In Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” science fiction action-adventure film, the goal of real life is to win virtually. Adapted from a screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, the story is set in 2045 and shows a society heavily dependent on a virtual reality world – OASIS – to escape the real world.
OASIS, which stands for Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation, was created by characters James Halliday and Ogden Morrow of Gregarious Games. Upon Halliday’s death, the hundreds of millions of players found that the founder of OASIS had left a pre-recorded message using his avatar – Anorak – in which he invited all gamers to an Easter egg hunt. The winner who finds the three golden eggs, would become the sole owner of OASIS and consequently, the richest and most influential person on Earth.
It is a thought-provoking movie, and although we are yet to see something of this scale to take form – and I believe it’s a matter of when, not if -, the technology is already with us. It just hasn’t been evenly democratised.
In general terms, the main components to play OASIS revolve around cross reality (XR), kinaesthetic communication - otherwise known as haptic technology - and a graphic-intensive virtual environment that at times recreates real life sets.
All of these technologies are developed, there are working models out there and they are being commercialised as well.
XR, for instance, the merging of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and cinematic reality (CR), is something many of us have already experienced. At least the VR part of it.
What is exciting about “Ready Player One” is that although it takes place in the future and is depicted as a very futuristic world, it isn’t that different from our present reality. The VR goggles players use are very similar to your standard Oculus, for example.
The one thing we are yet to experience on a large scale is kinaesthetic communication. We have the basics of it – such as your vibrating phone or wearable – but a full on body suit that lets you interact in the virtual world and have sensation in the real world, is still a bit far off from the market. But it’s coming.
While it doesn’t, VR on the other hand, has hit the shelves all over the world. According to Grand View Research, the global virtual reality market size was valued at US$10.32 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.6% from 2020 to 2027, when it will reach US$49.3 billion.
The gaming industry is one of the most popular applications for VR and has witnessed significant growth in recent years, the think tank says.
This is attributed to the fact that VR games can be played on standalone systems that can power the VR headsets. Moreover, advanced immersive experience and availability of multiple gaming content have fuelled the adoption of VR in the gaming industry.
Tech giants have been actively investing in VR gaming too. Not only has Microsoft and Google become two of the largest VR brands in the world, in February 2020, Facebook Technologies, LLC’s division Oculus announced that it had acquired SANZARU, INC., an American video game development company.
This was a major step by the world’s largest social media platform – after it has invested so much to make its site a large-scale gaming hub as well – to really grasp the opportunities that VR will bring.
In the gaming world, there are today 2.7 billion gamers, about 1/3 of the planet’s population. The largest market is China, followed by the US. At HGC, we expect that over the coming years, as a result of technological advancement, economic outlook and large population concentration, several more Asian countries – such as India, Indonesia or the Philippines – will enter the top ten of the largest gaming markets on the planet.
The VR marketplace follows the same pattern, albeit, with much lower figures. VR counts, as of 2020, with 171 million users, according to Statista. CCS Insight has found that as many as seven in ten people who buy a VR headset, have bought at least one game to play on the device.
The largest spending VR market is China at US$5.8 billion, followed by the US, at US$5.1 billion. The total worldwide spend stands at US$18.8 billion. Gaming accounts for as much as 50% of VR software revenues which have reached US$30 billion in 2019 for the first time.
An interesting statist I’ve came across – albeit a bit old – is from job website indeed.com which in 2017-18 reported a 17% increase in VR gaming jobs posts on its platform.
There are many more figures and studies, but all of the above is prey self-explanatory: if gaming is booming, the next big thing is already beginning to roar right in front of our eyes.
From a network perspective, if gaming in today’s graphic intensive, multi-user scenario is demanding, with the spreading of VR technology, pressure on the networks is only set to increase.
Latency being one of the main obstacles to a good user experience, gaming companies will need to ensure they keep latency and lag times as low as possible. In a VR scenario – and even more in the haptic world – this will have to be as close to 0 as possible.
Technologies like 5G which we already have fairly good access a bit all over the world, will be crucial to develop these new gaming worlds and help us identify how to build 6G and beyond.
As a network provider such as HGC, it is vital that we take care of the user experience. For example, we have developed solutions to lower latency in order to generate more enjoyable gaming experiences.
On the operational side, a larger gaming platform requires more CAPEX and OPEX to expand the user reach. We have therefore added solutions to help minimise costs through the reduction of hardware and software, as well as launching the network-as-a-service framework, where gaming companies can scale their network as their needs shift and the user base grows.
With 5G becoming part of our connected lives, we no longer accept speeds that still 'buffer' our experiences and makes us wait. A few milliseconds are enough to make a business lose millions of dollars depending on the use case.
In gaming, as the market booms and new services start to gain ground such as virtual reality (VR), latency really is at the centre stage of what we are all trying to tackle. Every millisecond counts.
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The Playing For The Planet Alliance has brought together some of the biggest companies in the video games industry who have committed to harness the power of their platforms to take action on the climate crisis. This is not only an urgency to our planet, but it also showcases an extremelly relevant use case of how gaming is not only a booming industry but also one that can change the world.
For more, click here.
At HGC we talk about Eyeballs – meaning the users – and we are now reaching 80% of Asian eyeballs with ultra-low latency across the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. We reach more than 150 million internet users with covered ground expanding regularly.
So I ask, are you Ready Player One? Let me know what your thoughts on VR gaming are and do get in touch if you would like a free consultation on how HGC can help your gaming business grow on solid and scalable foundations.
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