The global games industry will be worth more than $159bn by the end of the year following unprecedented growth in mobile, console, and PC markets. While gaming has now been around for five decades, some specific genres and experiences have become significantly more popular in recent years.
The Battle Royale genre is one of those following the massive success of Fortnite, developed by Epic Games. Released in 2017, Fortnite pits 100 players against each other in a large and diverse map with the aim of being the last person standing. Intuitive building and shooting mechanics are central to the experience, and there is a variety of different solo and team-based modes available.
Fortnite has become a worldwide phenomenon since its release, attracting a staggering 350 million registered players as of May 2020. According to Statista, around 66% of players are aged between 18 and 24, and those logging on put an average of 16 hours into the game every week.
The success of Fortnite has resulted in the release of several other popular battle royale games. Call of Duty, known for its traditional multiplayer on smaller maps, finally released a battle royale variant titled Warzone in 2020. EA also launched Apex Legends in 2019.
Fortnite also further popularized the free-to-play (F2P) style of game design on PC and console, where players can access a game without paying anything. A report by SuperData found games with no upfront costs generated $88bn in 2018. While it may appear to be a contradiction that a free game can drive more significant revenue for a developer, the F2P model is built around in-game purchases and microtransactions.
F2P games have been popular on mobile for some time now. The market was worth more than $16bn in North America in 2019, though that figure is dwarfed in Asia, where more than $53.7bn was generated.
F2P games span various genres, though online multiplayer titles are very popular. Multiplayer online battle area (MOBA) game Dota 2 was fully F2P when launched on PC back in 2012. The developer, Valve, opting for the game-as-a-service model that enables it to sell loot boxes and battle passes.
VR and live experiences
New tech has also entered the mainstream in gaming during the last five years. Virtual reality (VR) has arguably been the biggest disrupter as it has fundamentally changed how a player interacts with a game. Rather than merely holding a controller, the player uses a headset to access a simulated experience.
The affordability of headsets in the late 2010s has increased VR’s adoption, both in PC and console gaming. Sony released PlayStation VR in October 2016, and it has since sold more than five million units. A range of games built exclusively for VR have also been launched across various systems.
While not a specific genre, new online experiences have added further depth to gaming. The live dealer roulette in New Jersey, for example, replicates the experience of being in a physical casino with an actual dealer. It is live-streamed to players who complete their actions remotely. These interactive, social elements are part of a new wave of gaming experiences.
While online gaming experiences have recently captured the zeitgeist, a subgenre of offline role-playing games has also come to the fore. Roguelike is named after the 1980 game Rogue, which features a player character that navigates a procedurally-generated dungeon while fending off monsters and collecting treasures.
With the demise of mid-tier studios and the rise of indies during the last ten years, there has been a slew of new roguelike games. Well received titles include The Binding of Isaac, Spelunky, Don’t Starve, Dead Cells, and the recently released Hades. Roguelikes generally feature a permadeath system where the game ends when the player character is defeated, procedural generation, random encounters, and vintage 2D graphic styles.
Action-adventure games also continue to be popular. It is a broad genre, encompassing many big-budget AAA releases on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Sony has seen huge success with its exclusive action games, including The Last of Us 2, a third-person shooter set in the post-apocalyptic United States. Since going on sale in June 2020, the game has sold more than four million copies and won rave reviews.
The action game does not always have to incorporate standard shooting mechanics. Marvel’s Spiderman, developed by Insomniac Games, features web-slinging traversal mechanics and hand-to-hand combat, while Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild focuses on exploration and puzzle-solving over frenzied action and set pieces. The action-adventure genre is thriving in the single-player space.
A few other genres driving the industry’s incredible growth include sports, racing, fighting, and strategy games. The surge in popularity in gaming has led to the emergence of new experiences and a resurgence of older genres, many of which have evolved to meet the modern gamer’s demands.