The 6 Coolest Video Game Innovations in 2016 (That Aren’t VR Headsets)

We know, we know, virtual reality headsets like Oculus Rift and the plethora of others on the market are getting all of the attention right now. But that’s too bad, because 2016 is seeing some serious gaming innovation in other areas that could ultimately have far more impact on the industry. We’re talking about content convergence, consumer-friendly AR, new game development paradigms, and much more – so let’s give these inventions some well-deserved attention!

The 6 Coolest Video Game Innovations in 2016 (That Aren't VR Headsets)

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  1. TV and Gaming Hybrids

TV shows are TV shows, and gaming is gaming. If the two weren’t different, we wouldn’t be arguing over the TV screen every evening, right? But even now there’s work being done to combine the two mediums in interesting, evocative ways. You don’t have to look any farther than the long-promised, triple-A title Quantum Break for Xbox One: Sure, it’s technically a game, but it’s also comprised of very real TV-style and TV-length episodes. Both the game and the episodes alternate, working together to tell the story and influencing each other as they go. Expect to see more TV/game combinations in the future.

  1. Disney Playmation

Disney has been keeping surprisingly quiet about its AR efforts, but the most impressive thus far is Playmation. The goal is surprisingly simple. Kids get an accessory like an Ironman arm or a light saber: The toys connect with nearby Wi-Fi, use sensors, mobile devices, and cams, and set up the kids in their own Avengers or Star Wars (or Frozen, or Big Hero 6, etc.) mission in their own living room or yard. Lights, sounds, and haptic feedback will all help guide the mission while the real voices of the franchise will communicate with kids in something that’s half video game and half old-fashioned romp.

  1. Shooting Mechs in the Office

Okay, now for the grown-up version of Playmation: Companies are working on serious AR experiences that turn the world around you into a video game. Companies like Magic Leap have even put together videos about what it would be like to shoot steam punk robots attacking your office. It’s a mock-up and you can’t actually play anything like this yet, but it’s only a (short) matter of time before they start hitting shelves. AR gaming like this tends to be a bit more engaging and, hopefully, cheaper than VR tech, too!

  1. Games Responding to Player Ideas

Game development is evolving to take into account player feedback as early as possible. That’s why we’re seeing beta testing for almost every major game these days. However, some adventurous companies are going even further, which is why we have options like Game Preview, which allows players to download and play a title that’s still in development. Gamers may only get an hour or so to experience the game, in a world that’s only partly finished, but developers can still track their behavior and responses, and literally change the game before it’s released to meet player expectations more directly.

  1. HoloLens Brings Your Old Games to Life

Let’s talk about an AR project that’s a lot closer to reality – Microsoft’s HoloLens, which has demos available for playing Minecraft…in your living room. That’s right, one of Microsoft’s aims with HoloLens is tech that can transfer games such as Minecraft into the real world so that you can look at 3D versions of them, walk around the scene, examine it from all angles, and even interact with it. It promises to breathe new life into many old games by turning them into 3D, real-world experiences.

Sanford K Kratzer