The history of civilization is the history of tools. Looking at the evolution of human society, every acceleration iteration relies on key technological breakthroughs.
In the past, there was a productivity explosion from the steam engine to the popularization of electricity, and the birth of computers and the internet opened up a new world. Now, AIGC will once again promote the transformation of advanced technological tools.
With the explosive popularity of ChatGPT, AIGC has become the biggest hotspot in the content creation field.
From the current results, thanks to the gradually increasing diversity and improving quality of content output by AIGC, the universality of technology is becoming more mature. The rapid progress of technology and the emergence of various applications have greatly enhanced the imagination space of the content industry.
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Among the numerous application fields, games have stronger technological attributes compared to other content forms. This means that the gaming industry is expected to become one of the industries with the highest involvement and most benefit from AIGC.
As Nvidia founder Huang Renxun said in his speech, AI brings us huge opportunities. Agile enterprises will use AI technology to enhance their competitiveness, while enterprises that fail to make good use of AI will face decline.
The gaming industry is currently in a period of shock and adjustment. For game developers who are treading on thin ice, is investing in AIGC a new round of sinking or a rebirth of bouncing back from the bottom? Can the use of AI-related technological tools become an important driving force for enterprises and industries to regain growth?
It can be seen that although AIGC is still in the early stage of development, its impact on the gaming industry has already emerged.
AIGC: A turning point for the gaming industry
With the increasing cross-border applications of various gaming technologies, games are expected to break through the existing industry categories and usher in a new third expansion.
This viewpoint from Ma Xiaoyi, senior vice president of Tencent, reveals the imagination space that AIGC brings to the gaming industry today.
Looking at the development of the gaming industry, from single-player to online, from PC to smartphones, the iteration and upgrading of hardware carriers have always been the strongest driving force for the expansion of the gaming industry, which has increased the number of gaming users from millions to billions.
This round of AIGC technology change is seen by Ma Xiaoyi as a qualitative change after a quantitative change from the previous hardware upgrade. Game technology will be more widely incorporated into more fields outside of games and become a more universal technological system.
In the course of cutting-edge technological development, games can always embrace and apply the latest achievements in a timely manner. Today, standing at the node of AIGC technology outbreak, the industry is looking forward to what kind of changes it can bring.
To understand something, the best way is to get involved. Riding the momentum of AIGC, all game companies are laying out, intending to seize the first wave of dividends.
Capable big companies have also released their own AIGC tools. Tencent’s AI Lab has released a 3D scene generation solution to help developers create highly realistic and diverse virtual city scenes in a short amount of time; Kunlun Wanwei has also released Kunlun Tiangong’s large model; Perfect World will develop AI production tools that are compatible with its game products based on external AI technology, and AI will be involved in intelligent NPCs, scene modeling, painting, plot, dubbing and other aspects of the game.
Other companies are cooperating with external AI technology according to their own needs. Youzu Network and Yuncong Technology are jointly researching the large language model (LLM) in the game vertical field, and optimizing universal AI technology for game scenarios.
The talent war has also been put on the agenda, with salaries for related positions generally around 30K. For AIGC positions involving core projects, leading companies can offer a base salary of 60K.
It is not difficult to understand such a scene. Everyone is using AIGC. To lay out the upstream and downstream of the industrial chain and seize the technological peak, it is necessary to ensure that they run fast enough. The participation of various manufacturers also indicates that game+AI is a high-deterministic industry trend.
The logic behind it is that as a content industry, the game has a lot of long-term thirst for content. Games emphasize real-time experience, and users’ consumption of content during the game process is continuous and real-time, which puts high demands on content production efficiency.
Technology is always the primary productive force. Today, the more advanced production tools represented by AIGC are placed in front of all game manufacturers. By actively introducing AI technology and continuously exploring its application in game development, publishing, and operation, we may obtain a larger market space.
After experiencing the industry situation with cold winds in recent years, the development opportunities brought by AIGC are particularly precious. In the competition rhythm where all parties are vying for the first-mover advantage, industry transformation is only a matter of time.
Change the production mode: Explore more interesting gameplay
The earliest attempt to combine AI with games was scripts and NPCs. Simple games like Pac-Man set behavior patterns such as follow, intercept, and prediction.
Today, AIGC helps achieve more complex effects, greatly improving the interactive experience, and ultimately exploring what kind of more interesting gameplay is worth looking forward to.
If NetEase were to answer this question, the casual mobile game “Egg Party” would definitely be regarded as a typical case. This small-scale explosion frequently emphasized in NetEase’s financial report topped the Chinese iOS download list in the first quarter of this year, with daily active players exceeding 30 million, making it NetEase’s game product with the highest daily activity ever.
Its special feature is that AIGC empowers the production of UGC content in the game, just like the free creation in the sandbox game “Minecraft”. Users can easily create maps in “Egg Party” through AIGC technology and have the opportunity to be officially included by the game.
Missions such as guarding treasures, escaping pursuit, and rescuing princesses are presented in turn in the millions of player maps in a week. This highly customized approach breaks the shackles of single gameplay in party games, increasing game content volume and significantly improving player participation and interaction.
Such great progress is due to AIGC greatly reducing the threshold for user content production and improving production efficiency.
Previously, even if players had a passion for personalized creation, they would be discouraged by the cumbersome creation process and the difficulty of using tools. AIGC replaces players in completing more complex processes, allowing for mass production with only creativity.
UGC user creation mode is constantly iterating and upgrading, and the richness of game content and the openness of the ecology far exceed the past. User participation has increased, and unprecedented interactivity and playability can also be experienced.
Of course, this rich mine is not exclusive to NetEase. Games such as “Xianjian World” from Chukong Games and “Code D” from Kunlun.com all regard player creation as a key operating strategy, intending to get a share of the pie. MiHoYo has always been a pioneer in exploring new elements. In its new work, “Honkai: Star Rail”, it has built-in a self-developed AIGC tool, the Meme Resonance Machine, which can convert the pictures uploaded by players into one of the game’s protagonists, March 7.
AIGC brings more changes to gameplay and experience that go beyond this. The enhancement of immersion by intelligent NPCs also far exceeds previous levels.
Two years ago, Tencent AI Lab’s Juewu team began to try to apply AI capabilities to the full chain of game production, operation, and ecological environment. In the popular competitive mobile game “King of Glory”, players can have combat drills with the ever-evolving Juewu AI, and the coordination and reaction of the AI are no less than that of real players.
NetEase’s newly released mobile game “Nishuihan” is positioned as the first game version of ChatGPT in China, boasting that everything can be interactive, and intelligent NPCs are the key.
Unlike the previous NPC content that was artificially set and procedural, intelligent NPCs and players can generate dialogues freely, and give logical feedback based on the dialogue content, just like game characters have their own personalities and emotions.
Therefore, in the AIGC production mode, facing the same game, different players are expected to enjoy a unique content experience. Kunlun.com CEO Fang Han has elaborated on this: the plot, map, and level can all be dynamically generated through AIGC, and players can enjoy their own exclusive plot and characters. NPCs are no longer simple rule-constrained dolls and can respond to player actions on their own. The playability of game products will be greatly improved.
The changes that AIGC brings to games are just the tip of the iceberg. In the report, Sequoia Capital points out that by 2030, AIGC will be able to generate text, code, images, videos, and 3D content in games, which will be at the level of professional developers and designers.
Perhaps in the end, game creators will only need creativity, and with the production capacity of AIGC, they will pave the way for the production of the game industry.
This also shows that AIGC is the engine of innovation in the game industry, providing more personalized content for games, and a large amount of game data provides sufficient nutrients for the iteration and evolution of AIGC.
Liberating productivity: explosive potential under cost reduction and efficiency improvement
For game developers, AIGC has a fatal appeal in helping to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
As a production tool, AIGC will greatly release productivity, help manufacturers to conduct more creative exploration, and bring possibilities for the golden age of game development.
Talking about the entertainment and media industry, games are the most complex form, with complex elements including text, images, animation, sound effects, music, 3D models, code and other types of resources.
Many industries face an impossible triangle of cost, efficiency, and quality, which is difficult to balance the development cost, development efficiency, and product quality at the same time, and the game industry is no exception. Faced with a huge workload and a tight schedule, the team inevitably has its own difficulties.
After the appearance of AIGC, it can improve the productivity of planning, audio, art, and program links in games, greatly improve creative efficiency, help compress the development cycle and personnel scale of the entire game project, and reduce game production costs.
For example, for the development end, AIGC can assist developers to quickly complete basic code, and automatically complete some time-consuming and repetitive work. For the art end, AIGC can achieve fast drawing and modeling, and the staff only needs to modify and adjust the finished product, thus saving a lot of time.
This is undoubtedly an opportunity for game companies to take advantage of the trend. The minutes of Juqian’s middle platform experts show that AI can help the category improve the next-day user retention rate by 3%-5% and the daily activity by 5%-10%. In the R&D end, the introduction of AI can save 40%-70% of manpower and 60%-70% of time.
With such terrifying improvements, no manufacturer can resist. In March of this year, Tencent launched a self-developed 3D virtual scene automatic generation solution, which can help game developers create virtual cities that are diverse in style and close to reality at a lower cost, and the production time of a single 3D model building now only takes 17.5 minutes.
Yoozoo Network stated that in April of this year, the company’s 2D art outsourcing costs have been reduced by about 25%, and it is expected to achieve greater cost reductions by the end of the year. Kaiying Network uses an AI tool called MidJourney in its development, which can generate scenes and characters in large quantities and reduce the creation time from two months to half an hour.
From the perspective of the entire industry, another positive result is that small companies and teams can use AI tools skillfully to try to produce larger projects and compete with large companies.
On May 28, Nvidia, known as the king of AI, announced that it will provide customized AI model OEM services for games, and developers can use this to build and deploy customized voice, dialogue, and animation AI models.
Now, game companies with limited capabilities don’t have to worry about not finding suitable AI tools.
The “2023 Game Development Report” released by Unity shows that 62% of independent games and 58% of mid-sized studios are developed and released within one year from the start of research and development in 2022. For small studios with limited personnel and production capacity, the days of developing and working hard for five years have become a thing of the past.
In the era of the AIGC explosion, this time will only be further compressed. The combination of AIGC and games will undoubtedly explode with unprecedented potential. Perhaps in the near future, stunning products will appear, and the entire industry will usher in a flourishing situation.
Emerging technologies with technological prospects first shine in the pure entertainment industry. It may sound a bit embarrassing, but it is undeniable that integrating AI into the workflow is no longer a mere talk in the gaming industry.
Game manufacturers embrace this technological wave unanimously because technological leaps are often the forerunners of industry changes and reshaping the landscape.
How to fully utilize the potential of AIGC will deeply affect game manufacturers’ insights into the market and grasp of the industry trend. Whoever can lead the development trend of the new generation of game products will be the first to stand on the wave.
No one wants to be left behind by the times. What we can do is to seize every opportunity and strive forward.