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The generative AI revolution in the games industry: A path to boundless creativity

October 6, 2023
Jack Buser

Director, Game Industry Solutions, Google Cloud

The games industry has continually pushed the boundaries of technology, harnessing it to unleash the human imagination. Game developers have embraced cutting-edge advancements in computing, graphics, networking, social media, and data to craft experiences that today captivate over 3 billion players worldwide.

By being on the forefront of technology, the games industry serves as a beacon of innovation for other businesses, showcasing new methods to inform, engage, and connect people at scale. For example, while consumers were beginning to adopt mobile devices en masse in the mid 2000’s, games were early pioneers, adopting the trend into their business models. Today, nearly half the planet plays games; the majority through their mobile device.

The industry’s early learnings in mobile has led to “live service games” which is today the dominant business model in the industry across nearly all game platforms. Live service games constantly change and evolve, relying on a cycle of creation, engagement, and learning between developer and player.

Today, we stand at the forefront of a new era. It is paramount to explore how the games industry can leverage the transformative potential of generative artificial intelligence (gen AI) to further push the boundaries of game experiences. With generative AI, those that create games — designers, developers, artists, marketers, and more — can revolutionize how they work, and expand the range of experiences they can deliver.


Understanding the generative AI difference for games

So, what sets generative AI apart from its predecessors? On one level, it's evolutionary. To think back, games have long used the term “AI,” but our definition was a constrained set of rules, decision trees, and behaviors. Players engaged with “bots,” but compared to a human, bots often weren’t as engaging. More recently, game companies have been using true AI and ML frameworks (built on data and analytics) to understand players, manage churn, and increase monetization. Some have even integrated their frameworks to advanced AI algorithms like large language models (LLMs) which brings us to generative AI.

Generative AI goes well beyond an evolutionary step forward, however. It’s a whole new dimension for innovation, and, I posit, the biggest change to the industry of games since the introduction of real-time 3D graphics. Here are two fundamental ways generative AI will transform games:

1. Scalable Development with generative AI: Creating content is one of - if not the largest - expenses that games can incur. According to the UK’s CMA, blockbuster games can have development budgets well over $100 million. Even with these massive investments, game teams can struggle to keep up with player demand for new content, especially as these audiences grow to planet-scale. Generative AI can help accelerate game production across the board - code, art, dialogue, and more, enabling these teams to better serve their players at scale. It can help existing teams create better content at a faster pace, with improved collaboration, ideation, and personalization. What’s more, enterprise-grade generative AI allows developers to leverage this new technology in a way which is respectful of intellectual property, while protecting one's own proprietary data.

2. Real-Time generative AI: As development teams integrate generative AI into their production process, some have begun integrating it into the game itself. This has the potential of revolutionizing player experiences, with generative AI running in real-time as the game is played. This is generative AI that is responsive and dynamic, distilling huge LLMs to react and interact with a player in real-time. Games themselves will be able to generate content based on the explicit or even implicit actions of players: from instantly generated new items and levels to in-game characters that can have lifelike discussions. Imagine games that can naturally respond to a player’s voice, or generate entirely novel content in response to player behavior. With these examples, one can imagine a new paradigm of player personalization and game interaction which is wholly unlike anything the world has seen before.


Getting started on the path of innovation

The future I've described may sound visionary, but it is closer than we might think. In fact, the foundation for this future is already being laid today, as individuals and companies explore the fundamental models that will shape the games industry's transformation. I believe that as the games industry embraces generative AI, the business will go through another tectonic shift. Just as the preeminent business model evolved from boxed software games to live service games, we will evolve again; this time into “living games”. In such a model, the relationship cycle between the player and developer expands to the game itself, with all three interacting to enrich the player experience along with business outcomes.


Successfully incorporating generative AI in games will take more than desire and drive. Developers will need to harness their data and use it in entirely new ways; training models on reliable datasets capable of generating consistent and compelling outcomes. Game developers will also need to implement AI responsibly and securely, safeguarding intellectual property while vigilantly respecting the player.

At Google Cloud, we are dedicated to providing a comprehensive ecosystem for living games, encompassing powerful game servers, robust data assets, fast networks, and the most powerful and responsible AI capabilities. Today, Game developers should pay particular attention to Vertex AI, which empowers generative AI on proprietary data in a secure and powerful environment. Within Vertex AI, our model garden offers a diverse range of proprietary and open foundation models for teams to learn from and create with, all in a secure and robust enterprise environment, perfectly suited to game development. Over the past few months, we have garnered invaluable feedback and developed roadmaps based on what game companies aspire to see next with generative AI from Google.

As I mentioned earlier, the games industry has always thrived on human invention, creativity, and the drive to adopt state-of-the-art technologies. While generative AI may accelerate workflows, create novel player experiences, and open new avenues for audience engagement and monetization, it will not alter this fundamental truth. Like the revolutionary technologies that preceded it, game developers will use generative AI to amplify rather than replace their gifts, as it’s their creativity that's guaranteed to keep this industry so exciting.

For more details on jump starting your generative AI journey, download our eBook, The Executive’s Guide to Generative AI.

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