While we might not have thought it at the time, when Pokémon GO was released in 2016, it actually helped to change the entire landscape of gaming.
It was the first truly successful title to implement augmented reality (AR). You remember climbing a tree in your local park to track down that pesky Charizard? AR made that all possible.
Those extra layers on top of the ‘real’ world are essentially what AR will continue to bring to gaming, but it’s their application that will be most useful. The Walking Dead, Jurassic World Alive and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite have all utilized elements of augmented reality, and it will be exciting to see which other online games follow suit.
Casino game developers are also starting to implement AR in their titles, from spinning the roulette wheel to handling your chips at the blackjack table. It may be the case that online casino games will lead the way in the use of AR, and others will then follow their lead.
In console gaming, the sister to AR – virtual reality (VR) – has been around for decades. The stumbling block is the hardware, with the bulky headsets and the cumbersome glasses still not the space-age technology that we were promised. Games such as Doom 3 and Sniper Elite have moved VR gaming forward, but there’s still a long way to go.
To that end, the next innovations in gaming are likely to come online, and the ambitious plans powering the next gen of the web – the so-called metaverse – could well open the door to a whole new world of fun.
A new reality
It perhaps says a lot for modern life that game developers have long sought ways to give people a virtual existence as a form of escape from their real one.
Second Life was one of the first ‘other realm’ games to really capture the attention of the mainstream public, and the ability to create abstract worlds and avatars through which we can live, figuratively speaking, has seen the likes of Minecraft and Roblox reach new peaks of popularity.
It’s upon those foundations that the metaverse, essentially the internet 2.0, will be built. It’s hard to explain what the metaverse will actually be, but think of it in terms of Second Life – you will have your avatar that you can customize with skins and mods, but there will be interactive content that you can engage with in this world.
The likes of Travis Scott and Lil Nas X have already performed shows within the metaverse confines of Fortnite and Roblox, and they reached estimated audiences of 33 million – good luck cramming that lot into the Hollywood Bowl.
Live comedy and TV shows will also be watchable in the metaverse, and all of your other functions will also be available – from reading the news to checking in with your socials. However, there are also downsides. Advertisers will have a whole new realm via which they can bombard you with content that you’re not interested in.
In time, the desire is for a one-size-fits-all metaverse, where you can access absolutely everything in this exciting new dimension via one device and one platform. In the interim, it’s likely that different brands will have their own individual metaverses, but there is a tangible excitement to what will be possible in just a few years’ time.
For context, don’t forget that Mark Zuckerberg has literally taken his billion-dollar baby Facebook, torn it to shreds, and come out with a complete rebrand – ‘Meta’ is the name he has chosen.
Coincidence? We think not.
A new beginning for gaming
The question on many people’s lips is how will the metaverse and gaming co-exist?
At this point, we can only speculate. However, it’s worth remembering that when this singular metaverse is born – let’s call it the ‘omniverse’ – there will be no end to the possibilities available to developers.
Epic Games, the masterminds behind Fortnite, have already spoken of their desire to develop a metaverse for gamers. The firm’s Unreal Engine, and the advent of cloud gaming, will lay the foundation for this to become a reality.
Perhaps one of the best portents for the metaverse in gaming is the GTA series. There are many open-world franchises out there, but few have yet to truly replicate real life quite like GTA V. Being able to take Trevor and co inside buildings to watch comedy shows and movies, grab a bite to eat or play casino games is, in essence, what the metaverse will represent.
Then, of course, we come back to VR and AR. Could VR headsets finally reach the mainstream audience they were tipped for 20 years ago or more? And will the AR layers seen in Pokémon GO be taken to the next level in the metaverse?
As ever with next-generation technology, for now all we can simply do is wait and see.
Share and share alike
Imagine a world where all games had some sort of interoperability with one another. The metaverse may – stressing the word ‘may’ – be able to make that happen.
This is not to suggest that your Fortnite avatar will be running riot on the pitch in FIFA. We’re talking about the use of avatars and skins – being able to use these in different games, or even use them in a trade with other gamers. Interoperability for a game such as Minecraft would be huge.
A greater connection between brands and games is another possibility. Already, Gucci and Louis Vuitton have released skins for use in virtual worlds, with the latter’s collection designed exclusively for League of Legends selling out in under an hour.
Maybe soon, you’ll be hot-wiring a BMW or a Ford in GTA, or choosing a boot contract from Nike for your FIFA avatar. These are just some of the endless possibilities of metaverse gaming.
Perhaps gaming as we know it will be flipped on its head, and within a few years maybe we’ll look back at Pokémon GO’s innovative technology and laugh at how prehistoric it is. Either way, the future looks incredibly exciting for gamers in the metaverse.