Gaming fans play "Destroy All Humans" at the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo, in Los Angeles Photo: AFP

Lone gamers a dying breed as community play thrives


The lone gamer appeared to be a dying breed at a premier industry event this week as play took to the cloud where contenders join forces or face off as foes.

Industry insiders and game lovers thronged to the premier Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) show floor that opened here on Tuesday for peeks at hot titles set for release in the year ahead.

Once known for secretive demos given behind closed doors to partners and press, E3 has opened its doors to fans, reflecting trends toward cooperative online play and broadcasting action as spectator sport.

The advent of streaming games Netflix style from the internet cloud promised to fuel those trends, tapping into the power of data centers to let countless people play simultaneously in shared worlds or tune in to watch.

"The video game market is continuously and radically changing," said Christelle Melchor of the Ubisoft business intelligence team. "With cloud gaming, we are not only developing games for players, but we are developing games for viewers."

She added that Google's soon-to-launch Stadia service will also open doors to weaving the internet giant's other offerings, such as YouTube, into game life.

Video games were the number one source of home entertainment globally last year, handily eclipsing films, television, and music, according to statistics cited by Melchoir.

Of the billions of dollars spent on video games last year, more than half of that revenue came from play on mobile devices.

Studios making games for consoles or personal computers see wisdom in building communities of loyal players who continually engage with titles the way they might with a hit television series instead of finishing them and putting them down, as they might a good book.

"If you want to maintain a base of subscribers, engagement is key," said Hugues Ouvrard, head of Xbox in France. "You have to offer them new games or new features."

The power of data centers will allow artificial intelligence to be put to work making game worlds richer in streamed services.

Players could be able to climb any tree in a forest, or chop a branch to make a bow. Wide worlds could be populated with software characters with unique virtual lives and daily routines.

But, never-ending games mean relentless work for real people working in studios. A growing concern in the industry is that "crunch" time that once involving long, stressful hours just ahead of a title launch is becoming a perpetual condition.

"The production cycles for our games are evolving, especially with more of them developed as a game-as-a-service, in which there is less ramp up and ramp down than traditional game production," Ubisoft chief and co-founder Yves Guillemot told AFP.

"In parallel, our working methods are evolving and leading to efficiency and productivity gains. This all helps to foster a healthier work-life balance."

A consolation in cloud-based games is that studios can make one title for streaming to all kinds of internet-linked devices instead of needing to tailor software for different hardware and screen sizes.

Microsoft's strategy for supplying fresh content for its subscription game service included ramping up its stable of in-house game studios to 14.

"Rather than crunch people, we bought more studios," Ouvrard of Xbox said.

Microsoft at E3 revealed it will release a next-generation Xbox next year to assure players consoles are not going away, but said that cloud gaming is a core of its strategy.

"Most of the music consumption in the word is subscription based and most video consumption is subscription based, " Ouvrard said. "There is no reason why most video game consumption wouldn't be subscription based. It's a no-brainer."

Contenders in the game-streaming arena will need content, cloud capacity and a community of players.

Along with Google's Stadia game streaming service, Microsoft is also building on its Xbox success with an xCloud service. Eyes are on Amazon to see whether it will leverage its leading AWS cloud business and its popular Twitch gaming community to host titles online themselves.

"We are getting to a point where any phone, any screen is going to be a way to play these games," Josh Schmidt, who runs game-focused website N64Josh, told AFP on the E3 show floor.

"It's super-convenient, but I do have a ton of concerns. If I have to subscribe to 15 different services, what is that going to do to my bank account."

Schmidt said he probably has more friends online than offline, and that E3 was rife with first-time real-world encounters of friends who met in game worlds.

"Gaming is doing some magical things bringing people together."

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Lone gamers a dying breed as community play thrives

Except that they're not. Developers might be pushing community play harder than ever, but ultimately it won't affect the number of solo players out there. All the fancy team/battle royale gimmicks in the world won't push solo players to team up if they can't trust/rely on the players the developers are trying to lump them with, while teaming up in death matches continues to yield high levels of toxicity. If you want people to team up, you need to give them the right incentives. Forcing teamwork is a bad idea. Video games are different to Marvel movies, and bands of misfits won't magically pull together to save the day. Try understanding why people play solo before you start doing everything you can to deny that capacity, otherwise you risk alienating a sizeable chunk of your consumer market.

Still, focusing on cloud computing in gaming isn't a bad idea, I just wish developers would pay more attention to their consumers and less attention on unnecessary excess details (like horse excrement in Red Dead 2. There's no need for that, seriously). There are some developers out there who prioritise quantity over quality in their games, which might be okay for a short-term revenue boost, but the long-term implications can be crippling, especially when the consistent lack of quality drives players away. By all means; go nuts with technology, just remember to get regular feedback from gamers, and listen to it. I can't stress the point of listening to gamers enough.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I think this is more because games have captured a new kind of audience. My younger brother is 11, and his primary way of spending time with friends is through gaming. It's a new way to be social together, and I think that attracts people who enjoy being social. Video games didn't have that appeal earlier.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Tell that to the fans of Cyberpunk 2077.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I don't want to play with overly sensitive SJW crowd or folks spewing racial slurs , GTA online and other rock star games online is ok though

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Throw in the word "Cloud" for anything that was previously MMO and make your Game sounds really hip. It's not really... it's a behind the scenes technology change for the compute that's use to provide the Gaming environment. An old concept in computing dating back from the 60's/70's - time sharing but with a modern twist, you can scale up the power of your Servers incrementally as and when you need to, or scale down (should your game prove... less than popular), and all without having to buy hugely expensive equipment that may sit there under-utilised. To the end-user/gamer... this has no material benefit - but to the Company providing the Gaming Service its potentially a good cost saving.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Incidentally .. I am currently bemused how the US Government has overlooked the F2P Gaming arena, especially upon Mobile phones - once installed those Games can ... do other things (unless Companies such as Apple suss them out), so apart from the obvious "e-Coin mining", the end-user is open to all sorts of privacy issues - microphone/photo/camera/location access - all of which, unless blocked could be activated remotely to listen in to conversations, view surroundings, etc and you'd be none the wiser.

I read once that Trump was even caught out by this, sinc the Chinese Ambassador called him just before he was about to make a call to someone the Chinese dont really like...

Today's DDoS attack on the Telegraph app Servers from China, just illustrate how that State is really not to be Trusted when it comes to Tech.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

As others have said, lone gamers are far from a dying breed. I prefer to play alone but occasionally get into a group.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It's not a dying breed. It just comes down to what type of game(s) you enjoy playing.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What an ignorant, badly written article:

"...The advent of streaming games Netflix style from the internet cloud promised to fuel those trends, tapping into the power of data centers to let countless people play simultaneously in shared worlds or tune in to watch."

Streaming games are NOT "multiplayer" games. They are simply a (single or multiplayer) game, streamed from an online source.

Also, solo gamers are not a "dying breed". One only has to look at the likes of Doom Eternal, God of War 4, Fallout 4, Cyberpunk 2077 and even many mobile games are all still single player experiences.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Whoever wrote the title of the article never played Street Fighter 2 in the arcades or Mario Kart 64 with friends.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Lone gamer" here, and arguably times have never been better- there are endless downloadable indie games, well-done retro compilations, and "mini" consoles to keep me occupied in my free time. I'm not into online multiplayer but I don't feel so down these days about lack of choice, that's for sure.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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