At the same time as an overall stock market rebound, the gaming industry has never looked as strong as it has right now. Major developers and publishers have, for the most part, been reporting record revenue and profit figures as they increase their sales and drive up margins.
This hasn’t been a fluke and it isn’t a temporary bubble ahead of an industry crash like we saw in 1983. Instead, massive industry-wide success in gaming is due to continued innovation by developers and publishers, all looking for ways to add value to their content while also increasing profits for their shareholders.
This innovation has helped attract more people into playing games by creating different types of experiences that appeal to non-traditional gaming demographics such as those over 50 and women. The number of gamers in the world was just under 2 billion in 2015, but this is expected to jump to more than 3 billion by the end of 2023.
Of all the innovations that have attracted new demographics in recent years, here are some of the biggest and most influential.
Free to Play Games
Until the 2010s, there was only one main way to get hold of a video game. You’d visit a store in person or go online and pay to buy a copy of it. In return, you’d get a physical disc that you could insert into your PC or console which would contain the entire game.
This meant that gamers couldn’t try out a new title without forking out £40-50 first. Forcing them to be selective over which ones they purchased so that they minimised their risk of picking one they didn’t enjoy.
For publishers, this model meant they were only paid whenever a game was sold. If the player enjoyed it for years afterwards, it would be of no benefit to them. This incentivised developers to churn out new versions of games every year or so, rendering old ones obsolete.
Free-to-play games work differently. Players can download and install it for free, they can also enjoy it for as long as they like without being required to hand over any cash. However, if they want to get access to extra features, unlock character customisations, or play on new levels, they’ll be required to make purchases.
A hybrid model of upfront purchases and microtransactions has also become common, extending the lifespan of games like Grand Theft Auto V and CS:GO to around a decade. Their publishers, Take-Two and Steam now make the bulk of their revenue from microtransactions.
The internet has allowed many gaming companies to provide a community element to their games. Many modern titles include league tables or leaderboards that show the players in the world or each country with the best scores, encouraging people to play for longer to try and rise through the ranks.
Online play provides for a much more varied gaming experience than against the game’s own AI as experienced players are typically more skilled and less predictable. Chat features, either through voice or text, is also often included as it gives players more choice
The iGaming industry has also embraced this community concept in several ways. Many games include chat functionality, while live games even use human dealers who will interact with players. There’s also the jackpot concept which sees all players contribute to a central pot that gets progressively larger. Some of these will hit each day, while others will span days or even weeks before they’re awarded.
Another major change in the gaming industry of recent years has been the increased proliferation of casual games. These are titles that players can enjoy for short periods of time, dip in and out of whenever they like, and play over and over again.
In 2020, when all gaming was enjoying explosive growth, the hyper-casual category was far exceeding the rest of the industry.
These titles are typically played on a smartphone or tablet, though they can also be found on computers and consoles. They also offer a wider variety of genres and concepts, with diverse examples from the jewel matching game Candy Crush to the transport-themed puzzle game Mini Metro.
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