If the world wasn’t dealing with a certain ongoing pandemic, the news right now would be headlined by some much more trivial, fun and downright exciting news. The release of the next generation of the world’s two major game consoles – the Xbox and the PlayStation – is very much upon us, with Microsoft’s Xbox Series X | S Out and Sony’s PlayStation 5 both available now.
Their release represents part of a wider transition for the world of video gaming this past decade, with the industry moving from being a money-spinning childhood hobby and into a domain that boasts mega money, professional enterprise and ground-breaking, immersive experiences.
With that in mind, exactly how is video gaming changing right now?
Oh, grow up…
The days of being branded an overgrown man-child if you play video games as an adult are long gone. In recent years, the complexity and structure of popular games has been tailored to suit and appeal to a more mature audience, which has meant that gaming is no longer the stereotypical domain of teenagers.
If you look to last year’s numbers in the United States, you’ll see the biggest gaming demographic is those in the age bracket of 18-34 at 38%− almost double the share of under 18s, who make up only 21%. More interestingly, the youngest gamers are also overshadowed by the 34-54 demographic, who take 26% of the share.
The average gamer is not only changing in age but gender, too, with the 2010s seeing women consistently make up 40% or more of players in the US.
A career move
Gaming is also now an entrepreneurial pursuit via a number of different avenues. The ongoing advent of online gaming has given rise to the world of E-sports, where top competitors across the globe are given the chance to battle it out for lucrative titles across many of the industry’s biggest franchises.
Game franchises such as Fortnite, Call of Duty and FIFA all hold global level tournaments, with audiences and prize money both sitting in the millions. Indeed, many of the top players in the world are not only professionals, but high-earning ones – not to mention celebrities within the right circles.
Beyond E-Sports, the world of online content creation and streaming has developed into a multi-billion pound industry, with top gaming streamers on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube earning fame and fortune beyond that of the E-Sports world, with some content creators even considered household names.
Producing gaming and streaming content is now a legitimate career move, with CNBC reporting last year that children who have aspirations to be a YouTuber outnumber kids who dream of becoming an astronaut by three to one.
However, with the squeezed budgets of consumers who may be carefully looking at their finances in these difficult times, these consoles represent a considerable purchase. So, gamers will need to budget efficiently to afford the equipment to get started in the industry, not to mention manage their own expectations in a fiercely competitive market.
A new level of immersion
Talking of streaming, the next generation of game consoles exists beyond the physical platforms of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. You may well have seen adverts across various forms of media for Stadia, Google’s game streaming service which doesn’t require a physical console to run.
They, alongside the likes of Microsoft with their Project xCloud service, are looking to create a gaming experience and delivery akin to what Netflix offers in the TV and film industry. While not a factor big enough to rival the likes of the Xbox and the PS5 yet, the online game-streaming industry is expected to grow rapidly through the 2020s.
Virtual reality (VR) in gaming is also in its relative infancy – a technology which has teased gamers with the prospect of a truly immersive gaming experience for numerous decades. However, now may finally be the time that advances in graphics and equipment have reached a point where the true aim of a VR gaming setup is achievable.
VR, for now, is still somewhat of a novelty, and the picture of what VR looks like in the future – as in will it be gamers stood in their homes with headsets on or something much different – is yet to be defined. Regardless, it is one of the more exciting developmental prospects for gaming in the next ten years.
What the future holds for gaming is somewhat limitless. From fundamental changes in the platforms via which we game to the manner of gaming itself, the ongoing digitalisation and immersion advances in the sector make the 2020s and beyond a highly exciting time indeed.
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