The way in which we choose to play games has shifted dramatically over the past few decades. From the confines of the arcade to home consoles, and more recently, our smartphones, gaming has exploded in global popularity and changed beyond all measure.
Now widely considered to be one of the most lucrative industries on the planet, sustaining everything from development houses to eSports leagues and indie developers alike, online gaming is expected to reach just shy of $200 billion by the year 2022.
Poised at the forefront of technology, gaming is setting trends for how we interact with digital devices and even having a ripple effect on the wider entertainment industry in general. But how did such transformative change happen in just three decades, and what is the future of online gaming?
Online gaming: the timeline
While the 1980s arguably had the biggest impact on breaking gaming into the mainstream, the very first video game prototypes were actually produced in the 1950s. But it would be the widespread penetration of the World Wide Web 40 years later that would really launch gaming into the stratosphere:
- The late 1990s: Alongside the rise of online chat rooms and specialised activities like online poker, online gaming quickly began to gain in popularity due to the increased availability of home internet packages.
- 2003: Valve Corporation first launched its now ubiquitous gaming streaming service Steam as a software client. Initially launched as a way for the company to provide consumers with automatic updates for Valve games, it would soon be expanded to include games from other third-party publishers.
- 2004: The launch of World of Warcraft brought about the mammoth MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) genre.
- 2009: Minecraft became one of the best-selling video games in all gaming history when it launched this year and sold 176 million copies.
- 2009: Apple made its mark on the emergent mobile gaming sector with the launch of its In-app Purchase feature for iOS apps.
- 2015: Gaming is fast becoming the modern consumer’s favourite method of home entertainment, as the market grows to include 1.5 billion gamers across the globe.
- 2016: Arguably the most popular Augmented Reality mobile game of all time, Pokémon Go launches and pulls in the highest first-month revenue of any mobile game ever released.
- 2019: The new era of online gaming gets underway as Google launches Stadia, its cloud gaming service that aims to make video games consoles obsolete.
The big segments
Innovation has played a huge role in the evolution of online gaming. While the industry itself comprises of a number of components, there are certain key segments that have shaped the online gaming industry to what we know it as today including:
With close ties to other major gaming segments like mobile gaming and eSports, the iGaming sector is one of the oldest online gaming verticals and a core part of the online gaming industry. Platforms offering casino games like slots, blackjack, and roulette, online poker rooms, and sports betting apps and websites are all contributing to a sector that will likely exceed its projected revenues of $103 billion by 2025, due to a massive global take-up in 2020 and further projected expansion in the US markets.
- Mobile Gaming
Having experienced a huge surge in growth during the first half of 2020, mobile gaming is currently the largest segment in the online gaming industry. Generating over $68 billion in revenue last year, and widely expected to top that figure this year, mobile gaming contributes to over 45% of the total gaming market.
Compared to other segments that make up the gaming industry it’s still relatively new, having only really become mainstream over the last decade. However, it’s developed at an astonishing rate, and there are now over 2.4 billion people in the world who regularly play mobile games – some of whom only play mobile games.
Another young segment in the market, eSports has sustained a continuous global growth over the last half-decade, and according to some experts is fast on its way to becoming one of the most lucrative gaming markets in the industry. eSports is at its peak in 2020, attracting players, fans, teams, and sponsors at a rapid pace to become a serious rival to the more traditional sports franchises.
The segment has already generated revenues of over $1 billion, with a global audience of over 443 million (higher than American Football and Rugby audiences combined), which is expected to increase even further in 2020 to 645 million.
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