The Predicted Future of Second Screen Gaming

9 Nov

Here are some predictions of what the future of second screen gaming could be according to gaming companies and online sources I’ve researched. This proves a very interesting read into the future.

Social feeds will be a feature, not the experience.

At present we’re all sick of logging into Facebook and seeing our friends ‘unlock a new level on Farmville Saga’ or getting notifications because your friend ‘needs life in Candy Crush’. Yet the future beholds more promising and stronger features.

App developers will continue delivering strong social features with enough reach and consumer utility to complete the social experience online.  For the last 50+ years we have been gathering to experience entertainment together, then gather around the water cooler to discuss our thoughts about it, and finally asking each other to recommend content that is worthy of our future time investment.  As apps further develop functionality along these 3 social sharing axes, consumers will gravitate to the utility of the experience as long privacy and social connectivity is given the respect it deserves – consumers want to control when and how their preference for viewing are shared.

“Discovery” will become a household word.

Gaming console creators will make a big push into transforming the experience for  hundreds of millions of household gamers across the world by offering viewers better user interfaces to search for and discover new game content.  While the grid guide will exist for long into our future, better user experiences will emerge for the three most common use cases when sitting down on the couch:

  1.  I know what I want to play – just help me find it and play it.
  2.  I just want to kill some time – show the best options for me right now.
  3.  I really want to play something interesting – help me find something worthy of my invested time.

A Netflix for gaming maybe a feature of the future. Thousands of games in one place categorised by what you’re interested in. Similar to Netflix, it starts to learn about your likes and dislikes and intellectually suggests new games for you to play, of course, keeping your favourites easily accessible.<

Tablet and smartphone usage reports will become about activities related to the TV.

It seems last year that there’s been copious amounts of reports on what percentage of smartphone and tablet owners were using their devices while watching TV.  Now that there have been enough reports produced by diverse and reputable firms, you will start to see them focus on what really matters to everyone in this ecosystem – the amount of second screen activity related to the first screen.  We expect to see them focusing on a few primary activities related to future revenue streams:

  1. To Control.  This is the most important feature for device makers and those hoping to win the digital video ecosystem war. We’ve all seen the powers of second screen gaming in relation to using smartphones/tablets/screens controlling other screens therefore making the game accessible on dual screens.
  2. To Discover.  Trying to find games to play (as mentioned above), with many in the ecosystem seeking to influence that decision through some form of advertising.
  3. To Enhance.  This will come in the form of, one, searching for or receiving additional (perhaps synchronised) related information to the program and, two, second screen-based commerce.  Last year, Nielsen reported that of consumers using a tablet while watching TV, roughly 40% are using them to check information related to the program and 29% of 25-34 year olds are shopping while watching TV.
  4. To Share.  Already hyped in the press to the nth degree, expect to start to see attempts to measure how impression affect viewership across demographics and how they influence others decisions to view content.

‘Gamification’ will begin to lose favour with the press and consumers, only to begin to add value again towards the end of 2013.

Like Farmville and its creator Zynga, games as second screen experiences during a show have demonstrated both growth and reach, but the fickle consumer will quickly tire of this marketplace for second screen games.  However, as those companies react to consumer engagement, they will begin to deploy enhanced viewing experiences that offer multiple ways to engage with the show, movie or sporting event, allowing consumers to engage at intensity levels that fit their viewing style and interest.  As this evolution develops and consumer penetration of tablets and second screen march upwards, ‘gamification’ of second screen experiences will drag itself out of the rut of disillusionment and up the curve to providing both consumer and business value.

“Who’s that again?”

Commerce on smartphones and tablets in the living room is starting to gain momentum, and the prize for capturing additional engagement related to the viewing experience is huge.  Here’s an interesting (TV/Movie feature) fact, Amazon, with its Kindle Fire and Amazon Prime products, has been experimenting with a feature they call “X-ray vision”, allowing the consumer to see which actors are on the screen during the scene. This could so easy push onto gaming where you’ll be able to identify everyone and everything at your own leisure. Or for example, if you’re half way through a mission and forget the brief, you could easily bring up the brief again with some handy pointers through this “X-ray vision” concept.

Cloud-based gaming will be taken more seriously.

To inform people who are unsure of it – Cloud gaming, is a type of online gaming that allows direct and on-demand streaming of games onto computers, consoles and mobile devices (similar to video on demand) through the use of a thin client, in which the actual game is stored on the operator’s or game company’s server and is streamed directly to computers accessing the server through the client. This allows access to games without the need of a console and largely makes the capability of the user’s computer unimportant, as the server is the system that is running the processing needs. The controls and button presses from the user are transmitted directly to the server, where they are recorded, and the server then sends back the game’s response to the input controls. Companies that use this type of cloud gaming include Ubitus, Playcast Media Systems, Gaikai and OnLive. Most cloud gaming platforms are closed and proprietary; the first open source cloud gaming platform was not released until April, 2013.

In time, this will definitely be a future feature of gaming, being able to play your games on multiple screens, anywhere, anything, just log-in and play.

Device makers will jump into second screen rapidly.

Spurred on by Microsoft’s SmartGlass platform on Xbox, device makers from gaming consoles to smartphones and tablets will start publishing SDK’s to access their system to both content creators and app developers alike in an effort to secure themselves in the coming ecosystem war.  Major CE brands like Samsung and LG will work very hard to give consumers a better living room experience with their devices than in a mixed-device world, working to create improved cross-device brand loyalty.  Gaming consoles will work hard to capture your video viewing time to become the point of living room convergence for gaming.

Personal Predictions and Future

It’s clear to me that we are going to start seeing more and more second screen gaming experiences over the next year and in the future. While there will be a lot of gimmicks out there, I hope game designers will see past the obvious screen mirror, display maps and inventory views that are going to be common place on Wii U games and instead turn to Windows 8’s huge hardware ecosystem to truly push the second screen gaming experience in a new direction. It’s not hard to imagine playing a game on a desktop and using a surface or other Windows 8 powered tablet or phone to create an engaging and deep second screen experience. Even if this turns out to be more indie oriented then mainstream I think this new medium needs a few showcase games to highlight how to really take advantage of all the of possibilities main stream games will be too afraid to implement. I want a Journey caliber second screen game!

I would love to see second screen puzzles, new types of interactions to unlock parts of levels and intriguing gameplay mechanics that would really compliment a full game experience. Even better is the possibility to take your game or part of the game on the go so you can continue to progress or build up your character on the go, which has been done before in limited capacity. The key to all of this is the growing power of mobile devices, desktops and how to get them to work together. While I will always be a console gamer at heart, I think watching the last generation of consoles grow long in the tooth while computers have leapfrogged them clearly shows that PC hardware will always outpace closed console systems. It’s our job as game developers and designers to figure out how to really push the envelope and move the second screen experience forward on all fronts, and not just in the easy/obvious ways.

As a follow up to these predictions, it would be a good idea to email Rockstar and ask if GTA 6 could involve real life people. Imagine holograms of characters running around your city as part of an actually game being played by someone else on the opposite side of the world. But that’s just a wild thought. Or is it?


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