There is no doubt that gaming has grown to become a global phenomenon that is not only shaping our youth but is affecting society as a whole. In 2019, revenues in the online games sector hit a mark of $16.9 billion, with projections claiming that this figure will come close to $19 billion in 2020.
The ability to play games online spans multiple genres, including massive multiplayer role-playing games, first-person shooters, strategy games, and even live casino classics. The latter is a trend launched in 2003 by UK giant Playtech. It lets players enjoy table action, going up against a croupier, via an HD feed from a casino-like studio. Sites like www.livecasinoreports.com list the best platforms that offer these types of tables. Online gambling games became a thing in 1994, immediately after the public launch of the internet, but the roots of online gaming date further back to the 1970s and packet-based computers.
The Beginnings of Modern Online Gaming
The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET for short, was a network that was the forerunner of the internet and laid the foundation for the invention that changed everyone’s life. Conceived as an arm of America’s Defense Department, its initial goal was to connect computers at government research institutions over telephone lines. In 1971, it had 23 university and government hosts, and by 1981, this number grew to 213.
MUD, or Multi-User Dungeon, is a text-based game inspired by similar predecessors such as Zork and Colossal Cave Adventure. It is a title responsible for the creation of the genre that bears its name. MUD games are usually text-based RPGs that let players converse via chat rooms. Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle developed the original MUD game in 1978 at the University of Essex. In 1980, the University decided to connect its internal network to the ARPANET, thus making MUD1 the first online multiplayer game.
It took five more years before a company released the first commercial multiplayer title. Island of Kesami became available in 1985 by the Kesmai Corporation. Also a MUD game, but one that stood out from the original due to its roguelike pseudo-graphics. Many believe that Island of Kesami is the mother of modern-day MMORPGs.
Before the 1990s rolled around, other notable online titles that came out included Air Warrior in 1987, a combat flight simulator also by Kesami, and a variation of the Chinese abstract board game – GO, released that same year.
The Birth of the Internet and 1990s Gaming
At the tail end of the 1980s, companies were selling dial-up internet access on a questionable basis. In 1992, the practice became approved, and a Massachusetts company called – The World became the first commercial internet service provider.
Before 1993, Internet infrastructure was private, and the lack of security made investors timid. It wasn’t until the release of Netscape Navigator and HTTPS protocols in 1994 that things took off.
In the beginning, the most popular titles were multiplayer role-playing games and first-person shooters. Notable releases from this era include Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds and an update to ID Software’s legendary Quake.
The update featured UDP support, which allowed players to achieve improved responsiveness through their dial-up modems. It was called QuakeWorld, and IGN often cites it as the first popular online FPS. However, at first, lag times were a massive issue. It was so until broadband connections, such as DSL and cable, became more affordable and accessible.
As the decade ended, strategy titles entered the multiplayer mix, and Starcraft gained popularity as the genre’s premium online representative. Half-Life proved to be a game-changer, and some may argue that its mod, Counter-Strike, has had more of an impact than the original game.
The 2000s and the Rise of Console Gaming
Sony and Microsoft did not invent home video game consoles, no matter what youngsters may think today. Magnavox manufactured and released the first one in North America in 1972, Odyssey. However, it wasn’t until 1996, and Apple Pippin, that the first home console with a built-in internet connection came into existence.
Naturally, due to the limits of 1990s technology and the then available internet speeds, the Apple Pippin did not make waves. Four years later, Sony’s PlayStation 2 came out, and in 2001, Microsoft released the Xbox, as online console gaming took off.
On the PC side of things, massive role-playing games such as World of Warcraft became universes in of themselves and developed a sub-culture, complete with slang and social rules and taboos. Other developers tried to compete by releasing games of comparable quality but failed to make a similar impact.
The Future of Online Gaming
With the release of PlayStation 5, it’s becoming growingly more obvious that VR will represent an essential component of interactive entertainment. Though the technology has been around for a few years, the list of games designed for it is not long. Sony has announced plans to release a more advanced version of PlayStation VR once the PS5 has attained a sizeable user base.
Rumors are floating around that Virtual reality is coming to Xbox Series X and S, as fans have notice wording in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator code that implies a VR option. The company is teasing a console release of the game. So, a VR set may be in the cards.
Cloud gaming is also a hot trend. The ability to play games utilizing high-end graphics, without the need to purchase expensive hardware or bother with strenuous updates. The software runs from a remote data center, and players basically can stream the game on their PC, TV, or mobile device. It allows those on a budget to play in 4K, and analyst suggests that the use of such services will see massive growth in the coming years.
It’s reasonable to assume that single-player games may indeed be a thing of the past. Year after year, surveys show that players crave interaction. They do not want to only compete against others using generic avatars. They want titles to incorporate social aspects and foster a sense of communion.