For several years now, the global gaming industry has been experiencing stellar growth. While the global pandemic saw a substantial rise in the popularity of gaming, as people from all walks of life turned to their screens for entertainment, competition and community, the industry has continued to grow even after the world returned to a state of normality.
In 2023, the global gaming industry is estimated to be worth over $180 billion and draw in an audience of 3.09 billion people worldwide — around 38% of the planet’s human population. There’s no denying that this is an industry that stays relevant and engaging year after year. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most exciting new trends in online gaming that are set to engage players this year and for several years to come.
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Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Gaming
If you haven’t already noticed, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology are slowly taking over gaming realms. Every month it seems that new projects are being launched that are democratizing cryptocurrencies and harnessing the power of blockchain to reward gamers for the time they spend playing. Crypto is even making significant headway in established gaming sectors, such as online gambling, where platforms offering live dealer casino with bitcoin features are surging in popularity.
The first generation of crypto and blockchain games prioritized function over form, with most play-to-earn games not exactly breaking the mold for immersive and exciting gameplay. While the P2E features of pioneering GameFi titles are still very much a priority for game developers, they’re now focusing on integrating more engaging gaming experiences into NFT and crypto games. Magic the Gathering players will be excited to learn that trading card games are an emerging vertical in blockchain gaming.
Crypto card games, or CCGs, typically follow the gameplay structure of well-established digital collective card games like Hearthstone and Clash Royale. As they play, gamers can unlock NFTs in the form of trading cards, enabling them to create powerful decks for PvP matchmaking and own digital assets that possess real-world value.
When video game distribution services emerged in the early 2000s, they had a revolutionary impact on the gaming industry. Marketplaces like Steam and Good Ol’ Games streamlined the game-buying process, enabling players to browse vast libraries of titles online before being able to make immediate purchases. With gamers no longer needing to travel to physical stores or needing to wait months before sell-out titles came back in stock, they could focus on building their collections and playing more games.
For decades, buying games online was a lot easier than the retail store alternative, but the 21st-century gamer needs a different approach. Despite being available for instant purchase, games purchased online can take several hours to download — even from top gaming brands like Sony — while hardware and PC storage can also throw up issues. This necessity for instant-access games from any device has given rise to the cloud gaming sector.
If digital game distribution has taken gaming to new heights, cloud gaming could blast it into the stratosphere. Players can instantly stream their purchases in real-time via cloud gaming platforms or apps. Plus, they can access the same game on various devices, whether a PC or console or even a gaming-compatible smartphone.
In the gaming industry, it’s common for one trend to boost the profile of another, and thanks to cloud gaming, cross-play is now coming to the forefront. Gone are the days when players were limited to a specific platform. Cross-play functionality has emerged as an innovation that digitally, at least, bridges the divide between the PC, console, and mobile gaming devices.
In the era of big-name gaming studios, most of the new releases coming from the likes of Activision and Respawn now actively support cross-play. This innovation essentially allows players to compete against or collaborate with other gamers from around the world in the same game in real-time, irrespective of the system they’re using to play on. The emergence of cross-play has undoubtedly been boosted by cloud gaming, and it takes the concept of multi-platform gaming to the next level.
One of the most noticeable impacts of cross-play for players is that it can reduce fragmentation in gaming communities, fostering a sense of inclusion and community instead. For developers and publishing houses, integrating cross-play features into existing IP can significantly extend the lifespan of their multiplayer gaming titles.
Moreover, as we move further towards the age of gaming metaverses, with virtual communities and the creation of new ecosystems, embracing cross-play will be a necessary move for incumbent gaming brands wanting to remain relevant in the digital age.
The developments featured in this article aren’t just transforming how consumers play games but are also opening up a new world of possibilities for developers, manufacturers and the gaming industry as a whole. As technology continues to advance, it’s exciting to imagine what the future of online gaming will look like, particularly as the trends above the continent shape the landscape and enhance the player experience.