This article is about the future of game development, how it relates to the future of the internet — and what I’m doing to help.
Along the way I’ll share some thoughts on my company, Beamable, and how it relates to the broad topics I cover in my Building the Metaverse blog.
The Internet so Far
For the last couple decades, the World Wide Web has enabled people to access information, connect with each other via social media and shop online. It has been an amazing transformation that I’ve been a part of. One of my earliest contributions was when I saw that it was far too technical to create website content — high-paid IT people were being asked to reenter things like press releases into HTML documents — what I called “the world’s most expensive typing pool.” So I created a company called Eprise to build a content management system. We took the company public. It was an amazing learning experience.
Today, it’s easy to create this content. If you want a website, you can go Wix or Squarespace, or you can launch a blog or wiki. If you want to be an online merchant, you can work with Amazon or set up your own storefront with Shopify. If you need to build more sophisticated data-driven websites, then application servers like Ruby on Rails offer MVC architectures that supply a great deal of the scaffolding. A growing industry of no-code and low-code development tools have opened up this world to even more people.
Games and GameTech so Far
Games have undergone their own parallel revolution. Today it is a $200B, growing industry with billions of consumers. It is the most important media category of our time.
Technologically, the biggest advancements have been made with the 3D rendering layer. There used to be a day when game developers built their own, and needed to be familiar with GPUs, matrix math and lower-level graphics APIs like OpenGL or DirectX. The workflow associated with designing an asset, importing it to the worldspace, and building game functionality around it was laborious. Fortunately, Unity and Unreal solved this problem.
Major Trends in Game Development
But games today are no longer about delivering the 3D graphics or a great single-player experience. Several key trends include:
- Solo to social. Most games with large audiences are now online, connected experiences. They have vibrant communities that straddle in-game experiences to the online experience beyond (streaming, guilds, esports, Discord, memes, modding, etc.). They have rich social ecosystems. Game developers need to nurture these communities with the right combination of in-game social connection and extra-game community-building. These are what I call “live games.”
- Monetizing games, to monetizing economies. Within the next few years, the game industry will derive 95% of its revenue from virtual goods. This will increasingly include not only complex in-game economies, but market-based systems that transcend the game itself (such as economies enabled by NFTs) that span in-game and outside-game; and numerous monetizable touchpoints across the entire community.
- Team composition is changing. Unity recently noted that team composition is trending from a past where the number of artistic to technical team-member was 1:1 — to a future where it will be more like 5:1. This makes sense, because live games are driven by content, including the frequent content updates that happen after they’ve shipped.
Currently, if you want to create a game that fits the market we’re in you can:
- Build it yourself. But that’s overwhelming expensive, and a permanent drain on productivity.
- Use a backend-as-a-service platform. But that tends to shift a lot of the work to an integration project with its own set of complex devops issues.
- Use a walled-garden “metaverse” environment like Roblox. These products have done an amazing job of making it easy to build games for today’s market, but they also have large take-rates and you’ll have a ton of creative constraints.
Why We Started Beamable
Beamable set out to solve this set of interconnected problems. It means supporting game developers with the live services that enable modern games: social games, games with communities, and games with economies. Not unlike the content management problems I worked on for the web, it needs to be treated as both a hard workflow problem — along with the ability to easily bring this functionality into your product.
We want to enable smaller, more agile teams to dream big.
We want to give game-makers the ability to make games as easily as you can in something like Roblox, but with the freedom to control your own destiny.
We want to make the world adapt to how you work as a game maker, rather than invest in unnecessary technical work.
That’s Beamable. We fight for the game maker.
Towards the Metaverse
Back to the original question: what’s this have to do with the metaverse?
The metaverse is the next generation of the Internet: one defined by real-time, immersive activity and an exponential rise in creators. Major applications of this era will be built upon the technologies and techniques born out of game development.
Those who have been involved in games have known that games have always been a main driver of computer technology. Now, games will be fundamental to the very fabric of the internet — and perhaps even the future of civilization.
- If you want to learn more about the metaverse, a good place to begin is this overview of the market on my blog.
- If you’d like to understand how the metaverse is going to create a whole new range of applications influenced by game development, then read (and watch the video) in The Metaverse is Real Gamification.
- If you’re a game developer who wants to build a live game, I’d love to invite you to learn more about Beamable.