Gaming is a changing landscape now more than ever as new technology advances graphics and game features continue to change.

Here are some of the biggest trends we’re seeing so far this year:

 

1. Freemium Games

Don’t want to pay for games? That’s okay. Freemium games are going well beyond mobile apps, so hardcore gamers have plenty of free options.

Okay, so freemium gaming isn’t new, but it is still a growing market.

League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, Planetside 2, and Ghost Recon are all free, but each has a paid component.

While you can probably play League of Legends and not have to spend money to win, some of the other popular freemium games definitely have a pay-to-win feel.

Hearthstone, for example, is becoming more difficult to win in ranked play without paying for new cards due to the fact that so many other players now have them. The game does offer the ability to earn in-game gold to purchase new sets and the ability to disenchant old cards to craft new ones, but it’s a real grind to save up the gold or the crafting dust to get the legendaries you’ll need to win if you want to play seriously in ranked mode.

Planetside 2 and Ghost Recon Phantoms are both free to play, but are definitely easier when you can pay for upgrades. Like Hearthstone, point systems allow players to buy in-game items for in-game currency, but they cost a lot, making it impractical to save up for higher quality items.

With its beta coming a close, Heroes of the Storm is formatted much like League of Legends. You probably won’t have to spend money to win, but you can buy new heroes faster and buy cool skins and mounts for them that make gameplay more fun.

While freemium models can be frustrating for intense players who want to be the best, it lowers barriers to players who want to try a new game.

The success of these games continues to make this a viable model for new games. Don’t expect it to vanish anytime soon.

2. Streaming

Live streaming video games isn’t new, but it is more popular than ever, and it seems like its reach is in everything from LoL and Hearthstone to WoW and even online poker. Seriously, you can find a livestream of almost anything.

While it’s made several internet celebrities, the sheer number of people getting into online streaming means that you probably won’t be making an income off streaming anytime soon, but you can share your gaming experiences with friends and a few strangers.

Amazon’s recent acquisition of Twitch, the world’s most popular streaming platform, shows that streaming is probably going to be a part of gaming for a long time.

3. Multi-Part Releases

It seems like multi-part game releases are becoming more common. If you’ve been following Grand Theft Auto 5 news, the game promised heists, cooperative missions with massive payouts you could play with your friends online since it was released over a year ago. Heists were only released just last month through a free patch to the frustration of early players who felt let down on a promise from Rockstar.

Of course, this was only a problem for console versions, as the PC version was not released yet. It will be released on April 14th and will include all game content released so far.

But it’s not just GTA. The Sims 4 is also continuing to patch in new content after its October release.

Though the Sims franchise is traditionally known for adding new content through purchasable expansion packs, the Sims 4 was released without many of the basic features fans know and love like swimming pools and basements.

This and other expected content were added after the fact in multiple patches, but the wait already frustrated many fans of the franchise.

Another multi-part release has been Tim Schaefer’s Broken Aged produced by Doublefine. The first act of the game was released last year, and the second part will be patched to users at the end of this month.

This adventure game was actually broken in two because the project was wholly crowd funded. When funds ran low, the sales of the first half of the game funded the production of the second-half, allowing Doublefine to create the same high-quality gaming experience they are known for. The problem is that the wait has been painful for fans of the game.

All of this begs the question, should games be released with all the promised content, or should fans have to wait for patches and get to play the games earlier?

As games become more complicated to make and player expectations rise, fans may find themselves frustrated by playing incomplete games rather than following the traditional model of waiting for a game release.

But this could also be a good thing. If games continue developing after release, players could see some really cool innovations that developers normally don’t have time for before release. Player input on the initial release could also have the potential to shape the gaming experience in future patches.

What are some of the other trends you’ve seen this year? Are you excited about them, or do they annoy you?