Opinion: Generative AI poses new opportunities for games monetization

AI's myriad of capabilities offers unique new possibilities for publishers, developers, and even platform-holders to monetize the video games industry.

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Generative and constructive AI could open up a new way to monetize the games industry through creative and interesting means.

Opinion: Generative AI poses new opportunities for games monetization 1

AI is a hot-button topic in the games industry, and for good reason. Gaming is collectively bloodletting itself in an attempt to purge the virus of rising costs, leading to thousands of layoffs. Artists understandably don't like the idea of their work being stolen via AI, and very much don't want to be replaced by automated processes. And right now, it's fair to say that companies are eager to grasp at any cost-saving tools that are available. AI is seen as the future of, well, everything, and it will undoubtedly be scaled for the world's largest entertainment medium.

Artificial intelligence is being advanced at such a rapid rate that it will assuredly disrupt key parts of the economy, including the $180 billion interactive entertainment industry. The most practical public use-cases for AI in gaming have been things like automated voiced dialog, and there's been talk of using AI to help create quests and streamline other processes. Microsoft has teamed up with AI experts Inworld to bring AI tools to the Xbox SDK environment, and Xbox's CFO Tim Stuart says that 'anyone can be a game developer' with AI's help.

But AI could also fundamentally change how consumers interact with games, and it's here where the new monetization opportunities lie.

In this idea, I see three main avenues to monetize using AI:

  1. User-generated content
  2. AI-powered tips and tricks
  3. Choose-your-own-adventure experiences

These three avenues could leverage a new kind of token economy specifically for AI.

NVIDIA founder Jensen Huang said something interesting in a recent interview with VentureBeat. In the interview, Jensen succinctly and clearly explained the concept of AI token economies:

"We now have a new type of data center that is about AI generation, an AI generation factory. And you've heard me describe it as AI factories. Basically, it takes raw material which is data, transforms it with these AI supercomputers and NVIDIA builds and it turns them into incredibly valuable tokens. These tokens are what people experience on the amazing GenAI platforms like Midjourney."

What if the same thing could be done for gaming? Could AI create its own token economy with a paid virtual currency, not unlike the V-bucks, platinum, and digital gold in games today?

And if so, what would these tokens be used for?

Users could potentially cash in their tokens for AI-assisted user-generated content, among other things.

1. User-Generated Content (UGC)

UGC is tricky. There's no guarantee it'll work, and if it does work, there's no telling what creations will actually be popular.

Games like Minecraft and Fortnite thrive from user-generated content; that is, digital goods that everyday players can create and sell in a digital store for in-game currency or real-world money.

So how will AI tie into UGC? Generally, I see AI doing a lot of assist work in this space. I grew up with Halo, so I'll use a Halo analogy to explain this one.

Halo Infinite's Forge mode is incredible. It's kind of like a mini games engine. It's a lot more than just placing cool in-game assets at this point; you can command enemy behaviors, affect certain map conditions, etc. The possibilities are endless.

But the probability that an everyday gamer would be able to tap even a small portion of those possibilities is very small. What if AI could help speed along the process?

Gamers could effectively trade in their new AI tokens to have an AI assistant, or co-pilot if you will, create a map for them. Or at the very least, create the shell or basic outline of the map itself.

Theoretically, developers could get as in-depth as they want with this kind of method; having AI create the entire map soup to nuts, or just small portions of the map. Then users could potentially sell these creations, depending, of course, on the rights involved (if there are any rights).

Oh, users could potentially sell their own save states as user-generated content, too. But that might be a topic for a different article.

2. Tips and Tricks

Sony filed an interesting patent that uses AI to deliver hints, tips and tricks to users as they play games. Sony has technically already executed this functionality with the PlayStation 5's Game Help feature, but this particular patent goes way, way beyond the current Game Help's limitations, offering on-screen indicators, in-depth walkthroughs, and hints that are directly layered over and into the game itself.

This feature could be a big driver for monetization, but to an extremely lesser degree.

The idea is a lot like the old Nintendo Power business model from back in the day. You know, one of the original forms of microtransactions. In the late 80s and well into the 1990s, Nintendo games were made extremely difficult with the hopes of selling tips and tricks guides in stores. No one knew what to do in a game, so they would buy these guides, or subscribe to the official platform-branded Nintendo Power magazine.

The same could be done with AI. Companies could effectively have their own form of Game Genie or expert-level guides specifically designed to help players beat portions of a game.

This could be as basic or interactive as developers would like. Perhaps the guide just has an on-screen video showing you how to beat an enemy (which is something you could indeed find free on YouTube), or maybe it's as in-depth as guiding you step-by-step through a specific battle.

Either way, the potential here seems high.

3. Choose-Your-Own-Adventure

This one seems more advanced. Theoretically, developers could create "slices" of a game that AI could arrange based on player experiences/input.

All games are technically like this. While the majority of the game is set in stone--there's a main quest with not much variation--a good portion of most RPGs will adjust and change based on what a player does.

But what if the main quest also changed, too? I don't mean just a different ending, but the quest lines leading up to that point, the way people interact with you, etc.

The idea would see players being able to better choose how their story unfolds, at least within the confines of the AI parameters. That way the playthroughs could be quite unique.

This is a higher-level concept that may take considerable innovation, time, and money to achieve--if it's achievable at all. But this could offer a true randomized, reactive experience that's directly monetized outside of the core game.

For instance, Microsoft could sell The Elder Scrolls VI with a definite beginning, middle, and end. The game would bend/change based on player actions, but it wouldn't be as varied as, say, someone who spent AI tokens to inject more dynamism and unpredictability into their experience. Pulling this off would be tricky as gamers wouldn't want to spend extra for a different experience, especially one that is so unpredictable, so there's a lot of experimentation and refining needed here.

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Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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