Predicting the future was once relatively straightforward for technology-based industries. Take a look at the emergent tech, understand user engagements, extrapolate trends, and craft informed expectations. Then 2020 happened and suddenly the only certainty was uncertainty.
Technology became a universal necessity and, as McKinsey pointed out, sped up the adoption of digital technology by years. A whiplash level of speed as companies went into digital transformation to ensure they were capable of remaining relevant in an online world. Gaming was just as fortunate – the World Economic Forum found that this industry saw significant increases in sales and adoption during the pandemic.
As the world continues to wrestle with the complexities introduced by the pandemic, what realistically lies ahead for the gaming sector? What shifts in adoption and what trends are likely to define 2021 and beyond? According to Indranil Chatterjee, Chief Customer Officer at Enea gaming is arguably larger than music and movies with no sign of it dropping off after the pandemic. He believes that the cloud will become the next big gaming frontier as gamers, loyal to the title not the device, will move into the cloud with ever evolving cloud gaming services with heavyweights such as Microsoft and Amazon.
This need to create new and sticky games and experiences is one that will likely drive the industry going forward. As Tom Pigott, CEO of Ludo AI, points out, “In a 159.3-billion-dollar industry, the pressure to release new hit games is relentless. Every developer is under pressure to create a viable pipeline and now with so many ways of testing games quickly the appetite is at an all-time high for new games ideas and concepts.”
Which is where brands will step in. According to Rob Chalmers, Chief Experience Officer at ENGINE Creative brands will be expected to make the leap into the multi-verse, transitioning their marketing strategies from online ad buys to existing in a shared, virtual economy. Brands won’t be advertising, they’ll be participating and looking for creative ways to add value to games such as skins and in-game purchases. This is a view shared by Lana Meisak, VP Business Development at Gismart, who believes that: “New revenue streams through intertwining different industries within the gaming industry such as music and advertising will likely become more prominent, as will a surge in mergers and acquisitions of gaming companies, particularly among smaller studios.”
Interestingly, this is a common prediction with Paul Sheldon, Senior Art Director at Golley Slater explaining: “A continuing trend in 2021 is game arenas used for social events, concerts, and festivals. For example, Fortnite held a Scott Travis concert which was viewed by 12 million people, proving the audience is out there! Minecraft also persists as a favourite for many music festivals, with sold out tickets to enjoy the show last year.” eSports is also likely to contribute to this growing trend in in-game advertising, branding and engagement, as Chris Kissack, Head of Esports, Digital Isle of Man points out: “While not solely driven by the pandemic, the more eyeballs on creators within the esports and gaming industry has resulted in more revenue-generating opportunities in the space, especially with endemic and non-endemic brands looking to capitalise on viewership numbers.”
For Jose Caldera, chief product officer at Acuant, however, blockchain is set to be a foundation shaker in the gaming sector as a way of increasing security and access. Blockchain’s capabilities allow for the democratisation of gaming and the creation of safer open markets for digital gaming assets. Paul Marcantonio, Executive Director – UK & Western Europe at ECOMMPAY predicts that it will become all about innovation and seamless payments as console, desktop and mobile transactions will become increasingly interlinked and more accessible, streamlining user experiences and in-game transactions.
What lies ahead for gamer and industry is a competitive digital playground that will battle for gamer attention while consistently investing into innovation to hold that attention tightly in the future. From the fresh-faced gamer who arrived for entertainment in the pandemic to the eSports veteran, there will be experiences and developments designed to capitalise on their interest. Ben Moxon who is a Research Director at The Nursery concludes: “Both market- and behaviour-related shifts are expected to dictate further development of the industry as a whole especially through re-ignited competition between the biggest players due to tech advancements, as well as emergence of new types of gamers looking for specific forms of entertainment formed during the lockdowns of 2020.”