Probably the American physicist William Higinbotham did not imagine in 1958, that the game he created that same year to entertain attendees at an exhibition would be the germ of what is now a multi-million dollar industry. That game was called Tennis for two and used the technology of the radar interface. Two dots on the screen and one, making a network. It was a total success, with queues of several hours to play a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, Higinbotham did not appreciate the potential and discarded the idea of patenting the invention.
For about a decade, the invention of this physicist went unnoticed until the seventies, when an almost identical version of his Tennis for two, the mythical video game Pong. From then until now, video games have been improving and expanding its user base, to the point of being one of the sectors that moves more millions worldwide, surpassing other entertainment industries such as film and music.
"The mobile, the arrival of the smartphone is what has been a revolution in videogames, and this one phenomenon will continue to grow in 2019 and the next few years, "explains Simon Carless, executive vice-president of the Game Developers Conference (GDC), the most important annual fair of the videogame industry, which is being held in San Francisco, California.
"Right now it is without a doubt what generates the most benefits for companies and developers, because it can be taken everywhere and accessed by users who do not fit into the traditional profile of PC players or consoles," says Carless.
Last year was a success for mobile video games, with approximately $ 61 billion in sales worldwide, half of what was generated by the entire video game industry.
"In total, there have been some 120,000 million dollars worldwide in 2018, and we are seeing an 11% growth year after year in the last five years," says Joost Van Dreunen, videogame expert and director of SuperData, a company of Nielsen, who makes video game statistics. "But I think this year is going to be the great year of this industry, far exceeding what was generated in 2018, thanks to the fact that giants like Google, Amazon, TenCent and others are going to invest in this sector in a big way. "
'Streamings', Fortnite and the cloud
It is precisely expected that Google will announce during this GDC its new video game platform in streaming, with which you can play directly from your Chrome browser.
"It may be a bombshell, but I do not know the consequences it will have for developers. I'm worried about how they're going to treat content creators, I would not like to see something similar happen on that platform like what happened on YouTube, with the cuts in content monetization, "says Van Dreunen
Other technological giants also want get on the car streaming this year, like Microsoft. The company of Bill Gates could very soon launch another platform similar to Google's, also paired with a subscription program, such as a Netflix of video games.
"I think this year and the next, we are going to see an increase in this type of digital platforms and subscriptions, especially as the type of consumer of video games also increases," says Carless, who also argues that the industry approaches each more time to a kind of collaborative video game, like Fortnite Battle Royale.
For Louis Castle, head of Amazon videogames, the irruption of Fortnite in the sector last year has been almost like a hurricane. Many experts in videogames describe it as a cultural phenomenon, something similar to what was once Super Mario Bros of Nintendo. "Fortnite The industry has changed in an impressive way in just one year, "says Castle from the Amazon headquarters in Seattle. "The success has been due above all to the fact that it is a social game, free in a basic, collaborative and continuously changing format. Thanks to that, he has managed to attract a new type of user who perhaps did not consider playing video games before. "
More and more large and small companies seem to be turning towards this video game model, from the company Epic Games, precisely looking for less conventional users. "EA took the game Apex Legends that is having incredible success too, following the same model as Fortnite, so I think we're going to see many more games that follow that style, because of the popularity they have, I think it's going to be common from now on, "he says. Van Dreunen.
All this together with what it seems is going to be also a great year for videogames in the cloud. From Amazon do not disclose if they also compete with Google and Microsoft in the war of digital subscription platforms, but it is also expected that soon announce something similar, especially considering that for now dominates the cloud services sector with Amazon Web Services .
The future: collaboration, new users and more mobile
You can not talk about videogames today without talking about the tools that have made the explosion of thousands and thousands of titles in the last 15 years. Unity, InHouse and UnReal dominate the platforms of video game engines; They provide the tools to the developers, so they can create content.
From Unity Technologies, they see a good part of the future of videogames in the so-called developers indies, which are not usually associated with large companies and do not have a large budget. "Thanks to platforms like Unity, UnReal and others, these developers manage to create a very varied content, which can attract another type of user," explains Clive Downie, director of marketing for Unity. "It's a very positive interaction for everyone, especially because thanks to these developers indie, many users discover that they can play other types of videogames, other more collaborative stories. "
For many experts this is the key to the future of video games, which are collaborative and the content is renewed continuously online. "If you join that thanks to smartphones you can play anywhere, whenever you want and with whom you want, in addition to the expansion of 5G, the sector will not stop growing," predicts Van Dreunen. For Van Dreunen, the key word is simplicity. "The simpler the platform for accessing and using the game, the more people can use it and the general interest in this industry will grow."
If the previous years were marked by a growing expectation before what virtual reality could give, 2019 is being a jug of cold water for enthusiasts. "I guess it generated too many expectations and the sector has not been able to move forward as quickly as expected," says Castle, "but I think we have to give time to virtual reality, I believe that in a few years we will see great progress."
Augmented reality seems to be moving slowly, but firmer perhaps than virtual reality, especially after the popularity of games like PokémonGo. "I see more future to the augmented reality, it is more social, easier to use now than the virtual reality. Do not feel so isolated, with the helmet, "says Simon Carless, who is committed to a near future in which users play with each other in open spaces with augmented reality through their phones.