(Updated to include comment from inflight gaming specialist DTI)
Airlines are becoming increasingly hampered in their ability to offer the same quality and capabilities in games featured in their embedded seat-back IFE systems as passengers enjoy on their tablets and other personal devices, and currently few options exist for carriers to improve the quality of games featured in their wired IFE offerings, a top Emirates executive says.
Emirates VP corporate communications product, publishing and digital events Patrick Brannelly voiced the frustration felt by many carriers during a discussion of onboard gaming trends last week at the APEX EXPO, where he declared that even games available on Blackberrys “exceed the capability of the in-seat system”. One complaint the carrier receives is the quality games featured in those lag what is available on their personal devices.
Passenger expectations of an inflight gaming experience to mimic their on-ground amusement will only grow. Neal Alcaraz, Apple account director at Electronic Arts says statistics show the average age of a casual gamer is 30 while 37% of gamers are age 36 or older.
“Games are not for kids,” says Brannelly, “People play Scrabble, people play words with friends.” Brannelly believes it is also important for gaming content providers and IFE hardware suppliers to be educated about the disparity in the gaming quality between personal devices and embedded IFE systems. “The quality of seat-back game playing is not where it needs to be,” he says.
While the proliferation of inflight connectivity allows some travellers to play popular games while airborune, the reality is not all passengers have their own personal devices to use for inflight entertainment. DTI software VP of licensing Linda Linnenkohl highlighted research that indicates only one-third of passengers travelling in the US bring their own tablets on board. She cites some challenges in hardware suppliers keeping pace with the gaming industry that “moves along at a fast clip”. Her DTI colleagues do acknowledge there are some challenges in releasing games on a wide variety of IFE platforms.
Exciting advancements in inflight gaming are on the horizon, however, as detailed in this recent special report on the APEX editor’s blog.
Marc-André Bruneau, VP of engineering at DTI says: “We’re at an age where gaming has become a form of entertainment as important for an inflight passenger as watching a movie and listening to music. This makes it all the more important to take casual gaming capabilities into consideration when thinking-up the next generation of IFE platforms.
“Although the industry has some roadblocks to overcome and processes to refine before inflight technology becomes fully compatible with the casual games that consumers can find on their electronic devices, we’re certainly encouraged by the increasing interest hardware manufacturers and airlines have in providing games to passengers and we will continue to drive the technological evolution needed for this to become a reality.”