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11 Companies that May Build the Road to the Future

Author: Stephen M Morin
21-May-2018

Category: Opinion

If you are a longtime gamer, you certainly have questioned how video games will change, but have you ever wondered which companies will drive these changes? This article aims to shed some light on which teams will build the future of this industry.

11 Companies that May Build the Future
This article is the sixth chapter from our eBook The Future of Gaming, in which KeenGamer writers discuss how the game's industry will change. If you enjoy our work, please consider sending us a donation via PayPal on [email protected]. Every dollar will help us fund future projects. Feel free to download the full book in PDF. Or you can read the chapter of your choice in the list below:

Chapter 1: The Future of Video Game Distribution
Chapter 2: The Future of Virtual Reality Games
Chapter 3: The Future of Social Good Games
Chapter 4: The Future of Video Game Platforms
Chapter 5: The Future of eSports

1- Twitch: taking gaming to new social heights

Although games are meant to be played, something is oddly riveting about watching a friend play a game you love. Streaming wasn’t possible for a long time, and while YouTube provides plenty of let’s play videos and has spawned modern legends like Cinemassacre who has over 2.5 million subscribers, Twitch has become the largest website dedicated to streaming gameplay, having over 7 billion hours watched from April 2017 to the same month of 2018.

Justin Kan and Emmett Shear founded Twitch in 2011 and the site has since spawned stars such as Jaryd “Summit1g” Lazar, who has over 2 million followers and often streams for 8-10 hours a day. Twitch may seem as simple game streaming site; however, its strength lies in the social networking and interactive communities. The average Twitch user spends 106 minutes per day on the website. Players can chat with streamers and comment on what they are doing in-game. A good streamer will respond to spectators and host an interactive experience.

On top of that, Twitch creates a live community and allows members to participate and impact a group they care about. Gamers don’t always have time to sink hours into playing. Sometimes it’s easier to watch somebody else play or just relax and participate in a stream for a short time. There are also cases where Twitch users can share an experience and play a game together, as in Twitch Plays Pokémon. It’s a social media experience for gamers without the burden of allocating a lot of time or money into a game.

11 Companies that May Build the Future - KickStarter

2- kickstarter: crowdfunding a retro gold mine

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding site that started in 2009, in Brooklyn. Artists and developers can go straight to audiences for patronage and support; they just need to create a deadline and a minimum funding goal. Projects, ranging from music, stage shows, board games, to video games, have all been funded through Kickstarter.

Crowdfunding has become a more communal and democratic process for creating new games. It has brought us some of the most acclaimed titles of the decade; Shovel Knight, Darkest Dungeon, and Yooka Laylee were all funded and developed thanks to the site. It doesn’t just allow for great games to receive funding; it also gives to software designers a chance to buy old franchises outright and revive nostalgic favorites. This facilitates the creation of remakes and sequels, that wouldn’t normally surface. One example is the remake of cult-classic, System Shock, which has received over a million dollars and over 21,000 backers.

Kickstarter has been criticized for projects having long development times and not panning out in the end, such as with Project Phoenix, a title that promised to combine JRPG elements with more western-friendly RPGs and had over one million pledged to its success but ultimately collapsed after programmer David Clark was unable to join the project. Even with some failures, the success of many of its endeavors is undeniable and the idea of crowdfunding games was unfathomable a decade ago. Kickstarter has changed the gaming world, and it will continue to revolutionize the future by letting fans choose what series will see the light of day.

11 Companies that May Build the Future - Altspace VR

3- ALTSPACE VR: SOCIAL VR ON THE RISE

Altspace VR began in 2013 and created a virtual space that centered on an immersive, social experience, which transcended playing a game. Using VR headsets, they allowed users from over 160 countries to meet other people worldwide, attend events like yoga classes and dance parties, some even hosted by celebrities like Drew Carey and Reggie Watts, and utilize social media. The service was available on the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream.

Altspace VR didn’t force players to tediously create avatars and appearances. It focused on having users venture into the unknown and meet others. Events like the U.S. 2016 presidential election were broadcasted in VR and there were celebrity residencies, games, and tons of events for players to mingle and share their experiences. It was a bold service that pushed the social aspect of VR to the forefront. Unfortunately, they announced they would shut down services in August 2017, when funding fell through in the last minute.

Altspace VR may have hiccupped, but they were acquired by Microsoft in late 2017. This partnership could bring an improved service or fresh ideas altogether. The future of the company may be in question, but, it will be exciting to see what their next move will be. They have already been communicating with other 3rd party companies to discuss a sustainable future: After all, sometimes it’s through initial failures that success arrives.

11 Companies that May Build the Future - Opaque Media Group

4- opaque media group: games train future astronauts

Opaque Media Group is a Melbourne-based game developer that became famous for its VR project, Earthlight, and the recognition it received from NASA. They purchased the first VR dev kits in Australia and have been in the forefront of new VR technology and its possibilities for the last few years.

Earthlight is a simulation of life on a space station played with a VR headset. It is a staggeringly accurate representation of life in orbit. NASA uses the game alongside tracking technology, 3D printing, and a crane-like robot that simulates low-gravity to prepare astronauts for space. It shocked developer Emre Deniz when NASA had interest in Earthlight, as the company originally made it for entertainment purposes.

VR may have hurdles to cross and it remains on the pricier side of the gaming spectrum, requiring a desktop with $999 being the minimum price for a VR compatible PC, not to mention the purchase of the headset itself. The Oculus Rift, one of the most popular VR headsets, runs for $450 dollars on top of the PC price. However, Opaque Media Group has proven that VR games can transcend simple entertainment and be used on a larger scale and for societal advances. Earthlight found serendipitous success, but it will be neat to see this company offer gamers the chance to experience space, as well as use video games to train the next generation of astronauts.

11 Companies that May Build the Future - Supercell

5- supercell: Converting Non-Gamers Through Mobile

Mobile games have often seemed like a watered down, vapid sibling to console or PC games, but in 2018, the mobile market is generating a lot of revenue and attracting new users, many of whom were never gamers. Mobile game revenues are expected to grow from $29 billion in 2015 to $45 billion in 2018. Supercell, a Finnish company founded in 2010 has created Clash of Clans and Clash Royale.

The former is a highly successful MOBA game, with over 100 million users, where players attack each other to gain resources and build a town. Clash Royale used elements from Clash of Clan, such as the ability to join clans and win or lose trophies in battle, but it added the tower defense mechanics, as well as other new gameplay features, to not sabotage the sales of its previous titles.

The company unveiled Brawl Stars in 2017. It is an action-oriented card combat game which had a soft release in Canada, in June 2017, but still doesn’t have a global release date and is under testing. It could return the company to their previous sales numbers. In 2016, Supercell was the second biggest mobile developer based on total revenue, but Supercell saw a 20.5% drop in 2017 core profit.   All their games have received critical praise and, at one point, they had over 100 million active players a day. Whether you have subscribed to mobile gaming or not, Supercell has proven that this market is viable and that it can generate quality games.

Their experiences link players worldwide and offer an immersive and competitive game in the palm of your hands. If Brawl Stars’ success is anywhere near Supercell’s previous games, they will remain one of the kings and pioneers of mobile gaming in both the present and future, as well as convert many non-gamers onto the hobby.

11 Companies that May Build the Future - Mojang

6- mojang: freedom and education are too much fun

This company created Minecraft, one of the trendiest and most groundbreaking video games of the last decade. Since its original release in 2011, Minecraft has exploded in sales, selling 144 million units as of January 2018. It also had many expansions and become a cultural phenomenon worldwide. Many modern games have been accused of being too similar; by contrast, Minecraft lets players decide what to do for themselves. There are no real parameters, and it’s up to the community to test the waters and experiment with the virtual world.

Part of the reason Mojang is crucial to modern gaming and the future of the industry is Minecraft: Education Edition and Code Builder. They are educational tools to train kids to program and create code, while enjoying the process. Minecraft, in some respects, has been an investment in future generations.
Minecraft Education Edition and Minecraft Code Builder will encourage the next crop of software engineers and game developers.

Some schools have adopted the use of Minecraft as a learning tool, such as Haslingfield School in Cambridgeshire, who used it to teach history. Scientific American even endorsed the game, saying that gaming could play a pivotal role in the future of education. It was teachers who modded the original game and came up with the Education Edition in the first place. Mincecraft is still popular in 2018, having hit 75 million users as of January 2018. You may very well have the next generation of coders crediting Minecraft when they look at their gaming origins and reasons for success.

11 Companies that May Build the Future - SuperGiant

7- supergiant games: what's old is new again

SuperGiant Games began in San Francisco, USA, in 2009. They are one of the many major indie developers to come from the bay area, but they are arguably the most acclaimed of the lot. They have released three games to date, Bastion, Transistor, and, most recently, Pyre. Bastion was hugely successful, being one of the pivotal releases for the Xbox 360 Live Arcade program in 2011, while Transistor has been hailed as one of the best PlayStation 4 games on multiple game lists including IGN. All three of their games have been well-received and have Metacritic ratings above 80.

They feature prominent narration, RPG gameplay, and strong art and music direction. Even with linking traits, their games have vastly different mechanics that change the battle system and the way you play. Bastion has many unique weapons and the player can choose which to upgrade and bring in combat, while Transistor features combat mechanics that allow you to allocate desired skills and pause the action to plan out moves, giving the battles more strategy than a typical action RPG. Pyre on the other hand expands on player freedom, with choices that affect characters and plot, and a combat system that used fast pace and three combatants.

SuperGiant Games has a small team of 10 people and are living proof that a tiny studio can sell millions of copies of a game. Bastion sold more than 2.5 million virtual copies and was also nominated for numerous game awards, winning the Downloadable Game of the Year Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. This talented group has taken the time to craft three of the best indie games of the decade. There is no reason to believe they won’t continue their success.

11 Companies that May Build the Future - Affectiva

8- affectiva: smarter games with ei

Affectiva originated in an MIT lab in 2009 and focuses on developing “emotionware”. They have invented a software that can read users` facial expressions and add emotional intelligence (EI) to the world of gaming, something severely lacking in the past. A game titled Nevermind was the first to employ the technology. It was a psychological-horror game that got more difficult as the player became more stressed.

Amazingly, the software can detect the difference between a smile, smirk, and a frown. Affectivia has created a plug-in that will be added to Unity, a game development platform used by over 4.5 developers, and allows video games to analyze a player’s face through a webcam. In the future, other games will be using this technology; players may be able to interact with NPCs—a guard charmed by a smile-- by using facial expressions or may have an avatar which will reflect the player’s emotion in real life.

Affectiva also stated in a blog post that the application can supply data user analytics, such as pre-purchase sensations or emotional conditions before quitting a game, as well as offer aggregate player responses at critical points in a game. Whether or not this technology excites or frightens you, this company has made a giant leap forward by granting games the capability of interacting with human emotions. There is enormous potential here that will hopefully allow machines and humans to better co-exist and offer more intelligent game design.
11 Companies that May Build the Future - Annapurna

9- ANNAPURNA INTERACTIVE: cinematography and games

Annapurna Pictures announced that it would be entering the world of gaming in December of 2016. They started with a bang, by assisting Giant Sparrow with the completion of What Remains of Edith Finch, an artsy and inventive tale of a lady returning to her childhood home. The game featured 30 different control schemes, with no tutorials, leaving it to the player to experience the game’s many characters instinctively. Gorogoa, their hand-drawn puzzle narrative, was another smash hit that combined great storytelling and interactive puzzle pieces. 2017 was a solid year for the young company, and 2018 is looking strong with games like Wattam (PS4) and Donut County, a game compared to the Katamari Demacy. 

Annapurna Games comes from a successful film company, Annapurna Pictures, known for high grossing films such as Zero Dark Thirty, Sausage Party, and American Hustle. Their young games studio wants to challenge the differences and create a marriage between film and games. They now have a few titles under their belt, and they revolve around themes such as death, first love, and other aspects of life we can all relate to. Games can be artistic; they can enrich and embody our real-life experiences and Annapurna Games sets out to make unique games that hit different facets of our beings in evocative ways.

11 Companies that May Build the Future - Mountains

10- mOUNTAINS: CRAFT GAMES

Ken Wong founded Mountains Game Studio in Australia in 2016. He was famous for his game, Monument Valley, with ustwo games. He is also outspoken about the future of art in video games and game design. So far, the studio has released only one game, Florence, for Apple devices in 2017.  It is a game about a girl falling in love for the first time and the highs and lows that come with it. The game has interactive mini-games, which Wong labeled as participatory poetry. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a huge influence, and it’s a premium release for the iPhone in a day and age where free to play games are king. Despite this being a fantastic and unique first release, it’s the small staff of four and their backgrounds that leave Mountains exploding with potential.

Kamina Vincent is mentoring students about game production as well as having won the Creative Inspiration Award at MVC Pacific Woman in Games. Sam Crisp was the programmer and designer of Movement Study 1an artsy simulation of youth in Melbourne. Tony Cocoluzzi is both a professor and game designer from Canada. He is probably best known for being the lead developer for the indie-hit, Cuphead, a charming yet challenging platformer that looked like a 1930s cartoon. Cuphead was considered one of the best games of 2017 on many lists including IGN and Business Insider.

It’s not 100% clear what platform they will develop for or what kind of games they will make, but the creativity and talent in this tiny company could deliver craft-game shockwaves the size of AAA titles for years to come.

11 Companies that May Build the Future - FiolaSoft

11- FIOLASOFT STUDIO: 

Fiolasoft started in 2002, in the Czech Republic. Though they released freeware games and other software, it wasn’t until 2015, with their first global release of Blackhole, a sci-fi-comedy puzzle game, that they were put on the map. Since then, Blackhole has received several expansions and Fiolasoft is working on some other unannounced projects.

Blackhole was communal in that the developers reached out to up and coming Let's Players and Youtubers to create the script, story, and voice act. The voice of Captain Selassie—voiced by YouTuber menameselassie (in Czech). He has over 500,000 YouTube subscribers and loves to play platforming games. If that wasn’t enough Blackhole shows us that arcade gameplay, a strong story, and an elaborate world can co-exist. It’s fun, has crippling difficulty at times, and most importantly, it meshes a lot of ideas, which are seemingly incompatible, and makes an amazing experience that is familiar but original.

Fiolasoft don’t only make video games. They partake in an array of different projects ranging from developing games/apps, video production, voice overs, and web design etc. They’re a small team with diverse skillsets and an innate ability to reach out to key members of the community and are well poised to make some interesting games in the future.

Fiolasoft come from a country that has given us many great games, and they are extremely communal, as well as ready to show off their talent to the rest of the world. A sequel to Blackhole and other games could be on the horizon, and, who knows what gaming community members may get to play a role in the process of making one of their games a future masterpiece.

insights from inside

Lucas-Louis Thibault is the founder of Dreamz Studioa French game developer from Paris. They’ve created two games to date: The first is Crazy Dreamz: Magicats Edition (below)a free 2D platformer on Steam, iOS, and Android. The game centers on letting players from around the world make their own levels with a fun and easy to use map building software.

11 Companies that May Build the Future - Crazy DreamZ
The company chose the best one hundred levels its second game, Magicats: Best Of, currently only available on Steam. The title was crowd-developed—a new concept in the world of gaming--, and level designers were offered 50% of the game’s revenue. On top of that, players can choose to tip level-designers for any maps they enjoy.

The concept of a crowd-developed game and such an altruistic and artistic endeavor got the attention of KeenGamer. It’s still too new to call crowd-developed games or MagiCats a trend, but this small studio certainly has a lot of potential and has captured our hearts.

How did the idea to make a crowd-developed game surface? Were there any special difficulties such as getting level designers on board or making a cohesive game? 
“We have two games for now: Crazy Dreamz: MagiCats Edition and Crazy Dreamz: Best Of. Since MagiCats Edition launched in the Steam Early Access program in September; the game's enthusiastic community has crafted more than 20,000 levels. When we saw how impressive some of the community levels were, we wanted to find a way to thank people for their hard work. We chose a method that worked for us: by creating a new game! Talented players from all over the world worked together with our studio to create a crowd-developed game. It’s not easy to communicate with players from all over the world. There were problems with languages, time zones and even different cultures. We used every channel including phone calls, emails, and chatting on Steam or Discord to make it happen! The key point is that we need to make people trust that we are doing something meaningful and helpful!”
How did the level creators react about having their levels put into Crazy Dreamz: Best Of
“We made Crazy Dreamz: Best Of a “Fair Game”, which means the level creators share 50% of its revenue. With this concept in mind, they are very happy to receive concrete financial rewards for their creativity and hard work. When the community got the news, they became more motivated to create amazing levels. A lot of our players were surprised about what we planned to do, but all of them were very happy about this project. It’s crazy to think that our youngest creator is a 10 year old girl who used her mother’s account. Informed by the news of being selected, her mother let us talk with her daughter directly on the phone and gave her encouragement. It’s very heartwarming.”
Crazy Dreamz: Best Of has levels improved based on feedback. How are levels improved and who does it, you guys or the level designers?
“For most levels, we didn’t change much, just added some decorations in order to keep the originality and added some checkpoints to make levels easier. We only improve the levels to make sure they are not too hard or too easy. This task is taken care of by our professional level designers.  
Will MagiCats be a franchise, or will you guys make future games based on new concepts? 
“We are all fans of cats, so MagiCats will definitely become a franchise. It’s only the beginning, and we're improving the MagiCats world every day.”
Will you consider making more crowd-developed games in the future?
“Yes. Crazy Dreamz: Best Of is our first step. With more players’ creations in MagiCats Edition and gaining maturity and experience in the process of making our first crowd-developed game, we will be able to produce similar games and offer a brand new gaming experience. The number one strength of the game and what people love is the diversity of the levels, so, we plan to improve and expand the building options to make the levels even crazier.”
Do you believe crowd-developed games could play a big role in the future of gaming?
“Definitely. We're now entering an era where video games with user-generated content are not just a way to extend games' lives anymore. Crowd-developed games will be a big trend in the future to offer more possibility and diversity. Instead of just companies or professionals, thousands of players can create and develop the game they want and think others will like! We’ll see how far peoples’ creativity can fly!”
What was the inspiration behind MagiCats? I noticed elements from famous franchises like Sonic and Donkey Kong Country, but MagiCats had a unique touch and a healthy blend of puzzles, combat, and exploration. 
“In the gameplay area, the inspiration behind Magicats came from Mario and Rayman.   Graphically, it's more Rayman, Wonder boy, Donkey Kong, and Dofus. However, the MagiCats world is different because players have created its unique universe.”
Do you already have any plans for any future games/projects?
“Crazy Dreamz: MagiCats Edition will never be finished. We would like to keep the possibility of limitless creation for our players and concoct the easiest-to-use game-maker in the future! To make this dream come true, we keep polishing the game every day and never stop thinking about new features, new content, and other improvements. We even have a box in the office for collecting new ideas and check it every week. Furthermore, the idea of building other different “Best Of” MagiCat games never stops. More new creations, new features, new skins…so many new things are on the way. One more important thing is that our players can see their new ideas spring to stardom directly in MagiCats Edition. If the level is cool enough, it will be selected in our next “Best Of” game!”
What do you envision for the future of gaming and indie gaming. Is there anything that worries or excites you about the rapidly changing industry? 
“Currently, we are seeing more and more games coming out every day. It’s getting very easy to create your own game, even alone. Some people think it’s bad since good games are now hidden in “thousands of crap” titles. Personally, we think it’s the best thing that could ever happen. People have awesome talents and we are trying to give them the easiest-to-use tools to let them build their own stuff.” 
This article is the sixth chapter from our eBook "The Future of Gaming," in which KeenGamer writers discuss how the game's industry will change. Feel free to download the full book in PDF.



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