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Was COVID-19 the only accelerator to the gaming industry?

This trend will continue beyond the pandemic, and new and sustainable career opportunities are also expected to come up across service categories.

Photo Credit : ShutterStock


In 2019, there were 2.5 billion gamers worldwide spending $152.1 billion on games, according to Newzoo market research. The industry was experiencing a 9.6 percent growth year on year. In a May 2020 report, it published a forecast that was in keeping with the earlier growth figures - a 9.3 percent growth to touch $159.3 billion from 2.7 billion users.

By November 2020, it revised the predictions to indicate a growth rate of 19.6, with revenues expected to touch $174.9 billion, nearly $15 billion more than the earlier prediction! While Covid-19 is one factor, the growth is expected to be sustained and by 2023, it is expected to touch $217.9 billion.

These figures are impressive, and we can credit Covid-19 for such growth. However, in reality, the gaming industry is reported to have overtaken even Hollywood and has been garnering higher revenues for the last 5 years. The availability of video games online improved its accessibility and Covid-19 opened a new chapter. 

With lockdowns and lay-offs forcing people to find alternatives to keep themselves and their families entertained in the absence of social engagements, there was a boom not just in video games but online games as well. Many titles declared record-breaking revenues across the industry, regardless of the size of the publisher, and several game services online grew by leaps and bounds. Distribution portals such as Humble Bundle, GOG and Steam were able to leverage this trend and capitalize it further with discounts and offers. This created jobs and opportunities for those looking for new avenues of earning. Publishing titles, reviewing them, distributing them, and even YouTube channels as part of spectator sports sprang up. What stands out is the success of the game title, Call of Duty - War Zone in the Battle Royale Genre.  In the mobile platform games, Among Us unexpectedly shot up as one of the most popular title despite its simplicity.

2021 Future Trends

Though life is limping back to normal, there is still a lot of caution and uncertainty in the air. While this is encouraging for the gaming industry, that will not be the only reason for its remaining popular. The six trends that I see impacting the future and boosting its growth include:

  1. Consoles: With Playstation 5 and X-Box Scarlett in the market, we can expect to see many new titles. In the initial years after the launch of a new console, we see several new titles also finding their way into the market.
  2. Mobile: Mobile penetration as well as 5G will continue to make it one of the biggest sources of gaming revenues. The mobile gaming platform will only expand as it will let people access games from anywhere, anytime with greater ease.
  3. E-sports: Gaming is like any other sport, with its own audience and tournaments with popular teams and salaried players. In recent times, a Dota event saw 1.1 million viewers. In the last 25-30 years, its popularity has increased tremendously, and the prize pool has gone up from Rs 200 to a million in 2011 and over 30 million in less than 10 years! As much as people love playing, there is a fan following just to watch teams pitted against each other. During one of my trips to Seattle, a Dota tournament had been organized in an arena, which was filled to its capacity of 15,000 people. Large screens all over were installed all over the city for people to watch and registered over a million spectators. Even during the pandemic, the tournaments were conducted online, and players played from a boot camp or their homes. But once the lockdown is over, it will revive.
  4. Battle Royale: With the success of PubG and Fortnite, Battle Royale games have become very popular. COD - War Zone is also one. The other very popular category is MMORPG (Mass Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game).
  5. Cloud-based Gaming Services: This is an emerging trend. Google Stadia is the most popular cloud gaming service despite needing refinement. We can expect this to become a reality anytime now. 
  6. AR/VR: When VR was introduced in 2016, it was thought to be the next big thing. But after the initial promise, there not much traction. Now, with online classrooms and the demand for technology-based solutions, VR is making a big comeback. There has been a sudden spike in VR-based titles and, interestingly, a large number of the requests have been for VR platforms such as Oculus Quest, HTC Vive. We are seeing a lot of PC-based VR titles. These are not just for video games but education/edutainment such as fitness apps, cooking apps, or learning a new skill kind of thing in addition to virtual classrooms. This trend is expected to grow in the times to come.

This is an exciting time for the gaming industry, which has experienced a sudden spurt in growth due to the pandemic. This trend will continue beyond the pandemic, and new and sustainable career opportunities are also expected to come up across service categories. Though part of the entertainment industry, this is not a segment to be taken lightly.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
gaming industry COVID-19

Sudarshan Ranganathan

Designation – Vice President – Gaming Practice (iXie Gaming), Indium Software

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