Nearly 20 years ago, Sega released the Dreamcast: the first mainstream video game console to feature built-in networking. Equipped with a 56k modem, the Dreamcast offered players the first glimpse into the world of networked console gaming that was accessible simply by plugging into a phone outlet.
Much has changed since then, but the Dreamcast helped lay the foundation for the features gamers have come to expect today, including face-to-face competitions, massively networked online communities and video and voice chat capabilities — the types of interactions that WebRTC helps propel in real-time.
What’s Happening Now in Entertainment
Today, modern gamers have come to expect networked experiences from their consoles, PCs and mobile devices. And with Fortnite, one of 2018’s most successful massive online games, players are finally getting to experience true online interoperability — connecting players on nearly any platform to a game enhanced by chat and voice.
New technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) are making their way into the world through console accessories like Sony’s PlayStation VR, developer tools like Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore or entirely new platforms like Facebook’s Oculus. As technology evolves, keeping these worlds connected and interoperable will become more important — and expected by users — than ever before.
Market Size of Entertainment
Virtual experiences are big business: From 2018 to 2023, the market for VR, AR, and MR hardware, software and services is expected to reach $65.8 billion. For gaming alone, it’s anticipated that the market for AI-equipped games will grow up to $11.6 billion by 2025.
This explosive growth can be tied to one of the key sales drivers in the tech industry: new software requires new hardware. As developers at Apple, Facebook and Microsoft continue to build software tools and platforms to offer the next-generation of VR experiences, users will eventually need to begin purchasing headsets, consoles and software. Considering most VR platforms like Magic Leap haven’t even been fully released to the public or development community, plenty of opportunity exists for users and developers to create (and sell) these new experiences.
Gartner Perspective on Entertainment
In 2017, Gartner released its annual Gartner Hype Cycle, a collection of insights illustrating future technologies that offer the most potential. Virtual reality was the year’s only entry under its “slope of enlightenment,” a designation for technologies that have grown out of their early levels of hype and anticipation and are primed for growth and acceptance.
What Entertainment is Used For
Pokémon GO kicked off the virtual gaming explosion with the AR-enabled mobile game. Using an phone’s camera, users can scan the real world to find Pokémon creatures hiding among trees, park benches and the rest of the physical environment. In its first three months, the game generated $600 million in revenue from its tens of millions of users. Pokémon Go’s addictive gameplay and ease of use propelled AR into the mainstream, offering an enticing (and profitable) sign of things to come.
Main Concerns of Entertainment
Two bottlenecks are currently holding back full VR/AR/MR experiences: mobilization of technology components and bandwidth. When Google introduced Google Glass, its head-mounted AR display, it suffered from its poor battery life, connectivity and, ultimately, appearance. In order for virtual experiences to truly take off, wearable technology must be easily accessible without having to be plugged into dozens of bulky cables and peripherals.
Even though a wired experience can offer high speeds and reduced latency, the true future of VR/AR/MR experiences is wireless. While technologies like WebRTC offer simplified ways of communicating across devices at high-quality, broadband’s inconsistent speeds remain a bottleneck for truly immersive virtual experiences. Low quality 360° video streams require at least 25 Mbit/s of bandwidth, and high-definition streams can require anywhere from 80 Mbit/s to 600 Mbit/s. Before high-quality gaming features like video chat can be fully taken advantage of, broadband companies and wireless providers will need to offer reliable high-speed connections that are always available.
Where Entertainment is Headed
Gamers are still becoming accustomed to the worlds of AR (where virtual objects are seen through a camera in the real world) and VR (an immersive 360° experience that occupies your line of sight), and the future looks to be a combination of both technologies: MR.
As development of AR and VR continues, both technologies are expected to begin converging by 2020. Mixed reality merges the best aspects of AR and VR to bring to life incredibly realistic, VR-like experiences through an AR-like setting. With MR, the people, places and objects in the real world can be painted to look entirely different, offering gamers endless possibilities.
This post is a continuation on our series on real-time communications and WebRTC verticals. To see previous posts in this series, please check out our first post WebRTC Verticals Series - A Sweeping Introduction.