If you were to analyse the growth of mobile gaming over the course of the last few years, you would undoubtedly come to see this as the future of the marketplace. Similarly, it would be easy to paint console and video gaming as a thing of the past, characterised by inflexible payment subscriptions, significant costs and rigid gameplay experiences.
While there is some truth to both of these assertions, the latter argument does not recognise the evolution that is taking place in the console segment of the gaming market at present. In fact, we are seeing considerable growth within this sector, as the platform continues to adapt, evolve and borrow heavily from the successful mobile template.
To understand this ongoing evolution further, it is important recognise some recent data-sets released by gaming intelligence firm SuperData Research. According to recent figures, global digital video game sales hit record highs in 2015, growing by 8% and driving revenues of $61 billion in the process. This trend has emerged as major consoles and developers have gravitated towards creating digitally distributed gaming experiences, which enable players to embrace a freemium payment structure and access a host of downloadable titles.
With major players such Microsoft (Xbox) and Sony (PlayStation) now focusing heavily on the cultivation of a digital strategy, we can expect this trend to continue in the near-term future. This also comes at a time when the sales of physical games continues to fall, with the level of revenue generated by brick-and-mortar and outlets in the U.S declining by 13% to $5.3 billion. By 2020, it is expected that the market for digital, console downloads (which is currently worth $4 billion) will have surpassed this total and consigned traditional video games to the annals of history.
This should come as no surprise, with the mobile market surging 10% to $25.1 billion in 2015 and continuing to change the demands and habits of gamers. Tablets are particularly popular among gamers at present, while their hybrid nature and processing power marks them as a genuine threat to the future of consoles as a whole. The response from leading console brands has been impressive, however, both in terms of driving digital sales and reinventing the format of popular titles.
The upcoming GTA Online DLC release is expected to integrate popular, free bingo platforms, for example, through which players can wager in real-time and using corporeal cash. Similarly, the latest Hitman: Agent 47 release will boast a fluid, episodic format that will be shared through a series of upgrades and downloads, offering players the freedom to purchase as few or as many as they wish. This type of fluid, freemium gameplay has underpinned huge growth in the mobile market, and the decision of console brands to borrow heavily from this augers well for the future.
Not only does this represent a rebirth for the console market, but it also suggests that players may be able to operate with a cross-platform sector within the next decade.