Once considered a niche hobby, gaming has grown to become one of the world’s favourite pastimes. In its digital form, millions, many of whom play online with or against other people from all over the globe, enjoy this entertainment. Over the years, the online gaming space has grown and evolved dramatically. Players today enjoy everything from casino games such as online blackjack and action shooters like Fortnite to life simulators such as Animal Crossing.
In its article, “Online gaming – statistics & facts”, market and consumer data research company Statista revealed there are now more than 900 million individuals participating in the online gaming sector, and this sector of the industry is worth almost $20 billion alone! With such a large audience, it’s no surprise that there’s such a wide range of experiences available to enjoy online; but what lies ahead for the future of this ever-growing industry?
Join us as we take a look at five trends that are changing the online gaming space.
1. Gaming is no longer just for kids or young men
In the early 1990s, it wasn’t hard to see that video games were marketed primarily to kids, or teenage boys and young men, with ads that either looked like a Saturday-morning cartoon for the former or featured sexy women or violent imagery for the latter.
However, it would be an understatement to say that we’ve come a long way since then. Long gone are the days where the stereotype of a gamer was either a child sitting in front of a TV playing on their video-game console or a teenage boy sitting alone at his PC in the basement. A report from intelligence service Savanta, titled “Nine out of 10 people in the UK are gamers“, shows that the split is 50/50 when it comes to gamers who identify as male or female in the UK and that 46% of the people who play are over the age of 40!
It’s safe to say that gaming is no longer just a hobby for kids and young men, and this trend towards even more diverse demographics is likely to continue.
2. From strength to strength: the rise of eSports
Competitive professional video gaming – more commonly known as “eSports” – has reached unprecedented levels of popularity in the past few years. Take one of the most popular competitive titles in the world: League of Legends. This online action strategy game is reported to have in the region of 115 million active monthly players, has global tournaments involving dozens of teams, and saw approximately 45 million people around the world tune in for its 2020 world final!
Looking at the market in general, Influencer Marketing Hub shared insights into eSports’ viewership in Europe in its report, “The incredible growth of eSports (+ eSports statistics)”, which used key findings from a study by Newzoo, a gaming-focused insights and analytics company. The study showed the number of eSports spectators has grown from 79 million in 2018, to 92 million in 2020, and that the annual number of viewers will grow by approximately 10% every year!
As technology becomes more accessible, and more people see the possibility of becoming an eSports competitor as a viable option, it’s virtually a given that this sector for the industry will continue to grow for a long time to come.
3. More people are discovering video game live streaming
The competitive side of video gaming isn’t the only area that is growing. As more people turn to the internet for media consumption, it’s no surprise that many have also shown an interest in becoming a live-streaming superstar! In the article, “Twitch’s active streamer count grew a staggering amount in 2020”, Input Mag described how Twitch, a video game-focused, live-streaming website, grew its user base from 3.9 million to 9.9 million people in January.
While there are undoubtedly a significant number of people who would have been streaming non-gaming-related content on Twitch, a large number of these new streamers would likely also have been streaming video games, including titles in the increasingly popular online slots category.
4. Games are increasingly used to meet our social needs
Gamers have known for years that online video games can be a great way to connect with new people or to help maintain relationships with old friends, but many more people, whether they identified as a gamer or not, found this out in early 2020. An article from the BBC titled, “How online gaming has become a social lifeline”, explores how many people turned to video games to stay connected, and how science has said for decades that games – contrary to popular belief – are a great way for people to meet their social needs.
While there’s no doubt that where online communities meet can sometimes be a toxic space (whether they’re dedicated to games or not), a great number of friendships – even romantic ones – come about as a result of online gaming. As more people go online and discover the beauty of games as a hobby, this is likely to become an even more popular way of connecting with others.
5. The number of mobile gamers continues to grow
Before 2007, gaming on a mobile phone was simple at best, or difficult at worst. The devices weren’t at all suited to recreating the gaming experiences that players had become used to on PCs and consoles, simply because they lacked the hardware to do so.
However, with the release of the iPhone in 2007, this all began to change. These devices had far more screen space, allowing for a more visually pleasing experience. And while their hardware might seem archaic compared to today’s smartphones, these devices were miles ahead of regular mobiles at the time and allowed for more complex gaming experiences to be introduced. The technology used to develop smartphones also paved the way for the development of tablet devices, which have also become a popular alternative to computers and consoles for some gamers.
To show how much this sector has grown, let’s take a look at the article, “Mobile gaming industry statistics and trends for 2021”, from Business of Apps and SocialPeta. This piece highlights how the number of mobile gamers grew by 12% between 2019 and 2020, and that 21% and 25% of app downloads are for games on Android and iOS respectively.
While some may prefer sitting at their computer or relaxing on their sofa with a controller in hand, mobile has undoubtedly become the way to play of choice for many people, and many others may find themselves making the switch to this medium as time goes by.
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