If you’re a game developer (or interested in becoming one), the question of which platforms to target is an all-important one. You’ll never get back the time and resources you burn on developing a game for a platform that’s rapidly dwindling in users, or fails to build a significant audience.
In light of that, it’s worth gauging which platforms interest game developers the most. GDC’s State of the Game Industry 2021, the latest version of its annual report, presents some intriguing data on that front. As you can see from the breakdown below, the usual big consoles (PC, PlayStation, Switch) and mobile platforms (iOS, Android) perk up developer interest—but there are also some up-and-coming platforms worth keeping an eye on:
For example, a not-insignificant percentage of game developers have expressed interest in AR and VR headsets as a gaming platform. For years, technologists have debated whether AR and VR will ever burst out of their current niche and into the mainstream. After the “Pokemon Go” AR game became a massive hit in the summer of 2016, many developers breezily predicted that AR would explode in popularity—but that never came to pass, with high-profile titles such as a “Walking Dead” AR game failing to find the same kind of obsessive audience.
If game developers are still interested in AR and VR, though, that suggests there’s still hope for these platforms. Although companies such as Magic Leap and Microsoft have focused on developing AR hardware for enterprise and military uses, Apple has supposedly been hard at work on some combination of an AR/VR platform that will no doubt be targeted at consumers. Meanwhile, there are hints that Facebook’s Oculus VR headsets continue to sell well (although exact numbers are hard to determine), and that’s very much a gaming-powered ecosystem.
In 2020, “Apple leaker” Jon Prosser predicted that the so-called “Apple Glass” headset will wirelessly tether to the user’s iPhone, relying on the latter’s processing power to deliver AR experiences. Prosser also suggested the headset’s frames will have a LIDAR scanner in the right temple, which will use laser light to detect the user’s environment. That could open up all kinds of possibilities for AR game development (imagine using real-life objects such as parked cars to dodge virtual shots, for example).
Whatever Apple releases, chances are good that games will play a big part in its software ecosystem (just as it did with the iPhone and iPad). Couple that with Facebook continuing to devote money and attention to Oculus, and chances are good that AR and VR will continue to present opportunities for gaming developers for quite some time to come. The big question is whether AR/VR headsets will someday become as big a market for games as, say, PCs and the major consoles—and that’s something we can’t quite answer yet.