Live and shape your favourite stories and games with 5G and AI
Today, India is among the biggest mobile gaming markets in the world with around 365 million mobile gamers, and their numbers are expected to climb.
Globally, gaming has become people's favourite means of entertainment and socialising. It is also a fast-growing industry with great potential for innovation, new hi-tech jobs, and competitive esports. In India, the turn of the millennium witnessed a significant rise in PC and console gaming – a rise that has been outpaced, in recent years, with the popularity of mobile games. Today, India is among the biggest mobile gaming markets in the world with around 365 million mobile gamers, and their numbers are expected to climb. From a technology perspective, high-end games make use of a smartphone's hardware capabilities such as GPU, camera, location technologies, augmented reality (AR), audio, gyros, accelerometers, compasses, texting, connectivity, communication, and now artificial intelligence (AI). The entertainment and gaming industries are leveraging these capabilities to develop new, differentiated, immersive experiences that delight consumers.
One such experience is that of interactive storytelling. In the near future, 5G-based gaming could elevate interactive storytelling to a whole new level by blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality and making the audience not just viewers but active participants. For the most part since its inception, interactive storytelling was driven by film franchises. However, the worldwide popularity of video games has outgrown that of cinema. And, with mobile games accounting for a sizeable and fast-growing share of the total gaming market, the future could well see mobile game developers come to the forefront of creating interactive storytelling experiences. Such experiences can become even more compelling when they are combined with 5G and AI and presented through the medium of gaming, with active participation from consumers. Furthermore, in conjunction with AR and VR, consumers can customize these experiences based on their preferences.
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In recent years, the launch of new, powerful mobile platforms and super-fast 5G networks have opened opportunities for mobile game developers to create such transmedia experiences. The convergence of television, movies, and interactivity can truly redefine storytelling by transposing it to a gaming environment. We have already seen an example of this in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Viewers could stream the movie to their laptops or smart TVs and select from some preprogrammed choices to make decisions for the main character, just like in interactive games. Each choice dynamically changed the narrative and led to a different ending. Its success shows how gaming concepts can enhance storytelling. And this is just the beginning!
Pervasive games are multi-dimensional and are often played out in public spaces such as shopping malls, conference venues, and museums. They make use of mobile devices, wireless networks, positioning systems, and context-sensing technologies to create highly immersive gameplays that blur the distinction between the game world and the real world.
The experience feels lifelike and virtually transports the player into the situation unfolding in the game – running away from zombies, or battling the apocalypse, or any other. In the future, we could see such pervasive gaming experiences include inter-device transactions with wearables or sensors that capture information about the player's current context, 360-degree surround views, and multi-directional audio, and accordingly create gaming experiences that adapt to where the player is, what they are doing, and how they are feeling. In such a world of role-playing games, every time a player logs in, the game will generate a different world with different content.
The interest in mobile multiplayer gaming is increasing exponentially worldwide, and 5G will be a very big multiplier of this trend. The ultra-low latency and ultra-high bandwidth of mmWave 5G enable developers to create richer, more complex gaming experiences that can support lifelike graphics, ultra-high-resolution streaming video and audio, and large numbers of gamers simultaneously. mmWave 5G can be particularly effective in small, densely populated areas such as eSports arenas and internet gaming cafes.
Meanwhile, eSports are growing rapidly in terms of gamers, revenue, viewing audience, and prize pools. The boom of mobile eSports is notably greater in Asia Pacific as compared to other markets and although it is a relatively small portion of the overall eSports pie, it is easily the fastest-growing segment.
5G will improve the mobile eSports gaming experience further in terms of graphics, animations, and visual effects. It will accelerate the growth of mobile eSports not only in mature markets but also in mobile-first, developing economies. The faster, reliable connections offered by 5G will see the introduction of new, innovative services for all stakeholders of the mobile eSports industry.
It will also enable Cloud gaming with the deployment of servers at the Cloud-Edge. The lower latency offered by 5G will also improve Cloud gaming by bringing down response times providing a more real-time and responsive experience.
The use of AI in games enables self-learning and personalization for non-playable characters. AI-enabled games can adapt to the preferences of individual players and accordingly create intelligent characters they can interact with. Moreover, the game itself can be changed in real-time as a player progresses, at a difficulty level appropriate to the player and with content that is tailored to their preferences and behaviour. There is no doubt that AI will become increasingly important for games, for both the player-versus-environment type and the player-versus-player type. If the AI is good enough, players won't even be able to tell who they are playing against – another person or an intelligent machine. The future of gaming will see a lot more of such interplay between humans and AI. With AI, the player's actions and reactions will also look more realistic and natural.
Furthermore, newer developments will enable developers to push graphical boundaries by allowing gamers to render at a lower resolution and then, with the help of AI, up-scale it to 4K or even 8K resolutions for a highly detailed graphical experience. This will allow players to immerse themselves in the game-world while maintaining steady frame times for smooth and stutter-free experiences.
For the longest time, storytelling and gaming were based on constructs that were, in a way, rigid and predictable, and which thus presented a uniform experience to all users. Over a period of time, such experiences become boring. This will evolve, to a great extent, as 5G and AI are integrated into game development. We will soon not only be able to enjoy our favourite stories and games in immersive ways but also “live” through those experiences in ways we want. The world of entertainment will never be the same again, for children and for adults.
This article has been written by Sachin Kalantri, Senior Director, Product Marketing at Qualcomm India