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GDC’s the Future of Gaming Panel: A Recap

As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, the entertainment, business, and sports industries, as well as many others, have seen massive upheaval in order to function in the new, post COVID-19 world. 

That said, the one industry that had not been as negatively affected was the video game industry. If anything, the video game industry saw massive growth due to the amount of people turning to video games as a way to escape and entertain themselves in a world full of negativity. 

The present circumstances helped video games reach a level it had not arguably seen. With video games firmly in the zeitgeist in the present, that begs the question: what does the future of gaming look like?

Courtesy of GDC Showcase

In a talk moderated by Dean Takahashi, Jason Rubin and Michael Verdu – the Vice President of Play at Facebook and the Vice President of Facebook Reality Labs at Facebook, respectively – they discussed of how Virtual Reality (VR) could very well be the future of gaming. 

From the outset, both Rubin and Verdu mentioned how “barriers” are standing in the way of how people can enjoy games, mainly referring to how some video games could be difficult to access for a regular consumer. To that end, Rubin says, “Accessibility is the foundation of gaming on Facebook,” and is why Facebook launched a Cloud platform – the aptly named “Cloud Gaming” – allowing players to play PC and mobile games, all of which are free and customizable. 

Verdu agrees with Rubin’s sentiment, stating that accessibility is “the North Star” for Facebook gaming. Additionally, both mentioned how important it was to restrict content on Facebook. By restricting what is available, it allows for higher-quality curated content on the site to reach the consumers and, in turn, gives developers a bigger base as it allows them to build an ecosystem within Facebook. 

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Courtesy of Facebook

What’s more, the duo have noticed VR’s ecosystem grow, with more than 60 Oculus titles that have made more $1 million in revenue. VR has become a viable gaming platform and the two have noticed that momentum is increasing, especially after the strong release of the Oculus Quest 2. 

It was also noted that advertising is a big part of the revenue growth, along with in-app purchases, which also drives a sizable number of the revenue stream, according to Rubin. 

In that same vein, Rubin said what sets Facebook apart is it reduces the costs of installs, has more capabilities than other games – at least in terms of the social aspect – and notes Facebook will be a bigger part in games design in the future. Verdu echoed that sentiment, saying how people schedule time to be together in VR, and the fact that VR is inherently social, makes it the future of gaming. 

Lastly, Rubin said gaming has been one of the “bright lights” to people in the last year and is “thankful” for video games existing during the pandemic. Verdu adds that VR can transport people and that it was very “rewarding” to see people use VR to not only escape their situation, but also use it to connect with other people.

Courtesy of Cloudhead Games

Elsewhere, Denny Unger, CEO of Cloudhead Games, talked about how Pistol Whip improved locomotion along with maintaining comfort in order to keep the player engaged. Unger also mentioned how important the original Oculus Quest was to the market, turning VR from a novelty into a utility. 

Wrapping things up, Rubin then spoke with Michael Carter, the CEO of Playco, to discuss the business and how their main focus is to bring the world closer together through gaming. A part of that focus came with trying to get a game that could be played by a billion people through Facebook’s platform. 

So far, they are halfway there with 500 million unique players and installs through Facebook, which is a big step considering Playco has relatively small teams. In the end, Carter mentioned how Playco wants to build games players from all generations can play together with family and friends. 

In a way, this talk emphasizes how VR and the community aspect of video games – as a whole – is the future of gaming. Considering how detached the world has been the last year because of lockdowns, it is good to hear that gaming is bringing connection back after such a difficult time.

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