2016 In Gaming - VR, eSports And The Evolution Of Streaming
While 2015 will be a tough year to beat in terms of the magnitude of excellent games, 2016 in games will provide not only new ways to play games, but show the rest of the world that video games are here to stay.
2015 was a great year for video games, with AAA-titles such as The Witcher 3, Fallout 4 and Bloodborne providing gamers with hours upon hours worth of quality gameplay, while smaller indie games like Her Story, Rocket League and Life is Strange gave us new, fresh gaming experiences like we haven't previously experienced.
This year won't be any different, and the list of titles that will be released this year are not only long-awaited, but varied in their genres and mechanics - even if there are too many sequels. Then again, not necessarily a bad thing.
What 2016 will bring us however is not only a long list of highly anticipated games, such as DOOM, Far Cry Primal, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Street Fighter V, Dark Souls III, Tom Clancy's The Division and No Man's Sky, but also introduce the public to the world of virtual reality gaming.
2016 will be the year of VR, and with the Oculus Rift finally making its way to the public (although with the hefty price tag of around £500) and Playstation VR and HTC Vive following in its footsteps, it appears as if this year will be spent by some of us in another universe.
VR is an exciting change in the industry, which most are welcoming with open arms. While new consoles and games are always interesting, how we play games hasn't really changed much since the Wii came out. Now however we are asked to forget the ways in which we have become accustomed to, and begin venturing inside the virtual worlds we all have come to love so dearly. Games, while obviously less passive than motion pictures or other entertainment mediums, have remained an "observer's sport" - by this meaning that we're still looking at a TV or computer screen and not diving straight into it.
Sure, you had the attempts at 3D-games, but I for one remember not being all that impressed when I sat down to play Call of Duty: Black Ops in 3D. It was still Black Ops, and it was still like any other game.
This however is different, and we are introduced to a reality where not only all of our senses are focused on the world we're seeing through out googles, but we're now also about to be given the opportunities to create what's around us moreso than ever - which, as evident in particularly Minecraft's popularity, is something gamers love.
VR will also not only change the way we observe the virtual realities we indulge in, but also how we see the real world.
Not only has there been made prototypes of games meant to be used as learning tools for elementary school children, but has also been used most noticeably in medicine, allowing doctors to practice before executing - not a bad idea at all. And in fields such as aerospace, military and engineering to mention some, VR can have a positive effect on technological advances.
And while VR is changing the way we observe the virtual (and real) world, another platform will change the way we observe another medium - sports.
eSports is nothing new in the gaming industry. As it's slowly, but surely made its way from South Korea to the rest of the world, the genre of sports has become a rich and extremely popular part of the gaming industry. While the mainstream media still has its doubts on whether or not it should be, in fact, categorized as a sport (although if this argument should be taken into consideration, I suggest looking at chess or darts and reconsidering calling them sports as well), it has already made its mark, with ESPN acknowledging the craft. Just look at Valve's Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:Go) and the League of Legends World Championships, with both the viewership and money put into it all being in the millions. And in Norway a school is even running an eSports-course.
Another part of the industry that has already established itself as more than just a trend, is gameplay, and if anything it will continue to grow and become bigger, better and with a broader audience than it already has (which is saying a lot). We saw both Twitch and YouTube gameplay grow massive last year, and there's no denying that they will only continue to grow.
What will be interesting this year however is seeing where the gameplay industry's famous faces will go next. YouTubers have become known for expanding outside of the platform - from movies to books and makeup brands, and most recently it was announced that the king of YouTube himself, Pewdiepie, will be making his own network of YouTubers.
Backed by Disney-owned Maker Studios, the channel will focus on series and gameplay, and will feature other famous gameplay-personalities like Markiplier, CinnamonToastKen and JackSepticEye. This connecting between people in the industry isn't new, but has evolved from mere collaborations to forming business relationships that will create powerhouses of gameplay giants.
Looking at the bigger picture, it seems as if the biggest changes in the video game industry won't solely come from technological advances in the games themselves, but how we play, observe and take part in them. VR will change the mechanics, eSports will change our ways to observe and YouTube gameplay will change our participation. That, and they'll all tie the wonderful community of gamers even more.
There is no doubt in my mind that 2016 will be a great year for gaming. All we can do now is sit back, relax and let all the goodies we've been promised this year come our way - that, and most certainly a fair few delays. It happens.
As for me, I'll be waiting patiently for the ability to play as Nathan Drake, Noctis Lucis Caelum, Ryu and....whatever name your character in Far Cry Primal will be.