Event round-up - Industries of the Future: Gaming
The Industries of the Future series explores how emerging and enabling technologies are transforming key industries around the world, assessing the challenges and opportunities for UK businesses, and considering what more we can do to accelerate digital transformation so that innovation is applied to the real economy in ways that change lives.
On 10 January 2024, techUK hosted the latest webinar in our Industries of the Future series. The webinar explored the gaming industry of tomorrow and asked what steps businesses can take to lead in the development, commercialisation, application and adoption of the key emerging technologies that will underpin it.
The panel included:
Verity Egerton-Doyle - Partner and Global Co-Head of Gaming, Linklaters LLP
Christopher Weavill - Chief Executive & Co-Founder, Hertzian
- Harry Welsh - Esports Graduate and Consultant
The session, which launched techUK’s work on gaming, was chaired by Rory Daniels, Programme Manager for Emerging Technologies, techUK
You can watch the full webinar here, or read our summary of the key insights below:
Please note that the text below is a summary of the event and that certain points have been re-ordered to ensure clarity. Readers are encouraged to view the webinar recording to appreciate the full nature of the discussion.
The session opened with introductions from our speakers.
- Verity is a Partner at Linklaters and her primary role is as a competition and anti-trust lawyer. She does a lot of work in merger control, anti-competitive conduct investigations into abuse of dominance, and new platform regulation. Verity leads the firm's UK Tech Sector practice and Gaming practice. She is currently representing PlayStation in the UK Competition Appeal tribunal and is involved in the cloud market investigation being run by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
- Chris is the Chief Exec and Co-Founder of Hertzian, an AI technology company that focuses on building AI tools and software across numerous industries, in particular health and gaming. Hertzian develops AI solutions which can collect large amounts of data then translate user feedback. Previous projects include working with Pinewood Studios to predict the future success of film scripts. Player XP is their leading product in the gaming industry.
- Harry is an Esports graduate and consultant. He freelances for local businesses, manages their social media presence, and interacts with influencers.
Q) How do and how will emerging gaming technologies apply to gaming?
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- There's recently been an explosion of AI solutions in the marketplace. AI is a broad term for systems and solutions that can do very different things. In-game mechanics, such as bots and enemies, constitute traditional AI applications, whereas there's since been a proliferation of AI tools. AI is already interacting with other emerging technologies, such as Virtual Reality (VR), in interesting ways.
- Through Player XP, Hertzian uses AI to assist with the management of gaming communities so that when large publishers and studios are looking to release new games, they can utilise data to make informed decisions on factors such as audience preferences and trending topics on social media. AI tools enable companies to bridge the gap between how users are engaging with a gaming company's products and services and the development of those games.
- In many respects, the increased use of AI tools may level the playing field, enabling more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and Indie developers to succeed and more gaming content to be created (including for cloud and VR gaming). The large publishers and studios may find it most difficult to adapt to the headline regulations affecting the sector.
- The intersection of AI with other emerging technologies will largely depend upon the regulation that gets put in place. In many scenarios, AI applications could be rendered unfeasible even before we determine whether they are possible from a technical perspective. Games studios and developers must take an active interest in the regulation being drafted for the sector. This is currently quite volatile.
- You can find out more about techUK's AI programme by clicking here.
Virtual Reality (VR)
- Emerging technologies such as 5G, VR and haptics may result in gaming experiences that feel more realistic and authentic. This will create new, unique experiences online, both for viewers and players. This may be where the gaming industry intersects with other creative, entertainment and consumer industries, including television, live sports and tourism.
- The commercial viability behind VR is still developing and we are yet to reach the level of interest and adoption necessary for widespread investment from executives. As with all other emerging gaming technologies, the key determining factor as to whether they will be a success is whether businesses can make money from them, not whether there is widespread adoption from users.
Semiconductors and compute
- The games industry has always led the way on developing emerging technologies. One example of a pioneer in the field of gaming hardware is NVIDIA, who are pushing boundaries when it comes to processing and AI-enabled graphics in games.
Q) What steps can businesses take to lead in the development, commercialisation, application and adoption of the key emerging technologies that will underpin the gaming sector of tomorrow?
- Get AI compliance right: AI in gaming is not a new concept, with non-player characters (NPCs) existing for many years. Today, AI is increasingly being utilised as a tool for creators, however the costs and risks associated with implementing AI, in particular Generative AI, are now more significant. These include a lack of transparency and control, the risk of inaccuracy and biased outputs, and the need to protect privacy and intellectual property (IP). To safely unlock the potential of AI in gaming, businesses must establish the appropriate governance and risk management models required to safeguard the developer's interests from the outset. Risk management involves taking a holistic approach to ramping up the use of technology, and as such businesses should consider everything from the base standard to the gold standard. Government should consider the compliance burden that will arise from legislation, such as the EU's AI Act, that will apply to all businesses, from SMEs to the major games developers. SMEs could lose out as they are less equipped to ensure compliance.
- Mindset is everything: Businesses should be brave and have an open mind. They should start by identifying the areas in which they would like to improve (such as employee sense of belonging) and then see what characteristics of gaming and emerging gaming technologies could enable this. Increasingly, those entering the workforce will be native gamers, and as extremely popular titles such as Roblox demonstrate, they will be not just casual participants in games but creators and world-builders. This will have profound implications for the mindset and skillset of tomorrow's workforce. Businesses should begin to prepare for such a culture shift.
- Appreciate the value of gamification: Gamification has been around for a long time and is useful across many industries, including health, finance and education. Patient recovery plans, for example, often involve playing games. Even businesses outside the gaming industry should explore gaming business cases as many are widely applicable. New products and market opportunities will result from this. Often, academics will be asking about how we can gamify a particular industry, rather than the gaming industry purposefully seeking to spread its approaches and technologies.
- Stay up to date: Even companies that don't utilise certain emerging technologies should take an interest in the major developments taking place within the area if they want to stay competitive. This could take the form of building a network for information sharing, signing up to newsletters, and working with companies such as Linklaters to better understand compliance requirements and your appetite for risk in adopting AI solutions. Businesses should not just focus on large corporates as SMEs are leading on a lot of the innovation. Most businesses do not need to incorporate AI (they need digital transformation) and believing that they do results in overengineering. Specialised solutions that solve specific problems are far more effective than a single AI solution (which will try to do everything and end up doing nothing). Hertzian, for example, consists of around 50 systems, not just one.
- Invest in understanding: Businesses looking to adopt emerging gaming technologies, in particular AI, should ensure that there is not a significant gap in understanding between their C-Suite and Legal teams. This should mitigate the risk of technologies being adopted too early (without giving legal teams enough time to consider risk and responsibility) or not at all (as decision makers pull the plug before these can be properly considered). In particular, this applies to SMEs. Many SMEs outside the gaming industry are curious about how they can access the business opportunities and communities being created by game developers, publishers and studios, however they lack the necessary degree of understanding or expertise to do so. The widespread adoption of gaming culture, business opportunities, and technologies can only happen if a significant number of SMEs outside the gaming sector are brought on board.
Q) How will regulation affect emerging gaming technologies?
- The changing nature of regulation: Many types of regulation that exist in the physical world will also apply to gaming and the virtual world. Gaming has been regulated as entertainment, however as people spend more time online and begin doing things like transferring property rights, the list of things that regulators and Government must consider will only grow. Online Harms is a huge topic and is highly applicable to the protection of children. The Online Safety Act (OSA) was passed in October after approximately four years of going through Parliament. It was the most amended piece of legislation ever in the UK and it brings in substantive duties to protect users from illegal content and children from harmful content. As many consultations must first take place, these duties won't apply until 2025 at the earliest. However, they will be very important for gaming companies as the OSA applies to user-to-user services. Ofcom will be responsible for administering the Act and their main priority is the protection of children from harmful content. They've already been explicitly critical of the gaming industry. There's currently an Ofcom consultation on illegal harms that is open until the end of February. Implementation of the Act will be complicated as it was drafted in 2018. For example, the Act focuses on user-to-user interactions, which doesn't consider the role of chatbots.
- A broad range of relevant regulation: Other areas of relevant regulation include anti-money laundering regulations (as property is increasingly transferred within games), national security (the geopolitics around semiconductors and the implications of compute capacity and cloud will increase in importance, particularly as AI consumes ever more energy), competition and contestability (on 9 January, the European Commission announced a call for information on virtual worlds and Generative AI - this will put the gaming industry right in the spotlight), and AI-specific regulation (whilst we're not regulating AI in the UK, the EU's AI Act passed before the New Year - how can games developers in the UK ensure they can still sell to the European market?).
- Taking a step back: Many businesses will no doubt find the ever changing regulatory landscape to be overwhelming at times, particularly when they consider it necessary to also keep an eye on regulations in their overseas markets. Businesses should map where their various legal and regulatory obligations lie and keep an eye on not just what may be coming down the pipeline but how this may change in the future. Whilst the Digital Markets Act, which comes into force in the EU on 6 March, only applies to digital gatekeepers, the changes they will have to make to their businesses will invariably generate opportunities for all kinds of organisations. In this interconnected landscape, every business (small and large) should understand both their own legal obligations and the obligations of key competitors and industry players.
- Looking to the next Government: Any new or incoming Government should begin by focusing on existing issues and getting these right, in particular through ensuring the effective implementation of the Online Safety Act and the Digital Market, Competition and Consumers Bill. The latter will bring in a new regime for the largest technology companies with the strategic market status regime in addition to reforms to competition law and the strengthening of the CMA's consumer law powers. This could have a significant impact in the gaming sector across businesses of all sizes as fines could apply to all. It appears that Labour intends to stick with both pieces of legislation to ensure continuity and then iterate over time.
You can read Linklaters' insight, titled "2024 Outlook: What are 5 key Tech trends to be aware of in the UK?" and written by Derek Tong, the firm's Global Technology Sector Leader, by clicking here.
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Rory joined techUK in June 2023 after three years in the Civil Service on its Fast Stream leadership development programme.
During this time, Rory worked on the Government's response to Covid-19 (NHS Test & Trace), school funding strategy (Department for Education) and international climate and nature policy (Cabinet Office). He also tackled the social care crisis whilst on secondment to techUK's Health and Social Care programme in 2022.
Before this, Rory worked in the House of Commons and House of Lords alongside completing degrees in Political Economy and Global Politics.
Today, he is techUK's Programme Manager for Emerging Technologies, covering dozens of technologies including metaverse, drones, future materials, robotics, blockchain, space technologies, nanotechnology, gaming tech and Web3.0.