The online gaming market has been steadily growing year on year ever since its inception in the 1990s. But in recent years that rate of growth has increased even faster due to a number of technological developments like faster internet speeds, streaming services, and mobile devices that can play games. The online gaming industry is predicted to reach revenues of $196 billion by 2022, making it one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
The market is split into different sections:
- Games played exclusively online like World of Warcraft.
- Console and PC games with an online multiplayer element, e.g. Call of Duty.
- Mobile games, either played in mobile browsers or via dedicated apps.
- eSports and competitive gaming.
MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) like Runescape and World of Warcraft grew in popularity during the early 2000s, along with more realistic virtual worlds like Second Life. These games gave players the freedom to create online avatars and use them to freely explore online worlds, interacting with other players and playing in their own style. Some were based exclusively in browsers, while others came with downloadable software which connected to a host server.
These games showed how gamers wanted to socialise and have the ability to play with other people and led the way for console games to move their multiplayer modes online. Older consoles didn’t have this interactivity as standard, needing gamers to be physically in the same room as each other in order to play. While some games allowed you to connect multiple controllers, others needed two or more machines to be linked together by a LAN cable in order to accommodate additional players. All of this was rather complicated, and when the internet allowed machines to connect remotely, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
Many gaming companies are now creating games to be accessible for multiplayer – whether that be with friends physically or connecting online.
It’s now almost unheard of for a game to be released without an online component. Even recent released in the Assassin’s Creed franchise – games that have always been solo adventures – have found a way to add online battles and cooperative missions. Being able to battle against friends and strangers through online gaming has completely revolutionised the gaming market.
As of 2019, mobile devices took the biggest market share amongst all the platforms, accounting for 45% of all gaming and responsible for $68.5 billion in revenue. The development of 4G, and the imminent arrival of 5G, have made superfast gaming on the go possible. This in turn has attracted a new type of gamer – the casual gamer; someone who plays mobile games because they’re available and have fun ways to kill time. An explosion of puzzle games targeting casual gamers has been responsible for the rapid growth of the industry over the past few years.
Emergence of eSports
On the other side of the industry, the rise of professional gamers has thrust eSports into the spotlight, with the industry breaking the billion-dollar value mark in 2019. And it’s not just amongst the players where eSports are growing popular – streaming services like YouTube and Twitch have brought in huge amounts of viewers. eSports tournaments have been held in arenas and stadiums packed full of fans who watch the action on big screens. Some finals have even been broadcast on ESPN and other mainstream television networks.
Like all other sports, eSports games fall into different categories which rarely cross over.
- Sports games like FIFA and NBA which simulate their live counterparts
- Battle games like DOTA2 and League of Legends which pitch teams against each other, or Fortnite, which has a last man standing set-up.
The eSports industry, in particular, has seen growth in recent years, with more gamers developing an interest in these competitions.
Online Gambling Industry
There is a third category of online gaming that might fit under the eSports banner, and that is online casino games, especially poker. There have been online poker championships for years, connecting players on a truly global scale. Just like in eSports, online poker teams exist, sponsored by big names like PokerStars.
And it isn’t just poker that has carved out a place for itself online, other popular games like blackjack, slot machines are also excelling online. These games are perfectly suited to a digital environment, which actually improves the gameplay in many instances, it’s easier than ever to track poker stats and calculate win percentages. The gambling industry has also seen the growth of online bingo with millions of players logging into their accounts every day. This game experienced a rebirth after being introduced to a new generation online, targeting a different demographic and offering a wider range of games with different promotions, something different to the traditional land-based bingo game.
The online gaming industry is a fully global enterprise, with different sectors appealing to different people and greatly influencing how we now choose to spend our leisure time. With augmented reality and virtual reality gaming still in their infancy, the possibilities for the future of online gaming look exciting. Instead of logging on to virtual worlds through our browsers, we might soon be able to visit them in 3D in the middle of our living rooms and connect with friends and family all over the globe.
Online gaming is growing in new directions, with eSports and online casinos emerging as the strongest new areas. Online casinos are now branching out into live streaming from real dealers based on the casino floor and online bingo sites now have the capability to offer more games to their players. eSports are moving into the mainstream, with games broadcast online and over television networks gathering millions of viewers. Online gaming is still getting bigger and bigger and taking more exciting turns.