From Google’s Stadia to AR development software, these were our favorite mobile gaming headlines from GDC 2019.
GDC 2019 recently drew to a close, but there have been no shortage of fascinating insights this year. More importantly, we’ve seen plenty of major mobile gaming announcements. Here are a few groundbreaking stories we watched unfold from the GDC show floor:
From OnLive to Sony, many gaming companies experimented with video game streaming services over the past decade. The vast majority of projects quietly dropped off the map or reduced their scope to gaming classics. Yet earlier this week, Google announced plans to launch a Netflix-styled game streaming platform called Stadia that might succeed where competitors have failed — while offering the latest Triple A titles.
Stadia operates by letting customers stream gameplay directly from Google servers, enabling them to play brand-new games without purchasing expensive hardware. While details are light, Google confirmed Stadia will support high-performance footage and a WiFi-enabled controller that reduces latency. As a streaming platform, Stadia should also function across any online device including smartphones and tablets.
While industry insiders are concerned about Stadia’s vague business model and whether modern internet infrastructures can support it, Google does have the resources to make Stadia functional as part of a long-term business strategy — especially if its 7,500 new gaming servers function as advertised. The service is expected to launch in North America and Europe in 2019.
Epic Games is already a gaming superstar thanks to the massively successful Battle Royale-based Fortnite, but it’s not resting on its laurels. The publisher has now teamed up with Chinese developer Loong Entertainment to co-develop Project:SU, a mobile title promising to offer Triple-A gaming performance.
What’s interesting about this announcement isn’t Project:SU itself — although the game does look promising. It’s that Epic has integrated itself into every market across the international gaming industry. The Epic Games Store is already competing with PC giant Steam in terms of popular exclusives, while Fortnite is currently available on every successful mobile platform. By partnering with a Chinese studio to gain international reach, Epic might just be cementing its role as an industry leader. Project:SU launches later this year.
In North America, Call of Duty is widely recognized as a console gaming mega-franchise with an annual release schedule. In China however, Tencent has translated the concept for mobile devices. Now Activision and Tencent have confirmed that Call of Duty: Mobile will finally gain an international free-to-play launch.
Call of Duty: Mobile combines the maps, gameplay modes, and characters of the popular Modern Warfare and Black Ops storylines into a single multiplayer title. While Call of Duty’s console reach has slowly declined in recent years, a mobile launch could revitalize it while bringing in new audiences. If successful, that could prompt other Triple A franchises to follow suit, much like Blizzard has planned for Diablo Immortal.
Unity is among the most popular video game engines in the world, powering everything from casual mobile releases to performance-heavy PC titles. On the mobile front, Unity has now confirmed it’s investing heavily in AR tech similar to that which powers Pokemon Go or The Walking Dead: Our World.
The success of Pokemon Go alone was enough to make mobile studios excited for the format. But Unity’s universal nature means developers large and small with have robust AR tools at their disposal when this technology launches. It also ensures that more fascinating AR launches and experiments will become widely available to anyone with a smartphone in the near future.
Whatever mobile games you enjoy, it’s increasingly clear that 2019 will be a good year for the industry. Here’s to seeing what arrives next at GDC 2020!
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