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How 5G wants to change the game industry and track innovation

So it's in some ways unpredictable in terms of its impact. It could introduce more cloud-based services, such as the Hatch curated game service that Sprint launched with its 5G service. It could bring more multiplayer games and subscription titles, as well as other things.

To study this topic, we convened a panel about 5G and gaming at a recent webinar. Our panel included Marc Cook, solution account director at Treasure Data; Nick Thomas, Vice President of Commercial Partnerships at Hatch; and Bryan Fries, vice president of 5G Strategy at Sprint.

One of the changes that 5G wants to bring is more subscription services, akin to Apple Launched this week on older 4G technology as well as Sprint's Hatch service on 5G. [1


Above: Hatch is on-demand mobile games service.

Image Credit: Hatch

GamesBeat: Nick and Bryan, I wondered if you could tell more about what you announced on August 27, related to 5G. What is available now and where is it available?

Thomas: Sure, I can talk more about the service and let Bryan cover the coverage and availability points. I mentioned this at the top of the call, but Hatch is a mobile game streaming platform. Spotlight and Netflix.

What we're doing is bringing Hatch, which is an application that the user downloads on their mobile device. Within that application there's a portfolio. We have more than 150 games live at this point, with many more coming. Sprint's 5G network. [19659002ThepowerofSprint's5GnetworkThisisessentiallyandforaclichetermaSpotifyorNetflixstyleservicebutit'smuchdeeperthanthatandwe'llgetintosomeofthesocialbenefitsthatcomewithitdeeperintothistopic Fries: The service that they've developed at Hatch is tremendous. We're so happy to be in charge of the network that service launches on the United States. They have it in many markets around the world. Last week what our capstone event has launched 5G in. We have nine markets across the country, covering about 2,100 square miles and 11 million people today.

Sprint's 5G technology. As you look at Hatch and Sprint's partnership, Sprint's 5G technology is unique in the respect that our spectrum that 5G is different than anyone else in the industry. The advantage that gives us, at least in the early years of 5G, is that we can go on to deliver exponential improvements in performance when it comes to speed and latency, in many more locations, a much larger geography, than anyone else in the country.

What that means experientially is that when it comes to doing so, it is possible that these advantages are going to be available to our customers in more places than any other carrier can offer for a while. 5G for streamed gameplay.

 The OnePlus 7 Pro 5G at Sprint's 5G network in Los Angeles, California.

Above : The OnePlus 7 Pro 5G on Sprint's 5G network in Los Angeles, California.

Image Credit: Jeremy Horwitz / VentureBeat

GamesBeat: We'll be taking a look at all of this our first group question that each of you can tackle. What trends have had the most impact on gaming revenues, and how does this shift in the future? Let's start with Marc.

Cook: From my perspective, the thing we've seen, is the free-to-play mobile game. Mobile is the biggest group of gaming that's growing. The impact is really-there are so many free-to-play games. It's a struggle to monetize or offer a game at an initial cost.

That's probably the biggest trend I've seen, that's free-to-play model. But at the same time, I think it's bringing in more gamers to gaming, and increasing the overall gaming culture.

Thomas: I agree, I think Free-to-play has been the biggest impact on gaming revenue. But I see that as part of a broader arc. I've been in the gaming industry for close to 20 years. I've spent almost all of that time in the casual game domain. You back up to the early 2000s, it was more of the PC downloadable era, with hidden object games and developers like Popcap and Playfirst who developed this market. Moving into social gaming powered by players like Zynga and experiences like FarmVille. That's a 15-year arc there.

That's a 15-year arc there. About every five years or so, there is a change in the economy or the delivery mechanism of the content. What's interesting is how it has moved in parallel with mobile devices, at least in the mobile domain, with the power of these phones now rival the last generation of consoles. You have a combination of free games powered by these very powerful consoles in your pocket, essentially. That's really shifted the industry in a massive way.

It's also complemented by developer tools like Unity coming around. Now you have the three-legged stool, where you have a console in your pocket with free games that are very easy to make, or at least much easier with toolkits like Unity. That's been a massive change. Marc's talking about. It's very exciting.

We see it as part of a longer evolution. Economies and other ways to discover content when there are so many games out there in this very crowded field. I think we'll talk about that some more later. But this is going to shift into the future, we think, will be in this next evolution.

If you think about subscription services, they will not work well with in-app purchases. They are not structurally aligned with the way those games are built. In the free-to-play world, that's not all. Adventure games, or even something like a hidden object game, or strategy, or narrative experiences.

We see it. Those are very difficult in a world that's driven by in-app purchases, where the game design is shaped around that currency and how they're going to motivate players to pay for themselves. " as a bit of a pendulum swinging back the other way to the premium world, where subscription makes a lot of sense and players have access to a whole portfolio of games that are not built in-app purchase requirements and so forth. [19659028] Above: 5G gaming

Image Credit: VentureBeat

Fries: My thoughts on the subject of mobility, as Marc said, has been driving the proliferation of gaming in recent years. You have read many years of solid double-digit compared to single-digit, low single-digit in the other platforms.

From a carrier's perspective, we've been able to say that it helped, or more – I've seen stats as high as two-thirds – of wireless subscribers in the United States play casually at least once a month. You start thinking about the size of that market. You're talking in the hundreds of millions of players. Without it, they have not got the level of engagement to play at the PC or PC level, but they are now gaming on their devices. Nick made a great point about the power of the devices and the proliferation of mobile networks. That's cultivated on a massive market for gaming. It's still growing faster than any other segment.

As we look ahead, that trend is definitely going on with 5G what you'll see is the content we're about to deliver over mobile devices, whether it's a handset or a tablet or even a laptop that's connected wirelessly via a hotspot like we offer today-you can deliver content than you could otherwise, because of the extra bandwidth that 5G brings. You have greater capacity and better performance in terms of speeds and latency. That just gets better over time. Even in the early days, it's remarkably better than 4G, but it wants to get better from here on forward. This is very exciting. It takes what's already a very good experience and supercharges it.

The other thing is that you'll see-I do not think that's what it's all about a social experience that's unlike anything we've ever seen. Gaming has traditionally been about a lot of solo play. More and more this is a social activity than a solo activity. That's a really exciting trend as well. It dramatically increases the engagement when you're playing with friends. Everything's more fun with friends. 5G brings.

In the longer term, the changes will be more dramatic. As the networks become more ubiquitous, gaming categorically is transformed, both content and content are used for experiences, gaming experiences. We'll be talking about things different than playing games on a laptop or a laptop, more like venue-centered experiences.

GamesBeat: To make a comment on my own, I attended the E3 show this year in Los Angeles. Ubisoft's CEO, Yves Guillemot, made some headlines 5 billion people playing games in 10 years. It was an interesting prediction.

It's a bit hard to parse how to get so many more billions of players. That's one thing that would help make that happen. But right now there are 7.6 billion people on earth, and in 10 years we'll have a lot more than that. Still, it's hard to see both the very old and very young playing games. We'll see how that prediction goes.

For now, I'd like to dig a little bit into 5G. That's just getting started. What are the benefits going to be for consumers? Bryan, tell us your view on that.

Fries: In the short term, we're already seeing some models that are really centered on the promise of 5G. This is the promise of play anywhere, at any time, on any screen.

We're talking about making higher-end gaming experiences more portable, or nomadic if you want to , That's important.

 A collaboration. You have a great gaming experience in the office, at least in beta Sprint and Hatch wants to bring 100 streaming games to the carrier's 5G handsets.

Above: A collaboration between Sprint and Hatch wants to bring 100 streaming games to the carrier's 5G handsets.

Image Credit: Sprint

Down the road in this diversity of content. We've seen this happening in audio, and in video shortly thereafter, where you went from buying a package to the shelf to subscription models. The dynamic that occurs when the content changes – I like to use the analogy that when you're sitting in a restaurant and ordering from a menu, you might get one entree, but you're at a buffet, you try all different things. It encourages people to try different options, because there's no risk if they do not like it.

People want to try more things. Demand wants to go through the roof for the type of content we're talking about here. That's very exciting. The balance of it, though, is that it will harder and harder to establish franchise titles because of the dynamics of diversity and engagement in directions. As we think about what 5G does in the longer term, publishers and content creators are going to consider how they manage that balance, in particular, they do not tolerate the quality of their content , If we reflect on the past 12 to 18 months, we've probably all examples in our minds where folks may have gone one side or the other of that equation. Those in the near and intermediate term are

Thomas: My views on this are three primary ways to show and benefit consumers. Bryan said, through variety of content.

The discoverability piece is important. We're seeing this issue in services like Netflix, where there's so much content out there. It becomes intimidating to try and find new things. You depend on your friends or other sources of information to figure out where you want to invest your time. That's even more of a challenge in gaming, especially mobile gaming, where you can go to the app stores today, type in something like "tower defense game," and there will be thousands of games. You can scroll and scroll endlessly. That's a big problem for consumers. How do you decide which one you want to try?

What's happened is that consumers have fall back to relying on top of what they are doing -grossing titles or editor's choice titles or whatever's featured on Apple or Google on a particular day to help them find content. That's problematic on a few levels, but for the customer, it's problematic just because it really narrows the amount of content out there that's available to them.

One of the benefits of 5G gaming is that it's able to instantly try games. Within a curated catalog, which is Hatch offers – and that hopefully addresses the broader problem of a sea of ​​options. If it's not for you, they've beented 30 seconds or whatever. They are unable to do so because of the intimidation factor, or just the inconvenience of having to wait to download and install and go through the setup process. Discoverability is a big pain point for customers.

GamesBeat: I wanted to jump in here and have you explain a bit more. With 4G gaming today you can go to the Play Store and use the Try Now button to explore a playable ad for a game. You get started and see what it's like. This notion of instantly trying something is available now. Are you saying that 5G does this better?

Thomas: The difference is that with the instant play-not all games have that. It does not actually offer the full game. It's a sort of preview experience, which is better than nothing. You can watch videos and see what the game looks like, the art and the general mechanics and so on. It's still different from being able to actually play the game. It's more like watching a preview of a movie than it's ready to start, and if it's not your thing, you can jump to the next thing.

With subscription you can freely try content. You do not need to pay for each game, which has been a big issue for premium games. The combination of 5G and the instant playability that offers, as well as the subscription model, allows us unrestricted access to try experience and find what you like.

The other point was social enablement. Bryan spoke to this. We think this is great. This is actually one of the core tentpoles we've been building, which we're using to play with you. We even see that influencing the discoverability issue as well. Having a platform where you can enjoy your friends, or see what they are doing and what they are doing is a very important component of that missing from gaming today.

Hatch was built around the notion of the lonely gamer, which is the idea that we're all immersed in technology, and we have all these ways to connect to one another their gaming experiences on their mobile device. [Theideaof​​Hatchandcloudgamingingeneralhowit'spoweredby5Gtechnologyreallyhelpstoaddressthat'swhereyoucanengageinrealtimewithyourfriendsplaywiththemandshareexperienceswiththem[19659002] The last piece is just the variety of content. Bryan what speaking to this as well. The ability to allow people to try new experiences and try games that are in the relatively narrow vein of proven mechanics like a match-three format, for example. There are many other experiences out there that we think customers are hungry for. This perfect combination of streaming with a subscription service allows people to both develop content that is not narrowly in the free-to-play world, and so allow customers to find things that are not in a limited sphere now.

Cook: I just take that from the perspective of a consumer, because Nick and Bryan answered the question. When it comes to games, the tighter the latency, the more accurate the gameplay. 5G is going to take that to the next level. Any kind of latency complaints are going to disappear. Realtime action games come about. I'm excited to see that. It's another side benefit.

 Arkanoid Rising streaming via Hatch Premium is almost indistinguishable from having the game live on your device.

Above: Arkanoid Rising streaming via Hatch

Image Credit: Jeremy Horwitz / VentureBeat

GamesBeat: I'm Curious How 5G Is Going to Fit With Some Other Gaming Technologies. We've mentioned cloud gaming as well.

Fries: I'm happy to take a crack at it. I like this a lot. This is fun to think about. What we've been talking about, from a gaming standpoint, is going to be consumed.

The next stage is how the content gets redefined and used in ways that we do not use it today. New content altogether. Early proof points are already there. We've seen some really cool augmented reality examples, where AR is paired with gaming experiences. That's worked pretty well. It's definitely captured the imaginations of a lot of people, working in an imperfect network experience. On 4G networks it works well, but with 5G, when you have massive amounts of increased capacity and improved latency, the responsiveness of the interaction is real-time. There's so much more potential there.

That's where we start to think about gaming technology in a different light. It's not the platform we're used to. Those platforms may be used in an entirely different way. AR is a great step forward there. VR experience, it's super impressive, but there are still encumbrances, including the form factor of the devices and the video quality available. If you want good video quality, you still need wires and a PC.

5G offers the promise to all those things. Being able to process data in the cloud instead of on the headset alleviates the form factor requirements. These things can become more comfortable for long periods of wearing them. You can disconnect yourself from the wires in an ultra-high-definition streaming into each eye over a wireless network, instead of requiring wires. Then you start thinking about how to translate IP, publisher IP, into an entire new gaming experience using VR.

Finally, if you think even bigger, I've had engagements with a number of amazing companies that are building experiential venues, entire That's what consumers want in an environment that provides an experience that they've never conceived before. Whether that's for sports fans, being able to share a physical experience with your favorite team, or a venue that is tailored to combining physical architecture, theater, and virtualized elements

There are many reasons why this is not the case in reality , but now you're talking about incorporating content and IP in totally different ways. In the long term, the intersection of these technologies is really exciting.

Thomas: Based on our launch event-we had a really exciting event in Los Angeles where we launched the Hatch and Sprint partnership. PC game experience, where there were four high-powered PCs with gamers who were playing Fortnite. That's all powered by this HTC Blink Box, which is essentially a 5G modem. These were not wired experiences, but they were traditional console / PC game experiences.

To me that's really interesting, because it brings this opportunity to effectively replace the 5G provides in-home wired connection for general utility, and therefore for gaming experiences. Conceptually that was not really difficult to grasp, but it was a super-high-quality Fortnite experience. Somewhere, 5G technology has massive immediate value for gamers. Then, of course, you can bring that to mobile as well. Hatch tournament ” width=”800″ height=”450″ srcset=”https://venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/sprint-hatch.jpg?w=1200&strip=all 1200w, https://venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/sprint-hatch.jpg?w=300&strip=all 300w, https://venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/sprint-hatch.jpg?w=768&strip=all 768w, https://venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/sprint-hatch.jpg?w=800&resize=800%2C450&strip=all&strip=all 800w, https://venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/sprint-hatch.jpg?w=400&strip=all 400w, https://venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/sprint-hatch.jpg?w=780&strip=all 780w, https://venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/sprint-hatch.jpg?w=578&strip=all 578w, https://venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/sprint-hatch.jpg?w=930&strip=all 930w” sizes=”(max-width: 800px) 100vw, 800px” data-recalc-dims=”1″/>

Above: Hatch tournament

Image Credit: Sprint / Hatch

Cook: 5G is going to generate more data, and we are going to be happy to help collect and analyze that as part of their overall understanding of their games and their consumers. Just like 4G and other cases where more touch-and-tap session data started coming in, 5G wants to add even more.

Another component of this is the increase in volume Increased bandwidth, and ultimately drawn into data platforms for analysis.

GamesBeat: Our audience polls say the winner is so far is 5G that wants to be a game changer for games, with 46% saying that. No. 2 is AI at 23%. 15% as well as demographics changing who and how we develop. Our 5G folks should be happy about that.

Folk-if we have big changes like this this? Nick, why do not you start that one?

Thomas: The most important thing to do is to open this mindset , This will be evolution. Nothing changes overnight. It's going to take time for these new platforms and technologies to proliferate, or for customers to find them and for the models to grow. If you accept the premise that 5G is a game changer, then this is a pivotal moment. That's the most important first step.

The second step from there is to get involved. Come and talk to providers like Hatch and learn more about the platform. Learn how it works, what's involved, how you participate, what the revenue opportunity looks like. What you can do, what games are successful, what games are you doing, what are the best results and so forth?

Too it's really just about.

It's just about what you can do engagement, that's coming to be great for everyone.

Cook: With the increased data volume and capacity to move that data, the 5G wants to offer, to get ahead of that from an analytics standpoint and shift towards the strongest analytics systems. Systems that can handle all the telemetry, touch and tap, session data from mobile games and bring it into a place to combine that with an understanding of the customer from transactions, from marketing, and from social 360.

Most of the gaming companies that we talk to, even some of the biggest in the world, have silos. They do not have a complete view of the customer. With 5G it's easy to get data moved to a system where you can do that. Personalization is the big thing now. You can drive a custom experience across the game, but also, offline and how you touch the customer in every other way, you can personalize everything in what you're doing. 5G is a part of that story.

Fries: There are probably two key ingredients to this. One, I would say, is imagination, and the second is collaboration. Imagination-it's always hard to imagine that it does not exist yet, but I think it did not make a good job of articulating something that publishers need to start imagining. How to get more familiar with them in ways that will be value-added? More seamless interactions, less irrelevant engagements, and more relevant engagements?

On the other side of this, for content creation, we need to break down legacy ideas about what is content, how do we do it? how it can be used for customer entertainment going forward. For a while we'll continue with the content we're familiar with, just talking about it in different ways. But as I talked about before, how that content evolves is a tremendous opportunity. That's how we get that intimate familiarity with our customers and their preferences.

That's about imagination. Collaboration, coming from a carrier standpoint, we run networks, right? Each new generation of network technology. Each one is a little better and faster than the last, but we're still using our pockets. Wireless is about wireless handsets.

5G is going to be different because 5G is going to change the way it looks at wireless carriers , Today we're viewed as, "Who do I buy my handset from?" Tomorrow, wireless connectivity is not going to be about handsets. It’s going to be about everything other than handsets in a 5G world.

Connectivity, the type we’re talking about — call it mobile fiber, if you will — is going to be an ingredient in a lot of customer-facing solutions in the gaming industry, products and value propositions. For the first time, the carriers are going to be having to reach out into the industry, and hopefully the outreach is reciprocal. The publishers in the industry should be reaching out as well to engage with the network operators to understand what they’re capable of, how they can use 5G in their business model. Folks like Mark as well–there could be trifectas of parties that come together to bring something to life that didn’t exist before. I don’t think anybody of us are able to bring these experiences and products and services to market on our own. The collaboration is going to be truly key.

To really make the point, that’s what we showed last week working with Super League Gaming, who hosted our launch event in L.A., and the Hatch team that brought their platform that we ran a bunch of gameplay on, and Sprint that brought the network that powered the whole tournament that we held. It’s a great example of how, in this new world, it’ll really take a village to bring the experiences to life.


Above: Spek is an AR game for Apple Arcade

Image Credit: RAC7

GamesBeat: Shifting to some questions from the audience, our first one asks where and when AR comes into play? I think Apple’s rumored entry is going to be one of the things it takes to make AR into a much bigger phenomenon for gaming. It’s probably not going to happen this time, but who knows? Does anybody else want to take a crack at that?

Fries: I’ve commented about it briefly before. We have some great proof points out there about how AR can be very addictive and well-received. As the technology comes to life that enables the experience in richer ways — greater capacity, better latency — those experiences will only get better, and that’s going to stoke demand. I see big things ahead of us in the category.

GamesBeat: For Nick, and possibly for Bryan, Hatch sounds a bit like Google’s Stadia, their cloud gaming service that they announced for launch coming in November. Apple Arcade is [here] as a subscription service. How does Hatch differ from these other services that are coming to market later? Also, more for Bryan, why did Sprint choose Hatch over some of these other things?

Thomas: Hatch is the perfect–we see it as the perfect balance between those two. Apple is focused on the subscription model and on a mobile-first approach. The games are made for mobile. They play well with a touch input. They’re very focused on premium content. Those are all things that we believe in as well. Stadia, of course, is bringing a streaming component to that. But Stadia is very focused on this PC and console replacement initiative. You can play games through a browser, but if you want to have that experience on your mobile device, you have to carry around a controller with you, which we don’t think anyone really wants to do.

Monument Valley on Hatch

Above: Monument Valley on Hatch

Image Credit: Sprint/Hatch

For us it’s a nice blend of both of those two offerings. You have all premium content and the subscription model, but it’s enabled in a streaming environment that’s built for mobility. That’s the other very unique component of Hatch. This is something you can take out into the world with you. You don’t need to be at home on a fixed, wired connection. It’s a mobile-first product. I think we fall right in between those two, and we’re doing it our own way.

The other differentiator is the focus on the social features, and how we’re really making social a core part of the platform. This exists on the platform level. This isn’t a matter of games that have social features. These are features within the hatch platform itself, where you can connect with players, share your gameplay, invite others to join you and play games together, all powered by the technology that we’ve built. That’s how we’re unique.

Fries: Nick did a good job of articulating why Hatch is different, and those are the reasons that we established the partnership with them. For us as a career, mobile games are the bread and butter for gaming right now. 5G is enabling that experience in a way that’s unique, just in terms of the portfolio subscription model, which is super cool.

We want to ensure that anything we put out into the market from a use case standpoint is really ready for prime time. We think that because Hatch focuses on games that are made for mobile originally–that was very attractive. As well, you’re attacking the casual gaming segment. Like I mentioned earlier, half or more of all the people with wireless devices in this country play casually at least once a month. The market for us is very large. It’s easily accessible to us, because of the nature of our business.

I’ve spent a lot of time with the Hatch team to get to know them and their product. We have a tremendous amount of confidence that this team has the right ideas about where to go with casual gaming. They’re very focused on quality. For anyone that’s seen Hatch in action, the UI is absolutely beautiful. It’s really functions well. It’s a tremendous experience.

Over time there will be products that come and will be great for the more avid gamers, the folks who want to take a console and PC experience and move it around to other panes of glass, if you will. That’s not so far away. There are still a few kinks in the delivery model that will have to be worked out for that to proliferate. For example, some of these games are super-high-action games requiring complex maneuvers that don’t lend themselves well to play except if you have an accessory on the device, like a controller. Maybe that becomes the standard, but initially, for us, the breadth of the casual segment and the ease of use and accessibility to players was where we wanted to go first, to ensure that it was an exceptional experience for everyone.

We’re asking folks to take a leap of faith, to game in a different way than they have before. We want to make sure that when they take that leap with us, they’re really happy that they did.

Genvid and NTT Docomo show off a 5G LAN party at the Tokyo Game Show.

Above: Genvid and NTT Docomo show off a 5G LAN party at the Tokyo Game Show.

Image Credit: Genvid

GamesBeat: Quickly, Bryan, 5G is touching just a fraction of the U.S. population today. When are we expecting 5G to become more widespread, so more people can enjoy the benefits of 5G gaming?

Fries: Once you’ve experienced, you’re going to want it where you’re at, I promise that. Right now, like I said, we cover about 11 million people, as of September. We cover a lot. That’s not a small number. But it’s not 320 million. We have a long way to go before it’s ubiquitous.

Over the next six to nine months we’re going to see tremendous leaps in the population that we’re able to cover. The nine markets that we’ve launched, the footprint in those markets is getting bigger every day. Our folks are out there building as fast as they can. I think you’ll see exponential growth in that coverage here by the first quarter of next year. That’s exciting in itself.

To really get this network technology to the state that we’re accustomed to with 4G–we’ve got merger on the table. I imagine everyone here is familiar with that. This is expensive to do. You’re building a network on top of a network. These things are tens of billions of dollars in costs. The timing on how fast it gets to every nook and cranny in the country really depends on what the path forward is for Sprint as a company. If we’re a stand-alone company I think it’s a much harder road for us, but if we’re able to combine with T-Mobile, as we’ve proposed and are awaiting approval on, I think it can happen a lot faster. It’s the next couple of years, instead of some indefinite period down the road. For us, getting this merger done is really important.

Disclosure: Treasure Data sponsored our webinar. Our coverage remains objective.

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