Game for social revolution [DNA : Sunday]
(DNA : Sunday Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) "Aditya Krishnan, 16, is a wacky 11th grade science student at a Bangalore school. But right now, he has other, more 'killing' matters to worry about than physics, chemistry and math. A hard-core gamer, Aditya is working furiously at his PS3 console to save the world from near-certain doom. Veins jutting, fingers flying, his face frozen in taut concentration, the teenager appears to be in a trance as he fires a last-ditch counter-attack to beat a wave of deadly extra-terrestrial killers, knowing that on this one move of his, hangs the fate of an entire civilization. But as on countless previous occasions, Aditya's precision-guided weapons hit all their targets, the enemy is defeated, good triumphs over evil and we all live on to see another day...happy in the knowledge that gaming is not only alive but kicking up to new highs in 2013!
Far away from Aditya's home, Rakesh Singhvi is sitting still in a dark room, in front of his Dell Studio laptop in Gurgaon. It is 2 in the night and though he has slept over the past few days, sleep is the last thing on the geek's mind. You see, he is cracking through a series of complex codes in an all-consuming quest to develop an Android game that he believes would blow the world of social gaming out of its mind. Singhvi knows, as do hundreds of other developers like him, that beyond the community of hard-core enthusiasts like Aditya, a new market has opened up in the social space for gamers with comparatively lesser time but the same passion for pulse-pounding excitement.
Meanwhile, at the headquarters of its computer entertainment business in Tokyo, electronics giant Sony is preparing to launch the latest version of its iconic PlayStation gaming consoles that have already sold an estimated 38 crore units worldwide to date. Says avid gamer, founder and CEO of SpotMyGadget.com and technology blogger at forbesindia.com, Marco Angelo D'Souza, "While information about PlayStation 4 is still hazy, it appears that Sony is loading up for a big launch at Destination PlayStation (2013), an event it has slotted for the last week of February." The latest version of its industry leading consoles, which may "not even be called Playstation, could offer path-breaking features aimed at social gaming," says D'Souza.
Like Rakesh and many others developing games for a new generation of gamers, Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) and his 1500-strong team too realise that to go forward, 'social' would be the key. Like Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony's Worldwide Studios said recently, the gaming space is going through a virtual takeover by a generation of tech-toting youngsters who want the thrills of large disk-based console games to be compressed and delivered through high-speed networks to pocket-sized devices that they may power up for an instant fix of adrenaline in between chasing business targets.
Betting big on that theory, Sony re-invented its Hub as a full-blooded online social gaming platform called PlayStation Home in 2008. In just over four years, Home has a following of 19 million users. Says, Dean Takahashi in Gamesbeat, a website that tracks gaming trends: "The redesign was aimed at cashing in on online games: social games with free-to-play business models." For an idea of just how big social gaming is, bear in mind that as large as 19 million is, Home's user base forms only a small fraction of the gamers active at social networking and gaming sites.
Clearly, 2012 was a year of social gaming marked by blockbuster releases from developers like Zynga, Rovia, EA, Gameloft, SuperCell and Big Blue Bubble. "Whimsical and quirky yet inexplicably appealing, social games are highly addictive," says D'Souza. "While they are free to download, the progress of a game is controlled by limiting the pace at which players move through levels and it is at these points that in-app purchases of power-ups and in-game tokens have taken precedence."
Mobile gaming too is set to dominate with the expected arrival of powerful quad-core smartphones loaded with dedicated graphics and new versions of portable consoles like the Nintendo Wii U and the Sony PlayStation Vita. Quoting a Gartner report, D'Souza says "Many of the 821 million people who bought smartphones last year, may never have played a computer game previously, but have already experienced their first games on their devices." Developers will, therefore, no longer create games only for PC and consoles owners. "The market consists of every tablet and smartphone user."
It is clear from Apple's launches that every smartphone and tablet refresh in 2013 would bump up system-level capabilities, while holding the prices down to current levels. The upshot "It would enable us to connect with online users from anywhere. We would be able to pick up an in-progress game from a different device," ends D 'Souza.
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