The only thing more critical than great games, exciting tech, and even artificial intelligence for the games industry in 2024, is passion. A passion for pushing the medium forward to create new ways for people to express themselves through play.
It’s a hallmark of our industry. Which is why I’m comfortable with my prediction that generative AI will remake the industry players and developers alike. It’s what we have seen in games for decades: A new advanced technology pushes the state of the art forward to drive inspiration, excitement, and ultimately, fun.
Over the last year, I’ve seen projects of all sizes – from indies to AAA games and platforms test the waters of generative AI. I’m already excited to have seen what they’re unlocking.
The Potential of Gen AI for Games
What exactly will gen AI unlock for games? New modalities of interaction (speech, hand motion)? Dynamic real time generation of content, personalized to a player? Creation of a fully rigged 3D model from just a picture (or a text description?) Or will there be new and unexpected ways to play – powered by gen AI – that we can’t even imagine today?
This is a pattern that we have seen before. Myst leveraged the increased storage capability of CD-ROMs over cartridges to create a cinematic world with *3D* graphics and *stereo* audio; just like a movie! Quake was foundational in embracing the potential of an online game, trailblazing real time multiplayer interactions. Pokémon GO took mobile games into real-world locations, capitalizing on the true device-exclusive capabilities of mobile (camera, GPS).
You get the picture: Curious, creative people inspired by new technologies, building games that provide entirely new experiences for millions – and now billions – of people. It’s this creative drive that is fundamental to the steady growth of the games industry; it’s practically built into the business model.
Picking a winner
Historically, large projects and teams are more risk averse; there’s more money riding on the project. For innovation spotting, it’s a good time to look at smaller shops. Especially those with veterans, motivated to make their mark on the industry by making the most of new technology. Another area to watch are platform and tool providers, catering not to consumers, but games developers. While it’s common for games teams to DIY their pipeline, I suspect they’ll still be listening for inspiring ideas.
What aspect of gen AI will be the most influential? The most distinctive thing with gen AI seems to be the power of natural language interaction with computers. Some of the most interesting experiments we’ve seen in the past year involve dynamically-created add on features and personalized characters.
These have inherent properties for emotionally rich experiences, like NPCs that speak like humans and can respond organically to player behaviors. Gen AI is already being used to radically scale the efforts of game developers in areas such as concept generation, story ideation, and production, but it’s the consumer engagement that really steers the market.
One more reason I’m so confident: I’ve rarely seen so much interest, from so many levels of the games business, in a new fundamental technology. Due to the prevalence of live service games, and subsequently the dawn of tomorrow’s living games, interest in our game servers, AI algorithms, and analytics solutions has never been greater. People are learning new ways to use these tools, inventing new stories, new ways to work, and new ways to delight players.
That, in the service of developer and player passion, is how game history gets made in 2024.