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10 Gaming Trends to Look Out For in 2021

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The global gaming industry was valued at $162 billion last year, a figure that is expected to grow to almost $300 billion by 2026 according to data from Mordor Intelligence. To put that into context, the movie industry is valued at $120 billion, while the music industry generates around $20 billion per year. In short, gaming is booming like nothing else in the broader leisure and entertainment sector, a trend that will only be boosted by the continued restriction of other leisure pursuits under lockdown conditions across the globe. 

It’s good news for the software developers and game studios, but it also means exciting times ahead for consumers. A good proportion of those dollars are being ploughed back into R&D, meaning the next generation of games and gaming hardware will bring entirely new experiences. Here are 10 trends we can expect to see over the months ahead.

1) Mobile is now

For the past three to four years, we’ve been told the future is mobile. Now, in 2021, the future is here. Mobile is already bigger than PC and console gaming combined, and by the end of this year, it is expected to account for 60 percent of overall gaming revenue. The shift of high profile games like FIFA to mobile and the increased profile of mobile eSport are just two examples of mobile’s domination taking effect.

2) The rise of streaming 

We’ve seen the impact of streaming on the movie and music business – CDs and DVDs are almost seen as retro today. It’s inevitable that gaming will go down the same road, and this trend is already being seen with increases in streamers, viewers and revenue on platforms like Twitch. Now, as internet giants like Microsoft and Facebook look to move in and take a slice of the pie, we can really expect streaming to hit the mainstream. 

3) More in-app purchases

So far, we are talking about intangible games streamed on your phone. Many of us play games like these already and might be wondering where those billions of dollars are being generated. After all, the vast majority of online games are free to play. The answer lies partially with those in-app purchases, which include power-ups and premium modes but also mystery packs. These are a clear indication that the line between gambling and gaming is getting thinner every year as you have no more idea what you are getting than if you lay down some dollars on the spin of a roulette wheel.

4) Getting social

The phrase “social gaming” tends to conjure up images of virtual carrots and scrabble rivalries. But while Farmville and Words with Friends were both pioneers a decade ago, the phenomenon has spread to other areas of gaming, especially in recent months when social interaction has been such a precious commodity. Time spent chatting and making friends is a win-win for developers, too. It means more time spent in-game and a vibrant community that can help the game achieve its full potential. 

5) Gamers as developers

This trend is an extension and consequence of increased social aspects to gaming. With the next generation of games, we can expect the gamers themselves to have an influential voice in the way the game develops, and how it evolves with DLCs and the like. Gaming companies have a customer base that is passionate, knowledgeable and communicative. Big corporations in other sectors would love to have that kind of information resource at their fingertips in order to develop better household goods, or cars, or tins of baked beans. Expect the software giants to really start to leverage this resource for all its worth going forward. 

6) Revisiting the classics

Again, we can see the gaming sector taking cues from the movie world here. Some of the biggest blockbusters in recent years like Ocean’s Eleven and Casino Royale are remakes of old classics and proved even more popular the second time around. We’ve already seen the likes of Mario and Sonic returning to wow a new generation. There are two facts in play here. One is that what was a great idea 30 years ago is usually still a great idea today. The other is the basic truth that nostalgia sells. 

7) The return of full-motion gaming 

Speaking of the endurance of good ideas, full motion video games were a short-lived craze back in the 90s that tried to make games more interactive. They were a little like those Choose Your Own Adventure books from a decade earlier, and were just as clunky. Here’s an area of gaming that can really come into its own using today’s video technology to create a more immersive experience. 

8) Cloud gaming – the new standard

Like game streaming, gaming as a service, or cloud gaming as it is more commonly known, is certain to become the new standard in the 2020s. We’ve seen how the cloud has revolutionized the workplace by rendering those banks of servers and spools of backup tapes obsolete. It can and will sweep away all that cumbersome gaming hardware from your living room in exactly the same way. Microsoft and Google already have daggers drawn as they seek to establish dominance. 

9) Virtual Reality – for real this time

Virtual reality gaming has had so many false dawns, it seems almost trite to suggest it will be a major trend this year. In fact, the more dominant trend is likely to be Extended Reality, or XR, which combines components of VR and AR. 5G tech will mean we finally have the streaming capability, and when combined with the rise of cloud gaming, the VR age could at last have the infrastructure it needs to properly take off. 

10) Any platform will do

Mobile might be king, but that doesn’t mean consoles and PCs will disappear entirely any time soon. What it does suggest, though, is that there will be more demand than ever for cross-platform functionality. We are already seeing it with the top Battle Royale games like Fortnite, and other developers will have no choice but to follow suit.  

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