Ignasi Prat, CMO at Tappx
The next generation of mobile networks is almost upon us. World leading technology companies like Verizon, Samsung, Nokia and Huawei are all developing cutting edge 5G technologies that are set to transform the mobile gaming landscape. 5G networks are expected to start rolling out in 2020, with data download speeds predicted to be 100 times faster than current 4G speeds and much improved overall signal quality. All in all this will amount to a quantum leap in performance for gaming and mobile marketers.
This new performance and connectivity will drive global changes in the content distribution model, with more immersive experiences, in-game features and fresh mobile ad formats, that in our view will engage much more and outperform current performance metrics.
Faster downloads and more connections per square kilometer are important, but there are two other improvements that 5G will bring that matter a lot to gamers. Gamers will experience much lower latency, enabling them to take part in fast-paced games over mobile networks, rather than relying on fixed connections or strong WiFi. Additionally, the positional accuracy of devices will enable new ways for gamers to come together and play; augmented reality will surely make great use of this advancement.
It may seem odd to say, but 5G will also disrupt mobile gaming industry standards. The improvements we have outlined will be clearly visible for regular gamers, but the real impact is going to have much deeper consequences. For example, mobile network carriers will strengthen their current supply chain activities by leveraging new services, and advertisers will discover new formats to gain increased exposure, and game publishers will optimize available ad placements, without harassing gamers.
5G will power superior gaming experiences
So how will 5G really make a difference to the end user gaming experience in a practical way? Let’s look at each of the benefits I outlined above in more detail:
Higher download speed enables superior on-demand mobile gaming
5G technology will dramatically accelerate the transfer of data compared to all other wireless systems. In practice this will larger, and more, data packets delivered to your mobile per second. As reported by the International Telecommunications Union, 5G will deliver data at a staggering rate of 10 gigabytes per second, compared to the previous generation maximum limitation of one gigabyte per second. This quantum leap in improvement will empower transferring data-intensive digital content on-demand, so video games can be rendered and streamed straight from the cloud, offloading expensive CPU computations within the mobile device, whilst developing subscription-based monetization models.
Enhanced reactions driven by ‘zero’ latency
Another key benefit is a reduction in latency, i.e. the time elapsed between the dispatch and reception of the data. 5G is expected to drop the current latency we experience on 4G (around 50 milliseconds) to less than six milliseconds. That is down to the level of human reflexes, meaning that factors outside player skill will no longer impact gameplay.
Numerous connections per square meter
5G is designed to offer extremely high network availability and reliability, which also means an increased number of connections that can be managed. One way this might be utilized in the next general of games is to combine eSports and interaction with real pro sports events at venues, which would deliver a staggering user experience.
Better accuracy in positioning
One of the most exciting trends in the AR environment has been the advent of position and location-based games. The new geolocation capabilities of fifth-generation networks will not only improve the accuracy of these games, but extend the functionality to work indoors and in crowded urban environments. While 4G accuracy oscillated between 10 meters and 500 meters, the new generation will provide the localization with one meter accuracy in most devices. This giant improvement will make developers reconsider the usage, location-based technologies, as many have avoided GPS due to its well documented ability to drain a battery in no time. Mobile AR gaming sessions will be able to be longer, more accurate and immersive.
Immersive in-game experience
A recent study shows that poor network performance is particularly stressful for VR gaming compared to PC devices. As a consequence of its unprecedented network speed and low-lag, after decades of development, it’s going to be possible to successfully make virtual reality and augmented reality games. We will see enriched games with 3D video, tactile experiences in virtual environments and real-time interaction through tactile Internet.
More profitable business
Perhaps not so obvious are the benefits in terms of machine learning from the enhanced positioning capabilities and the explosion of IoT expected in the 5G rollout. Network visibility solutions will aid carriers to monitor large amounts of situational information from sources at scale and also to access first party audience data points like nobody else could. This data, when available, will enable advertisers and publishers reach better matches in the programmatic auction.
Beyond the in-game experience, the rollout will have direct implications in the attention economy. Ads will load faster, advertisers will embrace richer video (HD) and new interactive formats (VR, AR, 360-degree and playables) in order to craft more appealing ads. On the other side, publishers should adapt to the increase of the complexity in the revenue models, getting in return improvements on current key engagement metrics (click-through rates, viewability, video completion) that at the end unsurprisingly will result in achieving higher eCPM rates.
Warming up the engines
As we have seen, 5G is meant to literally be game-changing technology. Although it is expected to rollout globally during 2020, investment and regulatory requirements will probably come to fruition in every country at different adoption speeds in the following years. For instance, Germany aspires to have completed their 5G connectivity plan by 2025.
5G is close at hand and after looking at the direct impact, there is no doubt that the mass adoption of it will ensure a huge step forward in the diverse mosaic of games genres: shooting, sports, card games, RPG and others.
Is it timely for game developers to start thinking in terms of 5G? The benefits outlined above cannot be ignored, but how and when will be the right time to release games and advertising models that can take advantage of 5G is yet to be seen. The first compatible devices are projected to appear in 2019. However, every game developer will need to take a long close look at their environment, roadmap and demographic to decide whether and when to cross the chasm.