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Remember Pong? It was a video game released in 1972, the first one to see commercial success. It is generally considered the grandfather of all video games, and has had a career worthy of commendation. Since its release we’ve seen the game industry evolve. In three decades we witnessed it grow into a multi-billion dollar industry. And in the last few years we’ve seen it explore new territories – smartphones and other devices. But what’s in store for it in the new year?

Games go virtual

Google’s Cardboard and Samsung’s Gear VR have been appreciated by many last year, opening up a new, more immersive way to consume media. And virtual reality will open up even more new frontiers this year, with the release of Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive and Sony’s Playstation VR. These new products will have the potential to spice up gaming, and other forms of entertainment as well.

VR will open up more possibilities for gamers, but not just recreational ones. Microgaming, the game developer that provides the Royal Vegas slot games with its library, has experimented with a completely new gaming concept, offering its players a fresh game of roulette in virtual reality. Known as a pioneer in its branch, Microgaming has also showcased a VR slot machine at an event last year, directing the attention of the real money gaming industry on the new technology.

While VR won’t explode as fast as all the hype around it might suggest, it will slowly change the face of the gaming industry in 2016.

Mobile to grow further

Remember how the games of the past influenced hardware manufacturers to build stronger cards to keep up? The same has happened to smartphones. Large screens have become the new standard – today you can hardly find any handsets with screens under 5″. Even Apple, who has been known to offer smaller screen phones for easier operation, has released its own phablet to keep up with the competition.

This year the gaming industry will make good use of the stronger hardware to release better quality mobile games. And not just recreational game companies – the “black sheep” of the industry will also make good use of the stronger hardware under the phones’ hood. The Royal Vegas has released a series of fresh casino games on mobile that use this improved performance to the maximum. There are new games released at the Royal Vegas each month, and most of them look and feel even more fluid and responsive on next generation phones. As older phone models are slowly phased out, Royal Vegas games will become even more sophisticated – they won’t need to optimize so much for older hardware. Expect to see even more beautiful games to be released on mobile devices this year.

With smartphones gaining access to markets largely unexplored until now, the mobile gaming industry will grow further. Handset manufacturers will likely focus on markets like India and Brazil for growth in the new year. This means lots of new players to satisfy.

Wearable games will not take root

Wearables have been explored by a handful of game companies. Even the above mentioned Royal Vegas has released two fully functional games on Android Wear. But smartwatches seem not to be such a resounding success like smartphones. They have small screens, after all, and some of them are not even touch enabled. Their limited hardware and dimensions will most likely push them on the “nth” place in mobile gamers’ preferences. I don’t see smartphone games to explode this year.

Esports to become even more popular in 2016

Last, but not least, let’s take a look at professional gaming. VentureBeat predicts esports to show a two-digit growth of their audience each year for the next five years. VentureBeat gaming expert Dean Takahashi predicts the industry to grow almost 50% in value in 2016, reaching an impressive value of $463 million. By 2019, the market will exceed $1 billion in value, he predicts. The traditional media will be involved more in the industry, which means more ad space to be sold, funding the further growth of the business.