Online gaming is now extremely popular, with more people likely to visit an online casino than a real one, and the rise of esports and live streaming is giving the gaming community a massive boost in terms of visibility and revenue streams. Improved connectivity, faster broadband speeds and the convenience of using mobile devices for game play means that, increasingly, online is the place to go for the best gaming experiences. Here are some of the major developments that have made online gaming so widely enjoyed.
The mobile market
Mobile devices, particularly smartphones, have become the platform of choice for casual consumers and games developers alike. Around the world, far more people access the internet on a daily basis via their phones or tablets than have access to a PC, and phone ownership certainly far outstrips the sales of dedicated games consoles. Our phones are now powerful mini-computers in their own right, and the rollout of 5G technology will only accelerate the ability to play increasingly complex games on our phones whenever we feel like it.
Mobile gaming can be done either by downloading an app or by playing online. In both cases, the faster and more reliable your broadband connection and graphics capability, the better the experience will be. Phones now rival PCs and consoles in both these departments, but also represent a massive untapped market of casual users who have never previously purchased video games. Expect to see more mobile games targeted at a broad demographic, as well as more complex and sophisticated video games being successfully adapted to this platform.
The most disruptive impact of better and faster internet connections may be the rise of streamed games via the cloud, to the detriment of games that you download or buy in physical form. Apple Arcade, Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud are among the big-name providers offering a vast range of games in return for a single annual subscription, following the successful model of Netflix or Amazon Prime in other areas. This gives great value for families among others, as for one single home subscription, different individuals can all access different games whenever they want, on a number of devices.
The sheer number of games now available, with more hitting the market every day, means that it now makes more sense to pay for a subscription and pick and mix among them, rather than trying to buy each title individually, and sometimes being disappointed with the result. It’s also easier for developers to update and fix cloud-based games without the player having to purchase an add-on or download a new version.
With more games available to stream online for a single subscription or even free, in-game micro-transactions are an increasingly popular way for developers to make an additional profit from their games. These are small, optional, real-money purchases that you can make while playing. You don’t have to do this in order to play and enjoy the game, but in some cases these purchases can unlock new levels, giving you bonus points or extra abilities. In other cases, they are ways to buy virtual merchandise. These often go on to become sought-after collectables in their own right.
The rise of esports
Esports are set to have a massive impact on the world of online gaming, just because of the amount of money involved. With thousands of people paying to watch live tournaments in arenas around the world, and millions more watching online or via TV broadcasts, esports now rival mainstream professional sports in terms of their audience reach. This, in turn, leads to lucrative sponsorship and advertising offers. While esports are a separate phenomenon in their own right, they rely on the same games being played by amateur gamers at home. This means that developers are going to be under increasing pressure to tailor these games to the big-money esports market, making games that are as exciting for spectators as they are for players, and favoring multiplayer games over single-player ones.
Finally, many technological advances in the wider world are starting to be employed in online gaming too. Indeed, the gaming world is often an early adopter of cutting-edge technologies. Think of virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the deployment of blockchain and cryptocurrencies for online payments. We’re also likely to see online gaming and social media becoming increasingly codependent, as online players form global communities based around their interests.
The future of gaming is online, and the best is yet to come.