Today, the video game industry is a behemoth, bringing in billions (yes, billions) of dollars in revenue each year. In 2019 alone, the gaming and interactive media market roped in a staggering excess of $120 billion, of which mobile games alone generated more than half of this.
This doesn’t even take into factor that shortly after 2019, the entire civilized world was forced to sit indoors and occupy themselves, resulting in more consoles, more time online and, naturally, more gaming – about 35% of the world’s population (or 7 billion people) as of 2020. It’s little wonder, then, that industry titans such as Sony, Xbox, Nintendo, and Microsoft continue to pioneer advances and innovation within the gaming space. It’s a lucrative and rapidly growing avenue, one on only an upward trajectory in terms of popularity and, to any sane developer, an industry which deserves attention and respect.
But what can we expect in years to come? Well, here’s our two cents…
Today, we see technologies such as AR, virtual reality (VR), 3D graphics and trends such as streaming services and mobile gaming continue to transform the future of video games. Other drivers include innovative game consoles, mobile devices, and technologies such as facial and voice recognition, gesture control, high-definition displays, and wearable tech.
Needless to say, gaming as a whole has evolved from something you did in isolation or at an arcade into an all-encompassing, wholly immersive experience – and the introduction of online multiplayer functionality has served only to enhance this. In fact, many developers have found their entire business model revitalized by the mere introduction of an online platform (we’re looking at you, EA), while some have sprung seemingly out of nowhere and reached the pinnacle of Pop Culture status (this one’s for you, Fortnite). Gaming has come a long way, but it’s only headed in one direction – up.
So, let’s look at trends within the industry which are currently driving innovation:
From triple-A big budget titles to crowdfunded indie games, successful developers follow trends to learn what audiences are looking for and anticipate future video game development trends.
- Cloud Gaming and Streaming
Increased smartphone use, faster Wi-Fi and internet service, more reliable mobile networks, and larger hardware storage capacities in mobile devices have been primary drivers of people’s consumption of more digital content. Typically, in 2021, users download games to their devices in their spare time, with concerted effort being made to sit down and start up their consoles.
With an internet connection, gamers can then interact with others anywhere in the world as they play, but the games are still running locally from their devices. The problem is that, over time, this can impact the performance of a player’s device. We foresee an increased emphasis on Cloud gaming and streaming, which allow users play games from their devices, whilst the games actually live somewhere else (such as in a data center).
- Digital Distribution
Companies such as Netflix and Amazon have upended the home video market, and the video game industry is headed in the same direction. Whilst, in truth, game revenues are up, conventional brick-and-mortar video game stores are in decline – thanks to lower sales of physical games.
Digital distribution of games via services such as Steam complements the marketing strategies of publishers, allowing companies to deliver continuous messages to users, consistently introducing new features, updates, and games and, in doing so, usher in a new era in retailer to consumer interactions.
- New Business Models
Business models making their mark on the industry include free to play and gaming as a service (GaaS). The free-to-play model allows players to play games for no initial charge. These games, typically available on mobile devices and gaming PCs, then introduce opportunities for monetization at a later stage (again, we’re looking at you, EA). For example, players can purchase credits to remove ads (we’ve all wanted to at some stage), interact with other gamers, or get unobstructed play.
GaaS is primarily a subscription-based, on-demand streaming service that enables users to play games on the hosting servers of a video game publisher. GaaS, combined with additional monetization opportunities, helps expand a game’s lifespan over the long term.
- Increased Diversity
The idea that gamers are strictly young males is a very outdated, highly incorrect myth (just ask Tech Girl). According to Gamify, 17% of men and 10% of women ages 18-35 in the U.S. play video games. Among those 50 and older, 13% of both men and women play. Additionally, with the rise of cloud gaming and similar trends, the video game market continues to become more diverse. For example, users with lower income can participate without buying high-end gaming PCs or consoles, according to a Deloitte Insights report.
- Mobile Gaming
Mobile is becoming the go-to platform for consumers looking for new ways to stay entertained – especially on-the-go. With more than 2 billion people worldwide playing mobile games, according to Deloitte, mobile is the largest driver of growth in the video game industry. Amid COVID-19 lockdowns, mobile gaming surged because it offered users increased accessibility to video games. The mobile game user population in the U.S. and Canada has increased by 12% since 2019, according to a Deconstructing Mobile & Tablet Gaming report.
- Next-Generation Consoles
Gaming has reached a lot of new audiences, thanks to trends such as mobile game users, distribution digital models, and cloud gaming. In response, the primary game console manufacturers have embraced that change by introducing next-generation consoles that enable players to use physical and digital games. For example, Xbox Series X provides subscribers with access to a constantly updated library of hundreds of games. With state-of-the-art graphics, lightning-fast load times, and easy access to new games, next-generation consoles will continue to push the envelope in the video game industry.
So let’s sum it up, because this is getting pretty long. The gaming industry as a whole has progressed at a previously unforeseen pace within the last two decades alone. Thanks to technological advancements such as 3D Graphics, VR and improved AI, the user experience is continuously evolving and ever expanding. We predict that as developers continue to innovate, players will in turn discover more realistic and, in time, wholly immersive simulations along with better connection between worldwide audiences. Keep an eye on AI and VR in particular but, ultimately, our takeaway is that the future of gaming will essentially be shaped by societies desire to create awe-inspiring experiences, ones which increase our opportunities to escape, relax, unwind and engage.