Game Industry Trends in 2021
There have been so many changes in the video game industry and the esports market this year that it would be difficult to keep track of all of them. We’re going to go through the most significant trends of 2021 as identified Newzoo’s analytics.
Trends in the video game market
1. Audience engagement and publisher revenue will continue to increase
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, user engagement has increased all over the world. However, according to experts, gamer engagement and developer and publisher revenue will remain high once the pandemic is over. During quarantine, gaming has become a habit that many users will have a hard time giving up.
Needless to say, we can’t expect the same growth rate as in 2020 — developers and publishers will be focusing on maintaining the current influx of new and returning users this year. According to Newzoo’s latest report, in 2021 the number of gamers worldwide will reach 2.8 billion, and the market will achieve a volume of $189.3 billion.
2. Manufacturers are going to need more time to satisfy the demand for next-gen consoles
Producing, marketing, and shipping new consoles is a challenging process under ordinary circumstances. Overseeing it all during a pandemic, when supply chains are broken, has been even harder. As a result, manufacturers will need extra time to satisfy the demand for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. As for game developers, many launches originally slated for 2020 were delayed, and we can probably expect even more AAA to be delayed this year.
Despite this, according to analysts, gamers will still spend a lot of money on console games in 2021. This is largely due to the fact that many projects will now be available on both console generations at once — last-gen and next-gen — and the PS4 and Xbox One still have substantial user bases. And we shouldn’t forget about the still-popular Nintendo Switch, for which users will purchase games separately. In addition, experts expect the tendency of console games to switch to F2P monetization schemes to continue into the current year.
3. The audience for game streaming services will increase
Last year was a tipping point for cloud-based gaming platforms — quarantine sped up their distribution and allowed gamers to spend more time on games. Companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Tencent have launched their own streaming services. Cloud-gaming apps have become available on iOS as well as Android. Google Stadia already has an iOS version that runs on the Safari browser. The release of xCloud for PC and iOS is also planned for spring of this year, and Xbox head Phil Spencer has even hinted that Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will be compatible with smart TVs.
Experts believe that, thanks to these developments, revenue from cloud gaming will exceed $1 billion for the first time in 2021. In addition, the advantages of cloud-gaming services will become more obvious to users. The launch of Cyberpunk 2077 highlighted the main reason for this — the Google Stadia version allows gamers to achieve a higher level of graphical fidelity and performance even without expensive hardware. In the near future, services such as Stadia and GeForce Now could become the fastest, easiest way to run games with high system requirements on any device.
4. Brand presence in games will increase
Due to the quarantine, interest in games as platforms for promoting various events increased in 2020. Game worlds served as venues for concerts last year (Travis Scott in Fortnite and Lil Nas X in Roblox, for example), as well as weddings, fashion shows, graduations, and even funerals. These kinds of in-game opportunities and activities may continue to draw attention to projects and attract a wider audience.
The value of holding these kinds of events in in-game worlds is becoming more and more apparent to brands, performers, and publishers all the time. For example, Travis Scott made over $20 million for his Fortnite concert, and the video of it was watched by almost 140 million people on YouTube, which speaks to the high level of interest in this kind of content. According to experts, brands will now appear in games more often, and all sorts of events will continue to be held in games even once the pandemic is over.
5. Games will help fight toxicity and spread a culture of diversity and inclusiveness
Games like The Last of Us Part 2, Apex Legends, and Tell Me Why are excellent examples of titles featuring racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. There are more and more games like them all the time, and they are simultaneously becoming more accessible to disabled people thanks to the appearance of additional settings, the release of special controllers such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and the work of companies like AbleGamers and SpecialEffect.
Online platforms and ecosystems are also trying to make their communities healthier and less toxic. This is why Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo recently announced a partnership focused on making games more responsible and reducing their toxicity. Other companies have also created new position for specialists who will work to develop a culture of diversity and inclusiveness in video games. According to experts, this tendency will continue to gain traction in 2021.
Trends in eSports and Streaming
1. Mobile esports will become even more popular
Back in late 2019, streams of games such as PUBG Mobile and Garena Free Fire began to attract more viewers than PC games like CS:GO and Dota 2. Experts believe that this tendency will continue in 2021 given that interest in mobile esports is still growing in China, South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
2. Esports teams will continue to diversify their revenue sources
In addition to activity typical of esports organizations, teams will continue to focus on other vectors such as lifestyle brand positioning and content creation. This approach will allow them to diversify their revenue and reduce the risk of unforeseen circumstances such as a pandemic. The pandemic brought to the fore problems esports organizations were already facing when it came to following the traditional sports model. Experts believe that attempts to move outside this framework will become a crucial trend in esports in 2021.
3. Traditional sports will focus more on esports
In 2020, traditional athletic organizations began to work more actively toward esports. Experts believe that these experiments will continue this year despite the fact that sporting events will begin to be held more regularly.
4. Projects with regional leagues will get the most attention
Since travel restrictions still prevent international video game competitions, in 2021 esports projects will continue to step away from the tournament format in favor of a league-based format. It is entirely possible that projects that previously had an international focus will switch to the new format permanently due to its success even once restrictions have been lifted.
5. Even more game-based content will appear on streaming platforms
Services that were originally designed for video game streaming are finding that other types of content are becoming more and more popular. For example, one of the most-watched categories on Twitch in 2020 was “Just Chatting,” which has nothing to do with game streaming at all — in this section, streamers just chat with the audience and watch videos and movies. Following Twitch, a similar category called “Hanging Out” appeared on Facebook Gaming. Experts believe that non-game content will become even more popular on streaming platforms in 2021.
Text: Artyom Shpilsky