The games industry is the largest media sector in the world and is valued somewhere in excess of $300 billion today.
This makes it over five times larger than the film industry and puts it in the unique position as a driver of popular culture and innovation.
As such, emergent trends in this sector can have repercussions for the broader technology and entertainment markets.
Several compelling shifts are now on the horizon that stand to impact the way we play, pay for and consume gaming content.
Here, we’re covering the most pressing of these for 2023.
Ease Of Access – Trials, Free-to-Play And Promos
One key trend that has come to define the wider industry over the past decade is a commitment to greater access to titles and gameplay experiences.
This is largely the result of new monetization formats, such as in-game microtransactions, which have proven to be viable and lucrative.
This has given developers the freedom to offer titles in the ‘free-to-play’ format – that is, the game is available to download and play, in full, without upfront costs.
This has the added bonus of ensuring healthy player numbers, while developers only need a small percentage of those players to purchase in-game items in order to justify the model.
Other formats, such as games and platforms belonging to the iGaming sector, incorporate real-money play as a core part of the experience on offer.
In this context, the most effective means of easing access to new and returning players is to furnish them with casino welcome options available as well as bonuses.
This has, in recent years, become a core expectation among patrons of this sector and has given rise to a huge number of dedicated comparison platforms that are focused on collating the best of these offers into single directories for gamers to browse.
Embracing New Modalities – AR, VR And The Metaverse
One of the top tech buzzwords of 2022, some of the initial hype around the prospect of the metaverse has died down recently.
This can, in no small part, be laid at the feet of Meta (formerly Facebook), who saw billions wiped off their stock price following the faltering launch of their Horizon Worlds metaverse experience.
Given that Meta is thought to have invested something in the range of $50 billion dollars on this project so far, it’s unsurprising that the widely ridiculed demonstration of their vision resulted in investors walking away.
But to think that the metaverse is purely a product of Mark Zuckerberg is to be mistaken – more broadly, the metaverse can be thought of as a revival of the 90s dream of cyberspace, now being ushered in at the behest of new, lighter, and significantly more powerful VR headsets than were available 30 years ago.
It’s still early days, but with the likes of Sony continuing to back VR with the launch of their new PSVR2 headset, we can expect to see a growing number of developers looking to publish VR-ready games over the next 12 months.
Likewise, AR, augmented reality, is all set for a revival. AR’s gaming high point remains the viral hit that was Pokémon Go, which became the most played mobile title in 2016.
Since then, compelling AR experiences have been relatively few and far between.
But with no less than Apple mere months away from launching their innovative new AR headset, you can rest assured that the industry is watching in the wings should this product become the next iPhone.
Blockchain – Play-to-Earn And NFT Items
Despite recent headlines surrounding the implosion of FTX, the broader blockchain project is far from over.
The games industry is one of the best positioned to integrate the benefits of decentralization, and we’re beginning to see the first meaningful outlines for how blockchain will influence gaming.
Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), for example, are a perfect match for microtransactions and rare in-game items, providing real-world scarcity and thus value.
Likewise, the rise of play-to-earn titles, that is, games that award you crypto funds for playing will, before long, have a huge impact on multiplayer gaming and eSports.
eSports – Cutting Through The Hype And Becoming Profitable
The esports ‘boom’ of the past few years has been a long time coming. This industry is on track to exceed $3 billion in global revenue by as early as 2027, though recent challenges—as made abundantly clear by FaZe Holding’s catastrophic stock price crash, demonstrate that esports needs to continue building its foundations if it’s to become a profitable sector.
One of the best ways to achieve this is to pivot towards competitive titles that the casual gamer can relate to.
It’s all well and good that the world’s most popular eSports are MOBAs – a relatively arcane and complex PC gaming genre, but many more people are playing sports and FPS games on their Xbox and PlayStation.
Bridging this gap is going to be crucial if esports is to take its next great step into mainstream relevance.
Early signs are promising—The Call of Duty League is one of the fastest growing competitive circuits in the industry and it will soon face stiff competition from a newly revitalized Halo Championship Series.
Elsewhere, the Gran Turismo franchise has made a name for itself as an officially sanctioned racing game for the International Olympic Committee, but work must still be done to bring the casual spectator into the fold.
Suffice to say, console esports are still in the process of finding their feet. One platform that is faring far better is that of mobile.
In fact some of the biggest and most popular eSports in the world today are mobile titles—from Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, to PUBG Mobile and Free Fire.
Whether these games will be able to bring sufficient numbers of new players and spectators into the sector is an open question at present, but they do serve as a proof of concept for mobile eSports.
With rumors that Activision is developing a mobile version of its popular CoD battle royale, Warzone, iOS and Android esports look set to take off over the next 12 months.
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