It's no secret that the games industry is booming – but just how big is it, who’s playing and how is it changing?
Well, the numbers are astounding. Altogether, the global games market is expected to reach £62 billion ($102.9 billion) by 2017, an eight per cent annual compound growth rate from 2013’s £45.5 billion ($75.5bn), according to Newzoo data. More specifically, the UK games industry was worth close to £3.5 billion in consumer spend in 2013, up 17 per cent from 2012.
There are 34.7 million gamers in the UK, 55 per cent of whom are male, and on average players aged 11 to 64 spend eight hours per week on games.
So gaming is bigger than the movie industry. However, it is hard to measure precisely as the games market has become more complex and diverse over the years. Today we have games consoles, PC download platforms, 69p mobile and tablet game apps, portable consoles, hardware and merchandise, as well as the emergence of free-to-play titles that charge for in-game extras.
Ten years ago there was a lot of talk about the possible demise of PC gaming. Digital downloads were eating into sales of boxed games, the hype surrounding Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo Wii was off the scale, online platforms like Xbox Live were becoming hugely popular, and many big game franchises – like Halo – were turning away from PC to consoles. The PC had its selection of a few exclusive brands, like The Sims, Warcraft and Command and Conquer, but it didn’t seem like their was anything else big and exciting coming along.
How a market can change in ten years. World of Warcraft put the MMO game on the map, allowing millions to play together at once (and pay £8.99 per month for the privilege), reaffirming Blizzard Entertainment’s status as one of the top PC game developers. Online download platforms like Steam grew enormously. A whole new genre emerged exclusive to the PC – the MOBA – with League of Legends drawing 67 million players each month. And indie PC developers started to produce smash hits on small budgets such as Minecraft.
Now the PC games market has surpassed the console gaming sector in terms of revenues, according to analyst DFC Intelligence. System builders are seeing an increase in demand for gaming PCs, chip makers are pushing the market forwards with more powerful cards, APIs and mobile chips, and with Steam Machines on the way, the excitement for PC gaming is only going up.
Events also form a big part of the market. Much like CES is in the tech world, E3 in Los Angeles is generally regarded as the most important global games exhibition and conference each year, while Germany’s Gamescom is growing fast in Europe.
The UK also has its own LAN gaming event Multiplay/Insomnia, while distributors host their own gaming shows such as Entatech’s Entalive Play, not to mention the millions that watch esports gaming tournaments online. Many PC vendors nowadays sponsor esports events with thousand-pound prizes, or even host their own, like the WD Black Monster Cup.
Gaming technology also continues to move at a frightening pace. It’s staggering to think that in the space of 30 years we’ve gone from grainy 8-bit games on early home consoles to massive 3D online worlds running at 60 frames per second on 4K PC monitors.
Today 55 million viewers watch other gamers play each month on livestreaming site Twitch, which is due to be acquired by Amazon for $970 million later this year.
The Oculus Rift headset also offers a glimpse into the future, with virtual reality now a very convincing area of technology that could shape the gaming market in years to come.