The international gaming industry came together at E3 – the Electronic Entertainment Expo (June 14-16) – for its annual showcase in Los Angeles. Considerable attention was drawn to cultural shifts that need to be made as gaming's mainstream impact continues to grow. Here are three key directions that emerged from the presentations.
- Safe Spaces: In response to the lasting shockwaves of #gamergate and ongoing harassment issues in the community, Microsoft announced its social awareness initiative Gaming for Everyone.
The US tech giant revealed the first user benefit will be community management tools that will make it easier for gamers to discover, create, maintain and protect like-minded gamer communities to play with on its social gaming platform XBox Live. The company hopes this will make social gaming a less daunting prospect for demographics for whom the space remains quite toxic – chiefly women and members of the LGBTQA community, despite gender parity in the US gaming market (Pew, 2015).
"If a woman wants to play a game and she only wants to play with other females, great," said XBox head of PR Letty Cherry. "We have so many different ways of having choice. We're not trying to ostracise anyone."
Meanwhile, entertainment news site The Verge criticised games publishers for failing to acknowledge the events of the Orlando shooting, which immediately preceded the conference. Instead, they presented their numerous gun-violence-based games as if nothing had happened. The days of gaming as niche entertainment are over, and the industry will have to consider the place of its stories in our culture.
- Play Anywhere: Microsoft confirmed it will allow players to buy a game once and then seamlessly play it across desktop computer operating system Windows 10 as well as on XBox, its dedicated gaming console.
This move is something Microsoft gamers have been demanding for a while, now. It's also in line with consumer demand for multiple, seamless access points – an attitude felt by entertainment brands and marketers across the board.
The on-demand public is looking for full control of its consumption and entertainment schedule, with individual customer journeys and multiple contact points that make entertainment content fit around their lives. A recent survey showed that 90% of American millennials switch devices mid-task, and two-thirds of all consumers are frustrated with poor content handover across devices (Adobe, 2016).
During E3 2015, we noted a push of established gaming properties into the mobile market. With Japanese giant Nintendo's augmented reality mobile game Pokemon Go to be released in July 2016, the demand for cross-platform, anywhere/anytime gaming is likely to increase.
- VR is Coming: Publishers are taking a decisive step into the virtual reality (VR) space, with games headed to all consumer headsets. Japanese tech company Sony announced its PlayStationVR headset will be released in October 2016. The 50 initial games available for play in VR at launch will include blockbuster franchise titles like Star Wars Battlefront X-Wing VR Mission, Resident Evil and Final Fantasy XV.
With Star Trek: Bridge Crew, US publisher Ubisoft is also banking on an established franchise to lure gamers into the VR space. Headed for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation, the game will put players in control of a brand new Star Trek spaceship as one of four different control-room crew members.
Finally, Microsoft has confirmed that its upcoming Project Scorpio XBox consoles will be able to run 4k resolution games and high-end VR.
To stay informed about developments in gaming and its impact on other entertainment sectors, follow our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups. To learn about how gaming culture is shaping the future of live streaming, see Live-Streaming Strategies, and for more on seamless customer journeys, check out UX Best Practice for Marketers.