for people to fight over the TV or computer to enjoy when others want to watch or play something else.
Technology has also helped to show people that gaming is an activity that everyone can enjoy, with social media making content about gaming-related content more visible and many sites and apps, including Facebook and YouTube both regularly running ads for mobile games.
While you may associate streaming more with your favourite Netflix shows and your Monday morning Team meetings for work, streaming technology has also played a big role in changing and growing the gaming industry. Here’s how.
Creating Whole New Games
The first way that technology has changing the gaming industry has been by creating new types of games. For example, companies that operate online casinos have been able to incorporate streaming to create live dealer casino games. These are high-tech versions of popular card and table games like roulette and blackjack that swap computer-generated graphics for real humans and physical objects.
For example, someone playing live roulette in an online casino would see a human dealer and a real roulette wheel, just like they would in a physical casino. This is achieved by streaming a high-quality video feed to the player’s device, syncing it with the game’s other features so that bets can be placed as and when the dealer says the game is open for them.
The stream is only one way, so the dealer can’t see the player, but the two can communicate with the live chat function built into the live game.
Competitive video game playing has been around for more than two decades. In the early 1990s, Nintendo created the Nintendo World Championships, a tournament that used the NES console and a specially-created game cartridge.
The concept of using video games as a form of sport continued to be a niche interest among video game enthusiasts through the 2000s and into the early 2010s. However, this changed towards the end of the decade when streaming technology turned esports into a spectator sport.
While traditional television networks have (so far) shown little interest in broadcasting esports, video streaming platforms like Twitch allowed more than half a million people to watch competitive video game events in 2020.
Many traditional sports leagues and competitions have also begun embracing esports thanks to this growing interest. The NBA, Formula 1, and the English Premier League all have well-established esports competitions that complement their traditional offering.
Making Games More Accessible
Until recently, there has been a gulf between the games played on mobile devices and those available for powerful PCs and consoles. The reason has been down to the hardware, smartphones and tablets, while powerful, don’t have the components required to run games like Cyberpunk 2077.
This has begun to change thanks to a new type of streaming technology. The best known is Google Stadia, but NVIDIA’s GeForce Now and Microsoft’s xCloud are just some of the other options available.
They work in a similar way to Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, instead of installing the game on your device, you stream it from the cloud. The streaming service’s servers do all the heavy number crunching and beam the video output to your smartphone, tablet, or computer.
There are a few bugs in most of these services that are being ironed out and they do rely heavily on you having a fast and stable internet connection, but most things you stream do, so there’s nothing new there.
Right across the board, streaming is radically altering the face of the gaming industry, and it looks like it’s only getting started.