Many game developers are pumped by the prospect of augmented reality (AR), which superimposes digital holograms on the real-life environment, according to the Game Developers Conference’s annual State of the Game Industry survey released earlier this year.
The survey, which had 4,000 respondents, covers a variety of topics, from working hours (and whether game developers should unionize) to preferred gaming platforms (for example, Android and iOS are nearly neck-and-neck as preferred smartphone-game platforms). Considering how long it takes to develop most games, a career-focused game developer doesn’t just focus on today’s popular platforms—they keep an eye on what will hit the market over the next few years.
To that end, roughly a third of surveyed game developers (34 percent) think that augmented reality will become the dominant “immersive technology” platform over the next five years, beating out VR (19 percent). Another 20 percent of respondents said AR and VR will prove equally popular, and 17 percent thought that neither will be important (some 10 percent said they didn’t know).
Among those developers currently working on VR games, the HTC Vive proved the most popular platform (at 33 percent), outpacing Facebook’s Oculus Rift (30 percent) and Oculus Quest (21 percent), as well as Sony’s PlayStation VR (13 percent).
“That’s roughly the same as what last year’s respondents said, cementing the HTC Vive’s position as the most popular AR/VR platform among game makers,” read the survey. “When we asked which AR/ VR platform their next game would be released on, the largest share—28 percent—said the HTC Vive, followed by the Oculus Rift with 25 percent and 23 percent were undecided.” The survey’s VR-related data, the organization added, suggested “a gentle slide away from the Rift.”
This data might come as good news to a handful of tech companies, including Microsoft, which is devoting considerable resources to its HoloLens augmented-reality headset, and Apple, which supposedly has a similar device in development (there’s also the chance that Apple’s headset could deliver AR and VR). Google and other firms have also poured money and engineering talent into smartphone-based AR, resulting in a few breakouts (hello, Pokémon Go!) but any number of games and apps that sank without a trace. A future where people are generally obsessed with AR could lift all these firms’ fortunes.
For those developers interested in AR, many of these companies have already issued developer kits and documentation. For example, Apple has ARKit 2, Google has ARCore, and Microsoft has HoloLens tools and an emulator.
However, the survey makes it clear that the AR and VR market is still dwarfed by “traditional” gaming (i.e., on screens); the majority of game developers would do well to focus on the latter for the time being—all while keeping an eye on the future.