Gaming has changed dramatically since its early days during the 1980s and 90s. No longer just an interesting hobby that required visiting an arcade or purchasing an expensive console, gaming has grown into a vast, global industry that is worth over $115 billion per year. The behemoth that is now the gaming industry generates revenues that are almost three times that made in the global film industry. It partners with the world’s biggest entertainment and sports brands to produce games and content and has even spawned a professional arm, with tournaments offering multi-million dollars in prize money.
To those of us who remember being swept up in the console era of gaming, this growth was always going to be on the horizon. However, the acceleration of digital technology over the years has arguably had the biggest impact on developing and revolutionizing the gaming industry. Even just looking back at the gaming landscape during the turn of the millennium, it’s clear that both the technology underpinning video games and the way we play them have evolved considerably since then.
Doing the improbable…
Sticking with the console era, during the initial Sega/Nintendo/Sony battles, releasing an unfinished game that was barely more than a concept or string of ideas would’ve been unthinkable, as well as resulting in instant death for whatever entertainment giant released it. Fast forward a couple of decades, and we have gaming companies of all sizes making use of improbable tech, moving further and further away from releasing finished products and instead focusing on “co-creating digital experiences” with gamers.
One of the most recent examples of a hit “unfinished game” is Worlds Adrift, a massively multiplayer online game from Bossa Studios. Thousands of gamers from across the world have joined the game, which is set in an imaginary post-apocalyptic world. Far from having a narrative storyline to follow, with set missions and objectives, gamers playing Worlds Adrift can build their own skyships and islands and continue to explore this ever-expanding universe. An average of 10,000 gamers have built their own islands in the game, which are open to exploration by other players.
Gaming on the go with mobile and the cloud
Perhaps one of the most obvious industry booms that digital tech has facilitated is mobile and cloud-based gaming – aka gaming on the go. As smartphone technology has advanced, so too have the games that are played on them – in two decades we’ve gone from playing the basic (but oh-so-entertaining) Snake as a solo player, to engaging in Fortnite battles with gamers on the other side of the planet on our mobile phones. Gaming apps are ubiquitous, spanning every genre from casual shooter to RPG and MMORPG, and the demand for high-performance hardware on which to play them has led leading manufactures to release their own lines of dedicated premium gaming phones.
Mobile gaming doesn’t stop there. The emergence of cloud-based technology is likely to take things even further during the next decade. We’ve lost track of the number of innovations that are heralded as “real game changers” for the mobile sector, but cloud gaming will certainly be appreciated by those diehard mobile gamers for whom performance is a priority.
iGaming has become a powerful sector in the industry
Gaming across the board has been transformed by the implementation of new digital technologies, particularly the iGaming sector and its associated real-money activities. The advent of the internet opened up a world of real-money gaming and wagering opportunities, and digital tech took things to a much more immersive and interactive level.
Innovations like virtual reality (VR) have become the basis of online poker games, global tournaments open to players of all skill levels are regularly hosted by online gaming platforms, and even sporting fans are no longer limited to just placing wagers on traditional markets like boxing, football, and horseracing – everything from Brexit to climate change are now open to odds.
Disrupting business models
As consumers, the effects of digital tech on the finished product and the hardware associated with gaming is pretty obvious. What’s not so obvious, however, is that digital technology has disrupted the traditional way that publishing houses and developers do business, effectively forcing them to rethink the video game business model.
Prior to the widespread integration of mobile gaming and online streaming for games, the video game business model was as straightforward as it could be – publishers sold physical games to retail outlets (both off and online) and generated single revenues from each of these sales. But in today’s digital era, gamers have vastly different requirements for a game (the social aspect, online access, digital downloads, etc.), and publishers just can’t rely on the old model as a way to do business anymore.
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Jean-Marc Trappler. The photo with the Nintendo Switch controller has been done by Pixabay.
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