Gaming in 2021 Download report

Gaming is big business, with the global software market expected to grow to $180bn in 2021.

These predictions are more optimistic than in the past, and reflect the constant growth on platforms, particularly on smartphones.

66% of our global respondents say they game on their smartphones, and this market will continue to grow as phones become more adept at playing console-quality games.

As mobile hardware continues to become more powerful, with handsets like the iPhone XS Max leading the charge, developers will have more to work with and thus will be able to rival console games.

Streaming software from Microsoft (Project xCloud), Google (Project Stream) and EA are all being worked on or currently even being tested, which would allow anyone, anywhere to access console-quality titles on any device, even if it doesn’t have the specs to run them natively using its built-in hardware.

Gaming Appeals to Every Demographic

Gaming is now among the most truly cross-demographic activities we track.

In fact, thanks to mobile gaming in particular, it’s difficult to find a region or demographic where the majority of individuals aren’t gaming in some form or another.

Just looking at to the oldest age group we track – 55-64s – we found that 65% use at least one device for gaming.

With so many fans playing a number of games across different devices, we wanted to find out which franchises have been most successful at engaging these consumers, which have the greatest cross-genre appeal, and which demographics are the most lucrative.

1. Franchise Fracas: Who’s sharing fans?

Graphic detailing percentage of gaming franchise overlap

Out of the five franchises above, it’s Fortnite fans that share the most overlap with others; on average, 38% are also fans of the other four.

When we look on a much larger scale – at the top 16 most popular franchises we survey – Assassin’s Creed and Fortnite have the highest fan overlap at 40%.

And in terms of which franchise is most popular, Plants vs. Zombies and Grand Theft Auto have the greatest cross-genre appeal. On average, these two games are liked by 42% of fans from other franchises.

2019 may be the year cross-platform play becomes a lot more mainstream.

Having a cross-genre appeal could massively boost a game’s chances of being successful across devices.

Microsoft has some ambitious cross-platform plans for Xbox Live this year, and the result could expand the service from its current base of 400 million gaming devices to a potential 2+ billion Nintendo Switch, Android and iOS screens.

In September 2018, Sony also announced the PlayStation 4 cross-play beta programme, which allowed Fortnite users on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Mac, PC and mobile devices to all play together.

Games like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) have massively benefited from console-quality games emerging on high-end mobile devices. The iOS version of Fortnite, realized in April last year, made an estimate of $2 million per day.

Electronic Arts (EA) are also getting in on the act; Apex Legends, a free-to-play battle royale game released for Microsoft Windows, PS4 and Xbox One, amassed 25 million players and over two million concurrent users in 7 days.

Currently, Apex Legends is attracting more than triple Fortnite’s Twitch viewership, and Fortnite has sunk to its lowest viewership figures of the year so far.

On top of that, Tencent Holdings – the world’s biggest video games business by revenue – is in talks with EA to bring Apex Legends to China.

Cross-platform progression, which allows you to keep your mobile, PC and console stats and unlocks under one account, became much more mainstream in 2018 and will likely continue to grow as a trend in 2019.

2. Demographic Differences: Who’s more engaged?

Graphic detailing regional gaming preferences

Males lead females for having an interest in gaming by 17 percentage-points, so it’s unsurprising that out of the franchises we track, the majority are heavily skewed towards male fans.

FIFA, Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto and Need for Speed, for example, all have at least a 70:30 split in favor of males.

That said, there are other franchises that have a far more equal split.

Often the games with less explicit violence, and more visual or exploratory aspects have a greater chance of attracting female attention.

Games such as Mario, Super Smash Bros, Minecraft, The Sims and Plants vs. Zombies all have a much more balanced ratio of male and female fans.

16-24s have the highest engagement with Grand Theft Auto and Plants vs. Zombies, with over a quarter of this demographic saying they’ve played these two games in the last year.

But it’s Fortnite engagement that’s most distinct from the average internet user; our youngest respondents are 1.87x more likely to have played Fortnite in the last 12 months.

Compare this to 55-64s, where less than 1% have played Fortnite in this timeframe: the most popular game for this demographic is Mario, at only 5%.

53% of Fortnite fans have watched a live gaming stream in the past month, 2.4x the average

graphic detailing gaming preferences by device

3. The Netflix of Gaming: How will it evolve?

“We compete with, and lose to, Fortnite more than HBO” – Netflix’s 2019 Shareholder’s report.

Previously, discussions of Netflix competitors have centered around rival streaming services; Amazon, Apple iTunes, YouTube Red, VUDU and HBO.

But the competition for the biggest entertainment platforms is no longer just about subscriber numbers or content rosters, it’s about how much available screen time a particular platform can command from any one individual.

From our data, respondents with an interest in gaming not only spend more than 30 minutes per day on their mobiles on average, they also spend slightly longer watching/streaming online TV.

At a more granular level, fans of some of the biggest franchises in the world, including cross-platform games like Fortnite and PUBG, also spend more time on both mediums than users of Netflix.

Fortnite fans spend the most time watching online TV, a whole 14 minutes more per day than Netflix users. Meanwhile, Plants vs. Zombies fans spend the most time online on their mobiles, averaging over 4 hours per day.

As multiplayer streaming games continue to become more accessible, especially with the introduction of 5G around the world, it’s surely only a matter of time before we see the ‘Netflix of gaming’ come about.

Microsoft is making a big push to develop a streaming service for gaming. The service, which is planned for public trial this year, aims to deliver high-end, blockbuster gaming experiences on whatever device you’re using.

With ‘Project xCloud’, Microsoft aims to establish itself as the de facto standard in video game streaming services.

But they face stern competition; several tech companies, including Amazon, Google, Sony and Verizon, either already have game streaming services or are hard at work developing one.

4. A Changing Business Model: Where’s the money?

In February 2019, chief operating officer of Activision-Blizzard, Coddy Johnson, revealed that despite ‘record revenues’ in the fourth quarter of 2018, the company would lay off approximately 8% of its workforce, totaling around 800 people.

It isn’t that people aren’t playing Activision-Blizzard’s games per se – as Black Ops 4 continued Call of Duty’s 10-year streak as the best-selling console franchise in 2018 – but rather they’re not spending as much money inside the games.

The rise of free-to-play games have, at least in the short term, translated to less time and money being spent by some gamers on other titles.

But the broader impact of the free-to-play game rests in its business model; Fortnite has managed to attract new gamers who tend to be younger and more diverse, paving the way for future free-to-play titles that don’t rely on the traditional retail purchases of new games.

Games such as Fortnite, PUBG, and Apex Legends are focusing on money making add-ons like character outfits, customized weapons, and additional unlockable items to compensate for the lack of initial purchase.

TechCrunch have reported that Fortnite pulled in $3 billion in such purchases in 2018.

graphic detailing franchise purchasing power

Indeed, Fortnite fans are 84% more likely than people with an interest in gaming to have purchased a game add-on in the past month, and more than 2x as likely to have used a gaming subscription service.

And the rise of digital content in video games leaves brick-and-mortar games stores on a knife edge.

With major consoles having their own distribution platforms it does eliminate the need to leave the house to buy a new game, just as Netflix made going into video stores like Blockbusters almost redundant.

Game stores will need to make the same transition that all high street retailers are going through, to reshape what the shopping experience means for consumers, and give them a reason to come in store. Game on.

This research is based on the 50 different gaming franchises tracked by GlobalWebIndex, surveying 16-64 year-olds on a global scale.

access our gaming report


Written by

Duncan is a Senior Analyst and Writer at GWI. Duncan produces a wide range of assets including reports, infographics and dashboards, along with our Chart of the Week series. Moving to GWI after completing a degree in psychology, Duncan specializes in online consumer behavior and motivations.

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