Gaming numbers point to a mixed future
Dec 1, 2014 8:51 AM –
A series of different reports are showing up some surprising figures when it comes to the state of the gaming industry as we head into 2015. In the US and Europe and in Japan, China and across Asia generally, research collated by multiple analysts are showing a distinctly similar set of patterns. And in the process they are forcing industry insiders to consider some of their basic assumptions about who they are creating games for, and who they may be creating them for in the future.
It seems the people downloading, buying and accessing online gaming products are older than many had imagined, and they are much more evenly split along gender lines than many had assumed. In effect, whereas gaming was once a niche activity that was overwhelmingly restricted to younger males, it is in the process of becoming a far more democratically representative activity. In the US the proportion of women gamers has risen from 42% in 2012 to 47% in 2014. Likewise, the proportion of older gamers is increasing steadily: 29% of all gamers worldwide are now over 50. And of course, the people who started the whole gaming boom are now approaching their middle years.
This has seen a turn to more adult oriented games – especially in the gambling sector – where ease of access and security are combined by suppliers such as the market leading 32Red to deliver fast-paced and rewarding cash games that have proved to be tremendously popular. The ready availability of such games in areas like Japan where there are no bricks and mortar equivalents are available only adds to the appetite for such offerings. The online global gambling industry is said to churn $40 billion annually.
Much of this trend is to do with the way the technologies that support our favourite games are becoming part of our daily lives. Early adopters were inevitably towards the younger end of the age-scale, but that is no longer the case now. And that trend has been spurred by the spread of mobile phone ownership which is now ubiquitous in the developed world. The figures for ownership in the US and Japan exceed 100% – which is to say there are more mobile phones in circulation than there are people. Moreover, 50% of mobile owners use their device as their primary means of accessing the internet.
And that turn to mobility is being heated still further by the rise of the smartphone. It is estimated that 56% of people own a smartphone, and that simple fact is producing radical changes in the global gaming equation. It has been shown that 80% of time spent using a smartphone is spent gaming. It is getting close to the point where the description ‘phone’ is largely redundant.
The estimated size of the global games industry in 2014 is $24 billion. Across the spread of all the thousands of games that feed into that equation, more and more are being designed specifically with the small-screen ease of access and connectivity that smart phones enable. Indeed, where solo game experiences were once the default, 24/7 connectivity is seeing a rise in networked of game-playing. The boom in internet poker is entirely driven by players’ ability to interact in a meaningful way online.
Mention of poker in this regard is significant because it also bears testimony to the degree to which the console-based origins of the gaming industry are being left behind in favour of social gaming more generally. As Forbes magazine has noted, notes that ‘The future of gaming isn’t proprietary hardware, it’s in user-choice and cross-platform playability’. In other words, consoles are being overtaken by apps as the world’s favourite way to play.
Within Japan research by individual games producers is largely consistent with the patterns being shown elsewhere. Games provider GREE, for example found that although a majority of its users were male, the distinction between male and female users was a slender one at best – the figure were 54% male, 47% female. Likewise, although they found the largest constituency of users in the 20-29 age range (34%) 27% were aged 30-40 and a further 21% were over 40. Games and gaming are clearly not just for kids.
Japanese media publisher Enterbrain’s research based around users’ occupations concluded that as many as 15% of all gamers were ‘housewives’ and that a further 13% were ‘office workers’. These figures are at least suggestive of the same progressive feminisation of the gaming scene.
As for the future, it seems as though the gaming world has spread to the point where it is so extensive that there really is something for everyone. In that respect, rather than global trends such as those described here, what we are likely to witness is a drift towards a more messy, divergent and niched spread of activities. We are rapidly approaching the point where to talk of a single ‘gaming industry’ is as meaningless as talking about a single global culture: gaming is growing up.
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