Esports is often considered as being at the pinnacle of technical innovation. While it’s true that esports have come a long way since the LAN parties of the 1990s, very little has changed over the past decade. In the era of Twitch, it’s been streaming channels that have largely shaped how we watch and interact with esports. Beyond hardware upgrades and ever-increasing connection speeds, things have remained pretty consistent for esports athletes. However, this looks set to change in the next few years as massive advancements in gaming technology become more accessible than ever.
The Rise of AI
Concerns about artificial intelligence haven’t gone unnoticed, with many high-profile AI companies in the United States agreeing to safeguards. While unchecked AI does have serious implications for other sectors, esports is set to benefit from technological innovations.
Thanks to AI technology, cross-platform capability may finally become possible for high-profile esports tournaments. What’s more, the machine learning algorithms at the heart of AI open a wide list of possibilities for monitoring and analyzing player performance. For coaches and players themselves, these insights are invaluable. However, it also makes things far more interesting for spectators.
The Integration of Virtual Reality
Considering that esports have been at the forefront of online innovation, it’s surprising that the industry has been so resistant to virtual reality technology. At one point, virtual reality experiences and wearable tech were heralded as the next big thing in the gaming industry. While there’s certainly a place for virtual and augmented reality experiences in video gaming, don’t expect it to become a staple of high-profile tournaments just yet.
What’s holding things back? For starters, very few esports titles have VR components. Games like League of Legends, Call of Duty, and Dota 2 remain at the top of the pile. Currently, none of them have embraced VR elements. However, there has been a little bit of traction here. In 2017, the ESL unveiled the VR Master League (VRML). Sadly, VRML games like Onward, Breachers, and Snapshot are hardly household names.
While a VR esports game with mass appeal is probably many years away, virtual and augmented reality still has exciting implications for spectators. In the United States, more than 29 million watch online esports regularly. Expect streaming platforms to offer more VR experiences for users, bridging the gap between online viewing and in-person attendance.
The Impact of Cloud Gaming
For years, PC and console-based gaming has dominated professional esports. While a turbo-charged gaming PC is obviously the ideal, not everyone has access to big-ticket hardware. Cloud gaming has been heralded as a game changer for the industry as a whole. With cloud gaming, users can access resource-intensive games over the internet, rather than having to fork out hundreds of dollars for the latest console or graphics card.
What does this mean for esports? Well, it’s a great leveler. In theory, a legend-in-the-making can hone their craft by playing via a tablet. For aspiring esports athletes, this means increased opportunities. Furthermore, it’s likely to result in a far more diverse range of games being played. Currently, smartphone-friendly titles like Arena of Valor and PUBG Mobile are the main players representing non-PC and console gaming. With an increased focus on cloud gaming, expect more mobile-friendly and cross-platform games to emerge.
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