I have extensive experience in the video game industry, ranging from developing multiple video game platforms to starting up a business and engaging in its business management. Therefore, I am interested in the trends in the entertainment industry, especially the interactive entertainment industry.
More than 30 years ago, in the early days of computer graphics, technologies referred to in U.S. universities and academic conferences seemed primitive, but they have now reached amazing levels thanks to technological innovations.
When video games were invented in the 1970s, they were made up of electronic circuits and game software was not separated from hardware as it is now. It took a while for hardware and software to be separated.
In the early stage of gaming evolution, tape media were read into the data recorder and game programs were loaded into the computer. Technological innovation has led to the use of packaging such as cartridges and CD-ROMs which can be easily used by children as well.
The subsequent evolution of CD-ROMs into high-capacity packaged media such as DVDs and Blu-rays enabled game contents to achieve photorealistic expressions like films, making them what they are today.
As mentioned above, capacity enlargement of packaged media is one of the axes of evolution in the main stream of the game content. The second axis of evolution is the transition of game contents from packaged media to network distribution, supported by the widespread broadband networks such as ADSL and optical networks.
The genre of Massive Multi-User Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) was introduced by connecting a server with a game console (home game console) through low-latency networks. Such games enable us to experience a shared virtual world with players around the world at the same time.
The network environment has changed from wired to wireless. With mobile phones and smartphones becoming a necessity, it has led to the emergence of mobile games, which has introduced a new genre of contents. Mobile games have evolved into providing a playing style regardless of the playing area.
In addition to developing game contents, video game companies have come up with new business models for providing contents. For example, under a new model, players can start playing the game free of charge but are required to purchase additional items and stages.
Furthermore, games that combine the GPS function on smartphones and 4G enabling us to enjoy the game experience in the geographical space of the real world have gained popularity worldwide. Thus, a new gaming platform that connects virtual and real world has emerged.
The significant improvement in the computational performance of CPU/GPU and graphic expressions has led to highly engaging gaming experience, which were hard to imagine in the 80s and 90s. Video expressions that used to be surprising are detached and in a completely different dimension by facing the expressions of game contents today.
In addition, technologies such as ray tracing (a method to express natural light), which used to be considered a "dream" for game developers, can now be executed in real time. Such technologies continue to evolve, presenting further possibilities to enhance the gaming experience.
The evolution of video expressions is not just limited to entertainment. Broadcast stations have proposed using "digital announcer" as a "digital twin" (reproducing real space information and environment in the digital space) for announcers.
There has been significant improvement in speech synthesis with the development of deep learning technology - it has reached a level where it is difficult to distinguish between human speech and computer-synthesized speech. However, such technological development has started to be misused as frauds using synthesized speech have been reported.
Many of the backgrounds and buildings are created artificially by computer graphics even in the movies we watch, and many of them superimpose a virtual landscape to match the performance of real actors. As a result, it is difficult to distinguish between live action and composition, and today, it is almost impossible to distinguish them.
Nowadays, composite images are increasingly used in movies without affecting their content, resulting in a smooth viewing experience. When computer graphics were not used so much, it was strange to find out that it was necessary to make them look like computer graphics to remove incomplete expressions.
The development of 5G network, which would enable "ultra-low latency", "broadband" and "multi-terminal connection", is underway. 5G is expected to bring significant changes to the network environment on which many entertainment platforms are based and thereby led to a new era of entertainment contents.
Recently, "cloud gaming" became available where the server renders (draws) the game content, distributes the results of what is drawn as streaming data over the Internet and replays the content on the client’s device (smartphones, PCs and game consoles).
Thus, it is now possible to play games instantly without packaged game contents or download distribution. However, any delay in data transfer between the server and the client’s device affects the gameplay. Therefore, the "ultra-low latency" function in 5G is expected to enhance the experience in cloud gaming.
Taking advantage of the 5G "broadband", multiple video streams and data streams can be sent and received concurrently. In other words, the distribution of multi-angle contents where users choose the content’s viewing style by switching the video stream freely will be easier than ever. We can expect the emergence of new platforms and applications for sports training and video educational materials.
The 5G "multi-terminal connection" is expected to compensate largely for the weakness of current games. Compared with the 4G generation, 5G can be connected with a lot of terminals; owing to "ultra-low latency", we will be able to enjoy latency-critical (will not be established if there is a delay) game contents such as racing games and sports games where gamers gather in one place like a stadium. World championships in such contents are already held as eSports, so we believe that this is the area where further significant development is expected by utilizing 5G.
Furthermore, using a user’s capture in movement and behavior instead of using "multi-terminal connection" in many of the user connection, it is possible to input movement into the game space instantly through a lot of input sensor IoT, which is incomparable to the restrictive controller input such as gameplay in game consoles and smartphones.
Virtual reality where users play in the game world as if they enter the game space as a "digital twin" will be realized.
※This article was published in "Forbes JAPAN posted on March 26, 2020". This article has been licensed by Forbes Japan. Copying or reprinting without permission is prohibited.
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