I’m going to hit you with some numbers first. Last year was a record-breaking year for the global gaming market. Total revenue came in at an eye-watering £79 billion at the end of 2017 – not to mention its impact on other sectors, where it contributed more than £100 million to the UK film and merchandising industries alone. It’s not even finished growing yet, as estimates from PWC suggest that by 2020, the global gaming market will be worth more than £92 billion.
Just to give you a better picture of how fast the gaming industry is growing, let’s compare it the world of music and film, mainly as they seem to have missed the memo. In 2017, the money spent on games reached £66 billion, which is more than consumers spent on movies (£44 billion) and recorded music (£13 billion) combined.
The way I see it, you can't interact with an MP3, nor can you dictate the narrative in a film (Rockstar Games came pretty close with LA Noire) –at least not yet, anyway. And whilst it's quite easy to illegally download Beyoncé’s (INCREDIBLE) new album or torrent the new Avengers movie, it's much more difficult to crack a PlayStation or an Xbox game, with a “chipped” console often being required to play illegally downloaded games. (Even then, Microsoft have been tackling illegal gamers hard over recent years and will now crash your chipped Xbox the second it even looks at a server.)
But let's face it, hacking into Steam, the Xbox Live Marketplace or the PlayStation Store isn't an option for the majority of people. But does anyone else not think that it’s a bit weird that we shirk from the thought of paying for CD or a DVD, but the minute a new game is released, millions of players will throw down upwards of £50 without a thought (and even camp outside the store to be first in line).
This is because video games have a similar emotive appeal to TV shows like the X Factor or the phenomenon that is Ru Paul’s Drag Race (hear me out.) Music is nothing new: everyone loves it and has their favourite artists (Beyoncé, OBVIOUSLY), but in a real-time competition with live contestants, the audience can’t cheat the results. They must sit through the journey (whether enjoyable or not), to benefit from the outcome. Games, for the most part, no longer follow a structured narrative path. Much of a game’s replayable content is focussed around online gaming, whether this is playing cooperatively or against one another. It is the competitors, whether individuals or teams, that dictate the storyline.
The longevity of a game is becoming more and more reliant on how good the online game modes are. Once the offline content has been completed, what’s left? This is where a game’s PVP modes (player versus player) or online cooperative modes need to shine. Look at Halo’s most recent release: Halo 5 was released back in 2015 but the world championships are one of the largest events on the competitive gaming calendar, with a prize pool of over $1 million. It is this shift in the popularity of online-based gaming in the past decade that has proven to be the catalyst for the gaming industry’s recent success. Developers behind titles such as Overwatch and DOTA have seen this type of game’s popularity soar, creating titles that are purely PVP online games, so you must be connected to the internet to play with/against others to even play the game.
Why has it become so popular?
To put it bluntly, as technology gets better, the gaming experience gets better. Technology has advanced incredible amounts in the last decade. We now have faster internet speeds, the internet is more accessible to more people and there is a simply MASSIVE choice of games to play, from first-person shooters to bakery simulators and sports games. However, an interesting factor is that console and PC gaming has been on the decline for the past five years, with console sales dropping and fewer titles having huge success. But this growth is MAINLY due to the immense popularity of gaming on mobile devices. You can now join online casinos, online bingo halls and even place wagers on virtual sports from anywhere around the world.
Gaming has (very) successfully migrated from console onto mobile devices, with mobile titles becoming the fastest growing, making up 43% of the global gaming market at $50.4 billion, which is a huge 19.3% increase from last year and the only gaming platform that hasn’t seen a decrease in recent years (the PC gaming market has decreased 2.6% in the last year, for instance).
Levelling up within the industry
It might sound straightforward, but popularity can have the greatest impact on a game’s success. For example, battle royale games, such as PUBG, Fortnite and H1Z1 are becoming more and more popular, with new titles entering the arena every month. This is mainly because not many online games offer this game mode, let alone specialise in it. The recent hype train that is Fortnite has caused developers Epic Games to make a mobile version of the game. So not only is the most popular current video game purely online-based, but the creators have seen the potential in mobile gaming and are making the move to include the platform in the title’s portfolio.
As the world’s connectivity also explodes, so does the ability to connect and play with people from around the world. Microsoft, the company behind Xbox, are huge on community engagement. The Xbox Live online system is one of the most popular and they create community events, friendly rivalries and allow you to compete and connect with players all over the world. (Fancy a game of COD at 3AM? No problem, an American will be available to make you rage quit.)
The more the merrier
As more people enter the world of gaming, lobby times get shorter, game speeds improve through the use of dedicated servers, prize pools increase, betting payout rates increase and so on. This “player roulette” adds freshness and excitement as you never truly know your opponents until the game starts. About half of the population play video games already and this is only going to expand – especially mobile gaming, which continues to grow at such a high rate.
It’s not just the players that have noticed the sudden growth and potential in the gaming industry. UK and Welsh government bodies have recently started driving the industry with investment, supporting game developer start-ups. GamesLab, for example, support digital and gaming startups in the Leeds city region, funded through the government to provide mentorship, workshops, support for new business as well as opening opportunities within emerging tech sectors. This is fantastic news, however experts report that the same level of investment and support to the gaming sectors, especially for British studios, must remain the same in future years to continue the support and growth of the industry.
All in all, the gaming industry is pretty damn exciting: you can win money, suffer heartbreak, become a hero and add inches to your waistband.