Those of you who are 40 or over might remember a time when playing video games wasn’t something you owned up to in public. Games were seen as geeky, and people who played them were therefore thought to be nerds. The tag wasn’t fair at the time, and over the course of the past two or three decades, it’s been wiped away. Video gaming is now as mainstream as mainstream gets. You probably play games, your parents might even play games, and celebrities use the fact that they’re keen gamers to cultivate followers on social media. Video gaming is big business – and from a business point of view, it’s just had its biggest-ever quarter as an industry in the United States of America.
According to the figures, which have just been released, Americans spent almost eleven billion pounds on video games during the first three months of 2020, coming in just shy of that amount with a total spend of $10.9bn. The figure is even more impressive when you consider the fact that it only includes ‘traditional’ video games and not online slots websites such as Roseslots.com. The gambling industry is also going from strength to strength across America and the whole world, with the increasing popularity of online slots contributing to a sector that is now worth well in excess of fifty billion dollars each year. Had online slots been classed as video games and included within this calculation, the final result could easily have been fifty percent higher.
This is clearly a ‘boom’ period in the history of gaming, helped along by some extremely popular recent releases. Even if you’ve never played a video game in your entire life, you’ve probably seen or heard reports about the popularity of ‘Animal Crossings: New Horizons.’ The game has become so popular than even mainstream media publications are printing and uploading guides on how to beat its most difficult levels. Even though the game was only released in late March, it’s already being played online by as many as eleven million people simultaneously. Only the game’s initial sales will have contributed to the $10.9bn figure, and so it’s not out of the question that it might contribute to an even higher three-monthly number being reported for the year’s second quarter.
While ‘Animal Crossing’ is incredibly popular, it’s far from the only game to enjoy viral levels of success in recent months. The new season of ‘Fortnite’ is thought to have added millions more players to that eternally-popular first-person shooter, and ‘Minecraft’ is still reporting record numbers of players and record earnings years after the game was released. The free-to-play ‘Warzone’ version of ‘Call of Duty,’ which is itself a rival to ‘Fortnite,’ has also proven to be a winner with players online, and has helped boost sales of the most recent ‘Call of Duty’ release. There’s still another version of ‘Call of Duty’ scheduled for release later this year, which should prompt another sales spike. A new version of ‘Doom’ and the official 2020 NBA game has also been flying off shelves both digital and physical.
As good as things are for the industry right now, it’s likely that they’ll get better later this year, and that’s not just because there are plenty of great new games in the pipeline. If everything goes to plan with scheduled release dates, we’ll have the PlayStation5 and the Xbox Series x available to buy before the year ends. Both Sony and Microsoft are aiming for ‘late 2020’ releases for their brand new flagship consoles with the clear intention of capitalizing on the Christmas markets. There will be adults and teenagers all over the country and the whole world hoping to find a new console waiting for them under the tree this December, and huge sales figures are predicted for both platforms – especially after a recent demonstration of the PS5’s graphical capabilities prompted a massive wave of excitement online.
Even if there weren’t new consoles on their way to us, there would be cause for further optimism within the market. After a shaky start, there have been recent signs that Google’s ‘Stadia’ platform is finally beginning to find its feet with a ‘free to play’ access tier, a wider range of games, and better performance stability. Apple has released its ‘Apple Arcade’ platform and attracted plenty of players to it, and the lesser-known company Nvidia has released ‘GeForce Now’ as a competitor to Stadia. Both models are based on players playing games through streaming across the internet rather than owning consoles or physical copies of the games they’re playing. It’s a brand new concept, and it didn’t gain the traction that Google was hoping for when it went live at the end of 2019, but recent numbers have been more encouraging. Throw in the fact that a raft of eye-catching new games has just been released for Nintendo’s Switch handheld console, and the whole picture is one of a healthy, vibrant gaming industry.
Another factor that points toward the probability of the gaming industry going on to break further records this year is the pricing strategy of both Sony and Microsoft when it comes to their new consoles. Both are scheduled to be available for around $400 upon release, making them significantly cheaper than the existing generation of consoles were back when they were brand new. The decision to reduce prices is probably down to the increasing value of games as a form of generating income as opposed to creating hardware. Of the near-eleven billion dollar spend recorded in 2020’s first quarter, only $770m came from hardware. That figure will inevitably rise when there’s new hardware to buy, but it will still likely be dwarfed by the amount of money spent on games.
A healthy gaming industry usually means strong competition between providers and manufacturers, and strong competition generally results in lower prices for consumers. Just as it’s a great time to be involved in making video games at the moment, it’s also a great time to be involved in playing them. The more money the industry makes, the more it invests in great new games – so there should be some fantastic new titles coming to us over the course of the next few years!