TECH TALK: Gaming: The Next Big Thing?

Technology never ceases to amaze. If we look back at the last 10 years, India too has been touched by the revolution brought about by technology. The five key drivers for this change have been the Computer, Software, Internet, Cellphones and Cable TV. Internationally, too, technology has played a key role as organizations, individuals and countries become more productive. The last decade has seen companies like Yahoo, AOL, eBay and Amazon capture the imagination of millions.

Another interesting revolution is brewing in the field of interactive entertainment. All of us have at some point of time played Solitaire or Minesweeper – computer gaming in its simplest form. As computing power on the desktop increases and connectivity to the Internet becomes better and faster (through wireless, broadband and devices), Gaming has the potential to be the next killer app.

No less a company than Microsoft is targeting the gaming space with the release of its Xbox console later this year – Merill Lynch projects that Microsoft may lose USD 2 billion before break-even in 2005. Already, the gaming industry in the US is bigger than Hollywood. So far, it has been restricted to a small fraction of the market. But this is likely to change going ahead with a new set of games which raise the bar dramatically.

Take, for example, Majestic, the new online game being launched by Electronic Games. Writes Glenn McDonald:

Part interactive X-Files, part Internet scavenger hunt, Majestic is an ambitious new subscription-based online game from industry heavyweight Electronic Arts. Breaking the boundaries of traditional computer games, Majestic interacts with players by e-mail, instant messaging, fax and phone calls. Majestic’s slogan: It Plays You.

“The interesting thing about the game is the different techniques we use to communicate the suspense,” says Majestic’s director of technology, Rich Moore. “We allow players to determine the degree of interactivity they want. If, for example, you think frantic phone calls might spook your roommate or spouse, you can turn that option off.” But for the full effect, Moore says players should opt for the fully interactive version. The phone calls, faxes, e-mails and so forth are all generated and triggered automatically as the player advances in the game. What’s more, Majestic is a true real-time experience. If a character says he will e-mail you tomorrow, he will literally e-mail you tomorrow.

Majestic also has the ability to learn about a player and customize later story elements with that information, Moore says. A key component is a natural-language artificial-intelligence interpreter that reads a player’s e-mails and instant messaging.

Technology and networking are changing the world of video games. This also opens up opportunities for Indian companies – while gaming is another example of “software”, it also requires a lot of creativity. Combined with Indian talents in movie-making, Indian Gaming Factories may not be a distant dream.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.