PCR October Gaming Roundtable: It’s more than just game play!

Rich O’Neill, Product Development Manager at Stormforce Gaming, EZVIZ UK’s Simon Buckingham, Brand & Marketing Manager and Luke Sear, ASUS – UK Gaming Marketing Lead offer discuss the world of gaming- from peripherals, to security and beyond.

What are the hottest trends in gaming right now?
Rich O’Neill: “Stormforce Gaming has seen a huge increase in customers who want powerful systems to cover as many genres and game types as possible. The current generation of video cards are in high demand as more players move towards higher resolution and high refresh rate displays. The accessibility of 4K and VR has improved to a point where cost of entry is reducing significantly and opening the door for much more widespread adoption. There has been a shift recently where many gamers are purchasing high power systems so that they have the flexibility to stream, create content and work on the same system they play games on.”

Simon Buckingham: “For sure one of the latest trends in gaming is play to earn as well as using Cryptography blockchain technology to enhance this a step further. With VR ramping up, we are entering a new phase of gaming technology and a decentralised world. Take a look at games like Sandbox, Decentraland, NetVrk and others to see the beginning stages of the next level of gaming. Soon gone will be the days of traditional game development, it is much cheaper, easier and more beneficial to developers and producers to utilise blockchain instead. NFT’s will be a huge trend in the coming years with tokenised and minted gaming assets, with full ownership, limited editions, buy and sell methods as well as interoperability via multiple games and platforms.”

Luke Sear: “Gaming subscription services have grown significantly in 2021. With many alternatives now available and competing for audience share, content is crucial to ensure a service has the best value for consumers.

Mobile phones remain the most popular gaming device. It is expected that AAA mobile gaming experiences will become more prevalent, delivering gaming experiences comparable to consoles and PC.”

What is the current state of the gaming industry?
Rich O’Neill: “Whilst popular products remain out of stock industry wide, the advent of next generation consoles has pushed developers towards parity on console and PC gaming. Resource intensive games have rarely run well on consoles or suffered sub par ports, but now this seems to be changing. This will benefit PC Gaming immensely as cross platform development on triple A titles will benefit all gamers and platforms. In addition to this, cross play functionality is becoming more widely adopted and encouraging players to move to PC.”

Luke Sear: “Developer promises have been off the mark this year and over-hype of certain game titles has led to disappointment amongst gamers. Perhaps now we can expect shorter marketing cycles and more realistic release dates for upcoming games, to better set consumer expectations.

In September, creators from marginalised backgrounds who have been under attack by botting and hate-raids came to widespread attention. The industry has rightly called out for substantial change; steaming platforms need to implement new security measures to combat abuse.

Increased diversity and inclusivity within games has been long overdue. So, it is a relief to see more game developers paying attention to representation. Specifically, further developers are making women and minority groups more prominent within games.

How are gaming peripherals advancing to keep up with gaming trends?
Rich O’Neill: “Good peripherals can make or break a gaming experience. Mechanical keyboards and performance gaming mice have reached a standard where even entry-level products can enhance gameplay significantly. There is a shift happening from HD displays to 1440p, 4K and Ultrawide panels as the price of these technologies becomes more accessible. Stormforce Gaming are seeing many systems purchased with simulation use in mind and customers wish to run high end peripherals to add to immersion. The system in many cases is one of the lower cost elements of their setup. There is also a shift away from gaming chairs towards higher quality ergonomic chairs with the increase in working from home too.”

Luke Sear: “The PS5’s new DualSense controller comes equipped with haptic feedback technology, so gamers can feel the effects and impact of their in-game actions through dynamic sensory feedback. It’s a very exciting advancement toward complete immersion within gaming.

“Customisation and modification have become much more important recently. Gamers looking to express their personalities often do so now through their peripherals and gaming accessories. Xbox Design Lab allows gamers to customise the features of their Xbox controller, such as the hybrid D-pad, textured trigger and quick-access share button. Similarly, within PC gaming there are ever-increasing customisation options among peripherals. Ranging from swappable keycaps with varying textures and materials, to gaming mice with removable and programmable joysticks for superior in-game control.”

How does inapp advertising feature in gaming and what are the key issues, needs here?
Rich O’Neill: “There is a remarkable increase in always online and free to play games where in game advertising can be more obvious. This is typically used as a driver for microtransactions or store sales. This is understandable to some extent on a free to play title but there is a trend growing where full price titles are being used to generate hype and pre sales on the next title in the series. It is great to be in the know about upcoming releases but to have this sort of thing thrust upon you every time you launch a game that you paid full price for is not a practice that many gamers feel positive about.”

Simon Buckingham: “Actually, there are many technologies and companies working on removing issues that have risen from advertising, both from a regulatory perspective and also Proof of View mechanism. Multi millions and in some cases billions are lost from companies bottom line because of fake views or utilisation of ‘bots’ which have altered and formed inaccurate viewership levels. Companies like Verasity have two patents in progression whereby they have secured the next 17 years of technology to ensure Proof of View, using blockchain and AI, will help businesses grow and also protect end users from potential fraud or manipulation tactics.”

Luke Sear: “The most common usage would be ad placements within mobile games, which appear during gameplay. Due to the harsh economics of free-to-play mobile games, most developers struggle to monetise their games without in-app advertising. These adverts are typically integrated directly into games and in some instances, the ads themselves are playable trials of other games. However, there is certainly an uneasy relationship with these ads since they can affect the player experience. But if advertising such as this allows for most mobile games to remain free-to-play, perhaps they are a necessary value exchange that players must come to accept.

“Custom ad serving solutions allow developers to serve ads into spaces directly into their titles. This ad type is most seen within sports titles, typically those set in a stadium or racing environment. It is becoming a more popular choice of advertising, as it is considered one of the least disruptive.”

What are some of the most common security risks to gamers?
Rich O’Neill: “The most obvious and devastating security risk in gaming is losing an account. I have seen friends lose accounts through hacking, scams or just careless behaviour over many years. There are certainly ways to mitigate cyber crime as a gamer, but in a world where an in game weapon skin can be worth hundreds or thousands of pounds, there is a real motivation for others to try and secure assets tied to gaming accounts. Most digital content platforms provide security measures to help you protect your account from simple 2FA checks to email recovery.”

Simon Buckingham: “Certainly password security is a key element, with gaming becoming a revenue stream for many people, it is more important than ever to protect your data and your assets in game. This is why things like Google 2FA security structures are really important, extra layers of protection. Whilst it may seem annoying to login twice, it far surpasses the potential alternative of security breaches. Hacking is of course another potential concern, again with blockchain technology via the integration of elements such as contracts and KYC/KYB (Know your customer/Know your Business), many elements of fraud, hacks etc. are eliminated or certainly prevented.”

Luke Sear: “Virtual currency and items earned in-game may not always directly equate to value outside of games, but they do amount to a certain player value. Accounts with large amounts of in-game wealth and rare items, can often fetch high real-word prices due to player demand. As such, these accounts are often exploited by hackers and in-game wealth is typically stolen.

“The same situation can be said about games themselves. Gamers typically spend large amounts of cash compiling a library of digital game titles over long periods of time, all under a single online account. Account holders are often targeted by hackers or phishing scams, as an attempt to breach initial account security and gain access to the games within.”

How can gamers protect themselves from cybercrime?
Rich O’Neill: “Keeping your accounts safe by taking advantage of security layers should be standard practice for all gamers. Most of the main PC Gaming platforms prompt you to adopt these strategies on sign up, and many of them will prompt long-term users to review their security credentials often. I personally think that if you have high value accounts with lots of digital content paid for, then updating passwords and reviewing account security regularly is the best step most gamers can take to avoid account loss. Having a trusted Internet security suite on your system is another important consideration.”

Luke Sear: “Like many online platforms, multi-factor authentication is the most secure method of protecting your online accounts, information and games. Where available, gamers should always be encouraged and perhaps incentivised to utilise a two-factor authenticator to improve account security. Avoiding password reuse is also important, to minimise the risk of security threats. Secure passwords are equally as important in gaming as they are everywhere else.

“Gamers are frequently targeted with phishing campaigns, so they should be careful and suspicious of items such as fake log-in pages. A slight overlap with this, can be malware sent via chat. Often promising methods of gaining an in-game advantage, players should always be cautious of any links they are sent.”

Do you think there needs to be more warnings about the need for security in the gaming sector?
Rich O’Neill: “Without a doubt this could be improved. Most people will set a password and then use that for the rest of the time. Storefronts and content platforms greatly differ in how they communicate security on their platforms, but the information is available even if it isn’t that prominent. The current crop of next gen consoles gives the user real time confirmations on account usage allowing you to easily spot an unauthorised transaction but in most cases you do have to set this up.”

Luke Sear: “Whilst responsibility for self-security lies predominantly on players, there is certainly more that developers, publishers and distributors can do to help keep gamers safe. Not only does this include providing frameworks for security features such as multi-factor authentication but also communicating them to the players. Perhaps also incentivising their use with in-game rewards. For example, Blizzard encouraged their players to utilise two-factor authentication, by rewarding those who did with additional inventory space.

“Easily accessible resources with security best practices should be readily available for every game, enabling players to educate and protect themselves from online threats. There should also be complete transparency from developers of any known security threats or data breaches, prompting on-going caution amongst their community.”

Where is the future of gaming headed?
“I am hopeful that mobile PC Gaming devices such as the SteamDeck spawn a new generation of PC based hardware from manufacturers pushing that kind of platform. High end systems with performance hardware will always be in demand, but the barrier to entry on PC gaming has significantly increased over the past year with price rises and poor entry level component availability impacting user adoption rates. Development of lower power platforms running APU and similar hardware will only encourage more games developers to optimise games for entry-level hardware.

“The rise in upscaling tech we are seeing in graphics cards currently is another promising step forward and the results already hold great promise for visual fidelity and performance figures of more demanding future games.”

Simon Buckingham: “Ready Player One is not only one of my favourite films, it is a window into the near future. VR gaming is ramping up, alongside blockchain technology will be the catalyst for what was required to create a unique metaverse scenario. Decentralised gaming, meaning you as a person/avatar could jump from game to game, world to world and hold all your assets via smart contract tech, with this ability to not be bound by gaming rules anymore e.g. set skins, clothes, objects for just one game, you can take them with you. For sure play to earn via Blockchain will be something that really takes off, being rewarded in tokenomics that can be swapped for crypto currency (the replacement for the existing financial system that you see today). Mark my words, it is here now and it will take over the gaming world!”

Luke Sear: “Some of 2021’s top grossing game titles host cross-play features, demonstrating that cross-platform connectivity and the ability to share progress and play with friends across different platforms should not be a developer afterthought. Instead, it is something players deem necessary and therefore may prove to be an essential consideration when developing new game titles.

“An acceleration in cloud gaming adoption has started changing the way games are created and played. Gamers are now able to access a magnitude of games regardless of their location, providing they have an Internet connection. This also eliminates the need to spend hours waiting for games and updates to download, meaning gamers can start playing immediately.”

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