In 2013 we saw the gaming sector grow 7% in revenue, thanks to the launch of two new consoles in November, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. 2014 looks to be a further year of growth for one of the most popular entertainment sectors. However, behind the headline numbers of big console sales, the real growth in 2014 will come from developments in digital tools and technologies. From advancements in mobile free-to-play (F2P) gaming to second screen technology and digital marketplaces; here are our top three digital trends that we expect to influence the gaming sector in 2014.
1. Console-style games will diversify towards mobile and F2P
Smartphone and tablet gaming is set to grow 35% in revenue this year. Ever more ‘core’ gamers are playing games on their mobile devices and at the same time, there has been a decline in boxed video game sales, which dropped 3% year-on-year in 2013. With time-constrained gamers playing on mobile devices, more and more console game developers will look to adapt accordingly. Already, triple-A gaming studios are releasing mobile-only console-style games with a clear eye on this trend.
Also driving the growth in mobile gaming, including amongst casual ‘non-gamer’ players, is the huge success of free-to-play (F2P) titles like Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga. The games have been so successful that more and more developers, including traditional gaming giants, are looking to experiment with this business model. EA Sports launched FIFA 14 for free on mobile in November, even though the console version cost £39 on release. In mobile and beyond, others are likely to follow suit, with both Square Enix and Capcom exploring the F2P model for brand new games releases.
2. Second screen experience will become standard for console games
On PS3 and Xbox 360, second screen gaming was limited to occasionally providing users with in-game statistics, avatar editing and social functions. In contrast, PS4 and Xbox One games are using the handheld PS Vita device and SmartGlass app respectively to offer additional gameplay elements, such as controlling additional characters mid-play or providing an additional simultaneous camera perspective. Moreover, the majority of PS4 games will be available to play remotely on PS Vita. Therefore, 2014 could see console games expanding beyond the core gamer audience through diversification outside the single big screen TV.
Wikia recently release a companion app called Palantir for upcoming title Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. It listens to the user playing a game and suggests specific and relevant hints and tips from Wiki communities. Expect to see a wealth of ‘listening’ apps in the future, offering developers a quick and easy way to study user behaviour, but inevitably triggering further debates about privacy.
3. Digital marketplaces will remove the need for marketing
Last month, indie game DayZ alpha launched in PC online marketplace Steam, and 24 hours later generated more than $5m in revenue, despite its developer spending no money on advertising. The current top-selling games on Steam – DayZ, Rust and Starbound – are all alpha-launched games. The developers take feedback from user forums and make changes to the game, to eventually be incorporated into the full version.
Digital marketplaces themselves are not new, but the commercial success of alpha games on these platforms means independent developers now have the opportunity to compete alongside financially stronger games publishers. PlayStation Now, announced earlier this month, will be PS4’s alternative to Steam, while retailer Game is also planning to launch its own on-demand gaming portal.
With the global video games market potentially worth up to $93bn in 2014, industry diversification brings rich rewards, but failing to exploit developments in the digital space could see traditional triple-A console developers increasingly challenged.