Technology advances and pandemic- induced behavioral changes signal a “breakout year” for gaming in 2021, according to experts speaking at the CES 2021 Spotlight Session: “Gaming Trends & Tech.” Hosted by LG Electronics, the session featured experts from across the gaming ecosystem – from Dolby Laboratories, NVIDIA, Unity Technologies and Evil Geniuses – in a lively dialogue about technologies and experiences driving the exploding gaming market.
Moderated by LG senior vice president Dr. Nandhu Nandhakumar, who chairs the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Technology Council, the panel covered a range of issues from HDR and audio advances to low-latency technologies to AI-enabled gaming and more.
CTA research director Lesley Rohrbaugh set the stage, explaining the gaming landscape during the pandemic and beyond. “The gaming market saw record-setting increases in consumer spending during 2020 as households focused their attention on gaming as a means of entertainment and escape from current realities,” she said.
With 2020 essentially being a “stay-at-home” year as a result of the pandemic, households across the world played video games more than ever before, Rohrbaugh said, “Whether gaming on consoles, computers or mobile devices, or just for entertainment or a way to stay connected with family and friends, consumers have relied on video games to cope with current lifestyles.”
Many gamers are heavy technology users and buyers. “To engage in a fully immersive experience, gamers are turning to top-of-the-line TVs and computer monitors,” she said. “In fact, 77 per cent of gamers say the most important element of a video game console includes the graphics or video quality, driving hardware upgrades.”
Technology enhancements such as high dynamic range (HDR) are key to those hardware upgrades. Habib Zargarpour, head of film development at leading game engine developer Unity Technologies, called increased HDR integration “the next advancement in imagery for gaming … offering a new level of depth that brings realism that game engines strive for.”
Dolby Laboratories chief scientist Dr. Poppy Crum agreed, forecasting “amazing technology jumps that will help shape a more immersive experience for both game developers and players.” More games will support Dolby Vision (HDR) and Dolby Atmos (audio), also featured in LG OLED TVs. “These are important for improved situational awareness and player engagement,” she said.
“This is a breakout year for gaming with ecosystem issues being addressed,” said Tony Tamasi, vice president of technical marketing at NVIDIA, citing progress in standardisation and better connection between GPUs and displays. In particular, he highlighted the importance of “the highest frame rate and lowest latency with reduced tearing” delivered by NVIDIA G-Sync technologies and LG displays.
Nicole LaPointe Jameson, CEO of the pioneering iconic esports organisation, Evil Geniuses, said the best technology infrastructure is important to every esports team. “Enhanced audio is critically important to help players get a better perspective of competitors in a spatial sense,” she said. LG UltraGear is the official monitor of Evil Geniuses.
Panelists concurred that low latency technology on displays such as LG OLED and LG UltraGear is a key to competitive excellence.
“Near zero latency is very perceptible and a deciding factor in bringing competition to the highest level,” LaPointe Jameson said. “Top tier gamers look at latency as number one,” added Zargarpour. Referring to the new LG OLED 31.5-inch monitor unveiled at CES 2021, he said, “It’s exciting to see LG bring OLED to the desktop – the Holy Grail” for gaming.”
Rohrbaugh said CTA research has found that although most gamers play games by themselves, gaming has become a much more connected, social experience. More than 60 per cent of gamers now play games with or against others online, including 40 per cent with or against people they don’t know. “And in-game chat functions have also become quite popular as a result. Approximately three in four gamers surveyed say they expect games to be more social within the next five years,” she said.
CTA projects substantial growth across the digital gaming software and subscription categories to $47 billion in revenue this year in the U.S. alone, up 8 percent from 2020. The highly anticipated release of next-gen game consoles will continue to drive sales, as the supply chain catches up with consumer demand. And CTA finds that combined home and portable console shipments in the U.S. will reach 18 million units in 2021, up 3 per cent, earning $6 billion in revenue.