The global gaming industry has become a genuine, 21st-century digital phenomenon. Gaming has always been at the cutting edge of technological innovation, but since the year 2000, the industry has made rapid advances into the field of interactive entertainment.
From the home consoles of the early noughties to today’s smartphones, digital platforms, and remote gaming experiences, the pastime has achieved global popularity and transformed beyond all measure.
Having broken through as the most popular method of at-home entertainment in 2020 – beating out both movies and televised sports - online gaming is generating new trends for how we use digital devices as well as setting the template for markets within the wider entertainment industry to follow.
With the online gaming revolution well and truly underway here in 2021, let’s take a closer look at the core components of the industry and its lasting impact.
A Lucrative Industry
At the end of 2020, following one of the industry’s strongest years, the total global gaming market was valued at over $160 billion. With forecasts suggesting that this total value could exceed $290 billion by 2026, it's clear that this once niche activity has become a fully-fledged ecosystem that, in turn, supports new and exciting emerging economies.
Although some gaming trends will, naturally, come and go, there are several core components to the industry that continue to drive its global popularity.
Unsurprisingly, the video game market – comprising PC and console gaming – is the oldest segment of the global gaming industry and still one of the top-performing sectors. Whereas a decade or so ago, physical game titles would comprise the vast majority of annual revenues in this segment, in the 21st century, it’s all about streaming services and platforms.
Valve’s Steam, for example, has risen through the ranks to now stand as an ubiquitous gaming marketplace, paving the way for the more recent emergence of cloud gaming technology.
In order to move with the times, even established gaming manufacturers like Sony and Microsoft are diversifying their products by launching cloud gaming services and platforms.
Another key market within the industry contributing to its annual growth is the iGaming sector. As one of the oldest types of online gaming verticals (online casinos predate many of 2021's gaming trends), this sector is responsible for updating historical games like blackjack into engaging, digital experiences, such as PokerStars' Premium and VIP blackjack.
Real money games have captured the attention of adult gamers across the globe, prompting not just expansion into previously unlicensed states in the US, but also a wealth of casino-style play money games being released into the free-to-play vertical.
It would be difficult to describe the global gaming industry without mentioning the mobile market. Arguably the most popular segment to have emerged from the video gaming industry of the last century, mobile games now account for 50% of all global gaming revenues.
Many experts believe that mobile is the future of the gaming industry. The increased widespread availability of efficient gaming, on-the-go hardware and high-speed mobile data connections make this segment the most accessible to gamers in developing countries, and tempting enough for gamers in leading gaming markets to ditch their traditional desktop set-ups.
eSports has Taken Gaming to the Next Level
Of course, one of the biggest disruptors in the digital entertainment field in recent years has been the emergence of eSports.
eSports, or professional video gaming, has pushed gaming to the next level, bringing competitive gaming on a par with more traditional mindsports like chess, and challenging gaming technology and game development.
Runaway gaming trends like the battle royale genre have largely taken hold of the public’s consciousness as a result of their emergence in eSports competitions, while the industry itself supports massive gaming corporations and independent game developers alike.
One of the biggest ripple effects of eSports can be seen in the current digital trend for content streaming. Platforms like Twitch have experienced growth in direct relation to the soaring popularity of eSports as a spectator sport. Millions of gamers across the globe regularly tune in to the streams of gaming celebrities like Lachlan Power, feeding their dreams and ambitions of making it big from the comfort of their own homes.
The eSports segment has even helped broker partnerships between big businesses and league sports associations and the gaming industry, as seen in the NBA’s official 2K Player Tournament League.
It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that the segment is expected to be worth almost $2 billion by the end of 2022.