Both the video game and esports industries have experienced explosive growth in recent years. The most significant milestones were reached last year during the height of the pandemic when people were forced to stay home by lockdowns and travel restrictions. With recreational outlets limited, more and more people turned to gaming, and today, the worldwide audience is more than two and a half billion players.
That’s roughly one-third of the global population and it is an appealing consumer segment with disposable income for entertainment products:
- The average gamer is 34 years old, owns a house, and has children
- More than half of players participate every day
- Gaming revenue is three times greater than the music industry and four times that of movies
Given the rapid advancements in computer hardware, software capability, and streaming, more people are playing casually. Esports, meanwhile, has exploded with year-to-year growth of 30%, and millions of dollars being paid out in tournament prize money. A key driver of this growth is the expanding mobile environment, which is the fastest-growing platform for gaming. So, what lies ahead? These are some things to look for this year and beyond:
The Growth of Console Gaming
Despite its lengthy presence, console gaming has not always been the favored means of playing. While sales are increasing, console usage still trails the mobile and PC sectors, but with the introduction of Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and similar next-gen consoles, that is changing.
The latest models from tech giants are far more sophisticated than previous versions, featuring unmatched geographical performance. The PlayStation 5, for example, may become the real deal for esports gaming for the long term. Sony’s new release is taking the esports market by storm, leading the way in console sales last year and scoring big with players.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Virtual reality and augmented reality aren’t new. This technology has been around for nearly three years, but recent advancements have been remarkable. Both VR and AR are expected to become even more commonplace among esports competitors. Since 2020, there has been a surge in VR hardware and software sales. This has been attributed to the introduction of the next-gen consoles that are far more affordable than their predecessors, giving gamers greater access to top-rated playing experiences.
Even if VR technology does not become the epicenter of competitive play in tournaments and similar competitions, augmented reality will become a staple in everyday gaming. This is because players usually have unique avatars, and if those are personalized using augmented reality, in-game communication improves and that makes the experience far richer.
It is difficult to overstate the growth of the mobile market, and, to a large extent, the development of new products involves a “mobile first” mentality. If it plays on a smartphone or tablet, then making the necessary adjustments for PCs or consoles is not very difficult. Mobile titles and applications often take center stage in competitions throughout Asia and parts of the United States. The top games that fall in this category are better versions of ordinary titles, including PUBG Mobile, but that is only the start.
One need only look at 1337 PRO and similar platforms to see that the market for mobile esports is enormous, and its potential has barely been tapped. The availability, affordability, and accessibility of sophisticated mobile devices have seen developers producing titles exclusively for this market. Given this trend, expect more mobile games to enter the esports sector in the next few years, with substantial revenue growth by 2025.
Another factor spurring growth within gaming is the introduction and continued rollout of 5G networks. Although most players can comfortably access 5G mobile, this connectivity is not yet mainstream, and the full rollout is not expected until next year.
Once that happens, however, the possibilities abound. Access to 5G networks will enable mobile users to enjoy faster internet browsing, increased download speeds, and top-quality streaming with limited to no latency. This is especially important to cooperative games. Watch out for new next-generation titles penetrating the mobile market when the 5G network is fully rolled out.
Demographics In Esports
As the popularity of esports tournaments grows, so too will viewership, sponsorships, and participation. The next-gen consoles have allowed more people to engage and indulge, and the continued penetration of mobile devices means one can play from almost anywhere. More interest typically leads to bigger audiences for tournaments and other events.
Research suggests that the esports demographic might increase by nearly 15% at the end of this year. This translates to more than 500 million players worldwide. Although fans are primarily young, affluent males, that is changing. Far more women are playing, and the pandemic had a role in that. Also, younger players are joining the ranks though this comes with a note of caution as ‘gaming disorder’ is listed in the WHO’s catalog of potentially addictive behaviors.
The continued innovation has presented the esports sector with unlimited possibilities. The convergence between in-person and virtual sports is also beneficial, opening doors to features previously associated with the traditional in-person world of athletics – betting lines, advertising revenue, player sponsorships, and more.
Gaming Video Content (GVC)
People are social animals and the lockdowns took away a natural element of interacting with others. What could not be done in person occurred virtually, contributing to a growing demand for online gaming content and the ability to interact with GVC viewers and influencers. In the US, Twitch was the leading worldwide GVC platform. It was designed to provide a supportive network drawn from lifestyle content producers and the gaming community that shares an interest in video streaming.
The platform is projected to provide live services and attract more than four million monthly viewers by 2023. Twitch has a substantial lead on its competitors, drawing 65.8% of the audience, compared to YouTube’s 23.3% and Facebook Gaming at 10.9%. While the idea of providing a social platform to help players connect is still in its infancy and may fade as the pandemic eases, industry experts expect the social element to carry over to a larger audience within the ecosystem.