It’s that time of year again! Time for all gamers, developers, geek-culture enthusiasts and anyone with a fondness for technology and an inclination towards escapism to attend the most hotly anticipated mega-event of the year: the really Awesome gaming expo (rAge). In addition to the massive range of products and games on display, this is probably the only event in South Africa where locals can get a real taste of what the future of consumer technology holds. rAge is the event to get a glimpse at international trends.
So, what’s hot and trending internationally right now that’ll be on show at rAge?
Augmented reality: Augmented reality is the overlay of information or imagery onto the real world, allowing users to see virtual items while looking at real-world things. Have you played Pokémon Go or experimented with Snapchat lenses? Then you get the general idea. 2015 was a year of inviting promise for AR technology, with plenty of new hardware announced and initial endeavours hitting the mainstream. 2016 is shaping up as the year that promise is fulfilled, with hardware finally making its way into the hands of consumers, and exciting new content providing unique experiences to an AR-hungry public. Whether or not we can expect to see an augmented reality-heavy 2017 will depend on whether Pokémon Go is the start of a new trend, or if it’s simply a spin-off success carried by an already successful brand.
Virtual reality: 2016 saw the rise of VR gaming with the debut of the Oculus Rift in late 2015, Sony launching PlayStation VR for the PlayStation 4 game console in 2016, and Samsung’s mobile VR system. But what is the future of VR? The platform has one key criticism: it’s isolating. Dave Ranyard, ex studio head of Sony London and now an independent VR developer, has made clear that he believes the future of VR is a social one. It’ll be about being transported to a fantasy world and doing something cool with your friends.
Multi-screen gaming: Multi-screen gaming adds a new dimension to games, allowing them to be played on TV screens, consoles and mobile devices. Chromecast, for example, gives players the ability to project games like Monopoly onto their TVs, enabling them to play the game with their smartphones. Big industry players like Google, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are producing secondary devices promoting multi-screen gaming.
Indie games: In the not-too-distant past, if you wanted your game to get massive attention, you generally had to be associated with a successful, big-name game developer or publisher. Things are changing quickly. Gaming platforms such as Zynga and Steam are giving independent game developers a way to expose their products to the market. Gamers are becoming more involved in the development process as video game schools and online courses are becoming more widespread and affordable. Some examples of hyper-successful, mega-hit indie games include UnderTale, Diner Dash and the locally-developed Broforce.
2016 has been and continues to be a tantalising year for gamers, and rAge is the only place in Africa where you can get a glimpse, a taste of what’s to come in gaming in SA in the next five years.