Over the last six years, gaming has evolved to become part of popular culture. Now fully embedded in the mainstream, gaming has been pulling in ever-increasing audience numbers since 2015.
While there were a reported 2.69 billion gamers in 2020 by 2023 that number is expected to grow to over 2023 (Statista).
2020 especially was a transformative year for the industry, with PC, console and smartphone markets experiencing phenomenal growth.
In fact, the rising interest in gaming meant that there was a shortage of next-gen gaming consoles in 2021. Interestingly, however, this has caused gamers to shift their habits.
According to a YouGov survey, 63% of gamers would switch to a different console or gaming platform if their first choice wasn’t available.
With technology advancing at an unprecedented rate and gaming audiences becoming more and more diverse, let’s take a look at the trends that will dominate the gaming industry in 2023 and beyond.
The Gamification of Cryptocurrency
An emerging trend in 2021 that will develop over the next twelve months is the gamification of cryptocurrency.
Gaming and app developers have begun to experiment with so-called play-to-earn features in games, that allow gamers to “earn” cryptocurrencies and NFTs as they play.
The gaming industry has been surprisingly slow on the uptake when it comes to fully integrating cryptocurrency and blockchain tech, so this move towards rewarding gamers with crypto will no doubt drive adoption amongst the wider gaming audience, with more amateur and everyday gamers looking to get involved.
PC Platforms will Challenge Steam
The PC gaming market is currently worth around $35 billion, making it a hugely lucrative segment of the global gaming industry.
Digital PC gaming has also been dominated by Valve’s virtual gaming marketplace Steam, with 47% of leading publishers choosing to release games onto the platform.
With its first-mover advantage, Steam has enjoyed the biggest market share up until recently, however, there are some platforms that are emerging to take its crown.
For more specialised segments of the gaming industry, such as the online casino market, players have been looking to dedicated platforms like the PokerStars Casino platform for some time.
However, when it comes to PC gaming, the likes of Epic Games are disrupting Steam’s dominance.
On the surface, the Epic Games Store looks to be similar to Steam, offering a large library of games from different genres.
However, what makes Epic Games such a strong challenger to Steam’s crown is its unique library of best-selling games, such as the mega-hit Battle Royale pioneer, Fortnite.
As the creators of the game, Epic Games’ storefront is the only PC platform on which it can be played.
Additionally, the platform has developed strong partnerships with other developers, giving it exclusive access to games like Metro Exodus.
Cloud Gaming is on the Rise
Another disruption in the way that gamers access and consume gaming content has arrived in the form of Cloud Gaming, and this is likely to be a trend that will continue to grow in popularity in the months and years to come.
Playing games online, while seeming like a convenience, actually has its own unique set of problems.
Firstly, download speeds vary from territory to territory and in some developing regions where superfast fibre-optic broadband isn’t widespread, it can take hours to download a game once it’s been purchased.
Cloud gaming offers an instant solution to this, allowing gamers to stream in real-time regardless of whether they have the latest gaming PC or not.
And by removing the need to download games, with cloud gaming gamers can start playing their favourite titles straight away.
In recent years, we’ve seen new streaming services like Google Stadia, NVIDIA’s GeForce Now and Amazon’s Luna join the ranks of PS Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta).
With such massive tech giants already committed to the market, it’s only a matter of time before more and more entertainment conglomerates get involved.
Making Gaming More Accessible
As discussed above, gaming audiences are becoming more and more diverse as the industry cements itself in mainstream entertainment.
The industry is beginning to reflect the diverse make-up of its audience by releasing accessible games that ensure immersive gaming experiences for disabled players.
Take The Last of Us Part 2 as an example. Naughty Dog, the developers behind the high franchise, partnered with Brandon Cole, an Ohio-based consultant for Aquent Games.
As a blind gamer, he faced many challenges finding games to play, but by working with Naughty Dog he was able to ensure that The Last of Us Part 2 includes over 60 accessibility features.
These features didn’t just make the game more enjoyable and easier to play for gamers with vision impairments, it’s also an accessible experience for hard of hearing games and those with fine motor skill disabilities too.
Accessibility is going to play a huge role in ensuring the future of gaming, so we can expect to see measures like this roll out across the industry as a whole in 2022 and beyond.