Ask a gamer, and they’ll tell you they love being first to get in on the “next new thing.” Die-hard players were quick to embrace cloud-based multi-player games and the newest consoles. They jumped at the chance to reduce lag with blazing-fast fiber internet connections—like Quantum Fiber. And of course, they invested heavily in gear. Now, rapidly changing technology has brought about the next “next new thing”—wearable gaming. And yes, it’s just what you’re thinking. Now and in the future, gamers won’t just use their gaming devices. They’ll wear them.
What are wearables?
Wearable tech is a catch-all term for any wireless, smart device you wear on your body that tracks movements or other data. If you own a smartwatch or a fitness tracker, you’ve already tried on wearable technology. Analysts predict a massive expansion in the global wearable market over the next year. Wearable devices that track health, improve how we sleep, and even provide aural stimulation to babies in the womb are already on the market.
Wearables for gaming.
Developers are all about creating and improving the gaming experience for players. Wearables are the next logical step—removing barriers between games and gamers and adding sensations beyond just sights and sounds.
We usually think of virtual reality (VR) headsets and special electronic gloves as the most common gaming wearables. These devices create simulated, 360-degree landscapes and turn a player’s body and motions into the game controller. The results are more efficient gameplay and a more personal, enhanced experience.
The debut of the ground-breaking Oculus Rift VR headset in 2016 was so impressive that Facebook bought the company. Serious imitators from HTC and Samsung quickly followed. As a result, today’s models are more reasonably priced, more sophisticated, lighter, and built with onboard games. For example, the latest Oculus VR headgear retails for only around $300. There is also a growing list of other affordable wearables. Wristbands, rings, and body-mounted motion sensors are already available and creating incredible new gaming experiences.
How big is the wearable gaming industry?
In 2016, wearable VR technology and games were about a $1 billion enterprise. By 2019, that figure multiplied about seven times over. This year, analysts foresee wearable gaming revenues at an estimated $19 billion, and they think that number could double by 2025.
The keyword is “could” because, historically, the rise of VR gaming has been a bit uneven. For example, experts point to 2016, when initial expectations for VR were so over-inflated that the technology couldn’t possibly live up to market projections. Since then, gains have sputtered somewhat but generally moved in a positive direction.
The “pandemic effect” on wearable gaming was also a bit eyebrow-raising. Overall, video game and related tech sales saw an upswing in 2020, but only some of that success filtered its way through to the VR gaming segment. Many thought the pandemic lockdown would fuel a VR boom—after all, who didn’t need to escape? Consumers, though, gravitated more toward existing technologies like streaming TV and video conferencing.
Yet, with hundreds of VR games already on the market and dozens of highly anticipated releases still coming this year, the state of wearable gaming seems solid.
The newest wearables on the horizon
As VR gaming becomes more widespread (and affordable), hardware designers create new, more advanced wearables that enhance gameplay and track performance. Some of these include gaming harnesses or vests that deliver small vibrations (called haptic feedback) to a player’s body which sync up with the action on the screen. These devices add a third human sense—touch—to the gaming experience. Imagine a boxing game where you feel body blows from your opponent—or sense a tug during a horror game, as a zombie grabs you.
New gaming smartwatches measure a gamer’s health data and point out ways to improve their play. In addition, next-generation clip-on wireless microphones allow for easier streaming or recording of gameplay (because that’s a thing too) and more freedom of movement. These mics are even fashionable, resembling abstract jewelry rather than electronic gear. The way gaming wearables are evolving, we will probably see consumer-targeted, full-body haptic gaming suits in the very near future.
What’s next for wearable gaming?
Some avid gamers are investing tens of thousands of dollars in home remodels to create dedicated virtual reality rooms. These obstacle-free spaces create the most immersive in-home gaming experience possible. Ceiling fans are out, so players can flail their arms as high as they like. Coats of green paint turn the walls into giant green screens. More serious players even hang their computer and gaming equipment from the ceiling to open floor space for crawling, jumping, running in place, and other necessary moves. Just search “VR gaming rooms” on YouTube to see a sampling.
Today’s gamers are as close as they have ever been to the experience of being “in” the game. They’ve gotten there thanks to the freedom of wearable gaming tech and hyper-fast internet connections, like Quantum Fiber. With speeds of up to 940 Mbps, Quantum Fiber means more winning and less lag on a rock-solid 99.9% reliable* network. Quantum Fiber internet is built for the world of gaming.
*Based on network uptime and availability.