The global gaming industry is a cultural behemoth valued at almost $200 billion. As one of the most prominent and innovative tech sectors, gaming has influenced everything from social networking to competition over the past few decades. With gaming now well and truly set up as a mainstream industry, it's capturing the attention of over 3 billion people across the globe.

Gaming has come a long way since the early days of arcades and home consoles. Thanks to pioneering innovation that's given rise to a wealth of ways to play and experience games, the industry has been able to position itself as a bleeding-edge tech behemoth. On a cultural level, gaming is set to become ever more relevant, but how will the latest technologies influence the future of gaming experiences?

NFTs, The Metaverse
NFTs, The Metaverse and the Future of Gaming

NFTs: Harnessing Blockchain Tech to Shape Gaming Experiences

For several years now, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology have been having a disruptive impact on the gaming industry, as well as many other global mainstream sectors.

In particular, the emergence of decentralised currencies has opened up new ways for players to access real money gaming experiences, whether that's at a crypto casino in USA or via a globally-available crypto gaming app. While enabling players to use more transparent and secure payment methods is impactful, blockchain is also playing a key role in shaping the future of gaming through NFTs.

NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) have already started to gain immense popularity amongst gaming communities for their power to revolutionise the concept of ownership in the digital realm. Traditionally, video games and gaming apps feature a centralised infrastructure, with the ownership of user-generated in-game content and bought assets staying solely with gaming companies. Although players invest both time and money in these games, they aren't able to actively own the in-game items they purchase.

NFTs, on the other hand, exist independently of gaming environments, injecting in-game items with real-world value and ensuring players are able to actually own what they purchase.

However, the impact of NFTs on gaming doesn't end there. The introduction of non-singles has given rise to the play-to-earn gaming sector, in which gamers are actively rewarded for the time and effort they invest in a game. P2E games are a core part of the emergent GameFi sector and have created a thriving gaming economy where players can earn, sell, buy and trade virtual assets outside the confines of a single game ecosystem.

This radical new monetisation model will no doubt take some time to filter through to incumbent gaming brands, if it does at all, but with the GameFi sector generating over $5 billion in funding for new projects in 2023, there's evidently a strong appetite for NFT gaming.

AI will Enhance Gameplay and Immersion

Artificial Intelligence is seemingly everywhere right now. From smart homes to Microsoft’s Bing, AI is currently being applied to many sectors to radically transform our daily lives. In gaming, artificial intelligence has played a prominent role for decades — the colourful ghosts chasing Pac-Man and the countless NPCs found in everything from Space Invaders to GTA 5 are all AI generated — but recent advancements are set to take things up a notch.

Artificial intelligence has evolved to the point where developers are able to use it to create enhanced gameplay and immersive experiences. Developers are now using procedural generation AI techniques to create detailed and dynamic gaming environments while reducing the time and costs associated with production. Moreover, the current iteration of AI is sophisticated enough to develop 'intelligent' non-player characters that can perform complex tasks and even converse with the main characters.

Virtual Community and Collaboration in The Metaverse

Of course, no feature on the future of the gaming industry would be complete without looking at the role and impact of the Metaverse.

The concept of the metaverse sounds like a gamer's dream: a parallel digital realm in which users can log in and seamlessly interact with the virtual environment and each other. It's also rooted in Sci-Fi, having been popularised in works by author Neal Stephenson, most notably in his 1992 novel Snow Crash.

For over a decade, the process of transforming the metaverse from a theoretical concept into a practical industry sector has confounded even leading tech companies. However, thanks to the huge advancements that have been made in digital tech over the past few years, it's rapidly becoming a reality, particularly in the gaming sectors.

Although it's still a long way off from being the fully realised parallel universe it has the potential to become, glimpses of the metaverse can already be seen throughout the gaming industry. Platforms like Roblox have set up new paradigms in gaming experiences and collaboration, allowing users to create and play their own games in the virtual realm. Furthermore, Epic Games has branched out into launching a series of virtual concerts, allowing users to watch and interact with leading music artists, including Ariana Grande and Travis Scott, in the Fortnite universe.

According to Newzoo, there are now approximately 500 tech companies and organisations developing new innovations geared towards supporting and facilitating virtual experiences. Like the internet, the metaverse won't be exclusively used for gaming; its potential use cases include both work and play. However, gaming will be essential for the longevity and success of the sector.