Where next for smart gaming?
Smart technology is no longer restricted to devices such as phones, tablets, or watches. Brands are now developing smart speakers, smart lights, smart thermostats, and even smart washing machines! According to YouGov’s latest report almost a quarter of Brits own more than one smart home device, suggesting increasing popularity and emerging drive to smarten up your home.
As expected, smart speakers are the most popular devices with 11% of people owning at least one. 2018 was a gruelling, yet exciting battle between Amazon, Apple, and Google who have been competing to become the go-to smart speaker for public homes.
We're going to take a look at what opportunities are available with Amazon’s Echo, Alexa and gaming.
What does this mean for gaming?
The most important feature of Alexa is of course its handsfree voice control. Alexa listens for voice commands and responds with appropriate answers.
Alexa Skills are apps that present Alexa new abilities, like voice commands to order an Uber into town or a delivery for that spicy meat feast pizza you’ve been looking forward to all week! What’s really exciting is web and software developers can build and release custom Skills for almost anything, which tears open a world of unlimited experiences for users.
To give an overview of how this works (it’s okay, I’ll keep it brief) Alexa enabled devices sends the user instruction to a cloud-based service called Alexa Voice Service (AVS). This is essentially Alexa’s brain and performs all the complex operations. AVS will determine the user’s intent then send the directive to the custom Skill, which in turn will make a web service request to a third-party server if needed, and finally perform the action through either the smart device or returning the message via Alexa. This is how developers build their own service to talk with Alexa. Following? There's a handy diagram from Amazon below, all very clever.
An area I find particularly exciting, is how Alexa is starting to become part of peoples gaming experience. I mean it makes sense, if people are using smart services to control their central heating, living room lights, and kettles to improve efficiency and convenience, then why not do the same for gaming?
OVERWATCH HERO PICKER
First up is the unofficial Overwatch hero picker skill. Incredibly simple, just ask your Alexa to randomly pick an Overwatch hero for you to play. It's a stand alone Skill that's only useful if you struggle to choose which hero to play as, there's nothing more to it!
ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY: ALEXA MEETS ALEXIOS
I’m a big fan of what Ubisoft have achieved here, a top marketing campaign for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, with a real-life function for fans.
The Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Skill transforms Alexa into an AI Spartan, Alexios, responding to daily routine requests with the voice and bluster of a true Spartan hero.
Not only can Alexios cater for all of Alexa’s usual tasks, but Ubisoft took this a step further by injecting a wealth of game specific content to create a voice controlled, easily accessible Assassin’s Creed Odyssey encyclopaedia.
Alexa, ask The Spartan to tell me about the Battle of the Giants vs Gods
Alexios can aid players in their journey through ancient Greece by providing historical background information on numerous sites in Assassin's Creed Odyssey.
To top it all off a limited edition Amazon Echo Plus was designed to resemble a Spartan helmet and distributed to the public. Nice work all round Ubisoft, I'm sold!
SKYRIM VERY SPECIAL EDITION
Riffing off Skyrim’s very successful history, Bethesda surprised everyone and released the Skyrim Very Special Edition Skill. A spin-off from The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, but what makes this special is it’s an audio-based game with voice commands for the Amazon Echo!
It’s easy to believe that people thought this was a joke or some sort of marketing trickery, but it’s completely real and available to download for Alexa.
To try and explain the game play, imagine a voice controlled choose-your-own-adventure story, where at various points the action stops and multiple choice story options appear for the player to decide the next action.
You're level 57 and see a tall snowy mountain...
Throughout the game you can master weapons, cast spells, make a shout, fatally harm mudcrabs, battle dragons, eat a cheese wheel, flee a fight, and many more epic things!
Hopefully Bethesda will continue to develop the game and introduce new modes such as multiplayer and more storylines.
Now this is where it gets exciting... Game devs and third parties have started to experiment with integrating game APIs with custom Alexa Skills. Back to the brief description earlier on, developers can build and host their own app to process bespoke requests via AVS.
This grants Alexa access to players live game and profile data, and even trigger in-game events, all from a voice command.
CALL OF DUTY
Play smarter not harder, says Activision! The Call of Duty Skill lets you take your game to the next level across four different areas:
- Your personal Call of Duty coach.
- Track progress of active contacts and orders.
- Real time stats on the fly.
- Connect and compete with the community.
Once enabled and your Call of Duty player account is linked to the Skill, Alexa can analyse your in-game performance and provide personal recommendations, keep track of the status of active contracts and orders, give live updates on your personal key stats such as KD ratio and winning percentage, and let you know who's online and where you rank among your friends.
I love that we're starting to see integrations with technologies from the real world and gaming experiences. Game developers are onto a winner the more personalised they can make players gaming experience.
DESTINY 2 GHOST
Bungie have pulled out all the stops here, claiming their Destiny 2 Ghost Skill as one of Alexa’s most innovative and integrated skills to date for a live video game. Taking a big leap further, the Ghost skill brings your in-game Ghost companion to life allowing players to interact with their game in real-time via Alexa.
Okay so the controls and commands are fairly limited in terms of functionality, but on the whole it's super cool to play the game and ask Alexa to call online friends for back up, equip your favourite load out, or ask what you should do next.
Alexa, ask Ghost to save this as my strike loadout.
However it's worth pointing out the Skill works seamlessly... when it works. There seem to be occasional "problems connecting with the Tower" when various updates are released. Hopefully a more stable version will be available soon.
This is an emerging and growing space and I believe this form of integration between everyday tech and personal data could lay the way for future gaming.
If you’re interested in smart technologies and share our thinking in this space, not necessarily specific to gaming, then say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how Fluid can apply this intelligence to your brand.