Statistically, video games are now the most popular and profitable form of entertainment
The gaming industry and community has grown quite a bit since we were all playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES. In fact, according to a report by Reuters, gaming is bigger than it ever was, bigger than every other form of entertainment.
Last year, the gaming industry produced an estimated revenue of $116 billion, beating TV and TV streaming services’ $105 billion, and that’s as close as the industry wars got. The movie industry only made $41 billion while music only made $17 billion. In addition, the gaming industry is still growing, seeing a 10.7 percent growth over last year, as opposed to other entertainment services like TV whose revenue fell by 8 percent.
The Reuters report mentions several factors that lead to the growth of gaming last year. One is the relatively recent opening of the Chinese gaming market, which is climbing in sales an average of 14 percent per year. It also mentions the takeoff of Fortnite, and its lucrative microtransaction model. Finally it mentions Grand Theft Auto V as a standout video game release, selling more than 90 million units and grossing more than $6 billion. This makes it the most profitable entertainment release of all time in any medium.
We are also seeing something of a role reversal in the relationship between the gaming industry and the film industry. Specifically, in the early days of gaming, popular films and TV shows would frequently be licensed for video game tie-ins. These days, licensed games are becoming rarer but adaptations of games such as the Assassin’s Creed movie, the Castlevania Netflix series, and the Five Nights at Freddy’s novel series are becoming more common. In fact, it appears as if game related movies have almost no expiration date as two recent movies, Angry Birds and Rampage were made well beyond their respective game franchises’ time in the spotlight.
E-sports, streaming, and mobile gaming
Another reason that gaming has become so big is the recent diversification of gamer culture. Growing beyond a “participant” activity, gaming now exists in many forms. The rise of e-sports has turned gaming into a spectator sport and has brought in revenue from all attached businesses from merchandising to ticket sales. The very concept of e-sports has integrated gaming into several lifestyles, with several colleges and high schools forming e-sports teams.
The Switch, on the other hand, is more of a gaming lifestyle product, tailored to offering several different portable gaming options to people who may not be in the market for powerful gaming devices. While the Switch is able to play many of the games that are available on PC or other consoles, many Switch exclusive games are designed specifically with portability in mind, allowing users to take their gaming experience with them.
In a sense, it allows users to tailor their gaming schedule to fit the rest of their lives. Reuters notes that this has brought about a major change in how people consume games, considering that traveling gamers can now have a high definition console experience, not a reduced handheld experience or mobile experience, while on the road.
These new diverse models were added on top of existing gaming models that have already proven to be popular. Console sales received a boost when the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X released. Meanwhile the PC world has been suffering due to graphics card shortages, however the release of a new line of graphics cards has stabilized market prices and brought attention back to core PC gaming.
The rest of the gaming industry is fleshed out with mobile and tablet gaming, which has become far more accessible to the average consumer. In addition, low spec indie titles have opened up the gaming world to casual users who may be interested in gaming on a moderately specced laptop. An increased interest in speedrunning and gaming history has also brought new interest to retro games, many of which are purchased on digital platforms or bought through “classic” consoles, but many more of which are played on emulators on similarly low spec machines.
Continued growth into the future
That’s a snapshot of our current gaming world, from mobile games to power machines, microtransactions to e-sports merch. Gaming has become the most popular form of entertainment in the world because it exists in so many forms to be consumed. It is only going to get more diverse form here.
As virtual reality and augmented reality devices become more common, VR and AR games will become more common as well, further increasing the reach of the gaming market. Smart TVs are now being bundled with games that can be played without a console. Game streaming services will open up gaming to users who cannot afford high-end gaming equipment. Even Google is looking to get into the gaming world.
With gaming now statistically dominating both business and culture, the future of gaming is bright. However, several outlets reporting on this same story, such as Game Debate, have noted that gaming is still rarely addressed in mass media unless it’s the topic of some sort of scandal. This likely means that gamers get much of their news elsewhere, such as online publications. It also means that media that portrays gaming as a strange niche hobby is simply, statistically, inaccurate. Perhaps we will see fewer news stories portraying gaming this way as the gaming industry continues to grow and other media industries shrink.