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Why it’s important to recognize gaming as a global phenomenon
October 14, 2021
With Covid-19 having forced many of us to stay inside over the past two years, gaming has evolved from a distraction to an outlet for many to connect, create, and escape to virtual worlds full of adventure.
With a flurry of new gamers, existing gamers playing more, and old players returning, the audience has grown to 3.1 billion worldwide, resulting in the industry exceeding $300bn.
What makes this growth unique is that it’s happening everywhere. In more developed countries where the gaming market has matured, players are fighting to get their hands on an Xbox Series X or PS5. Sony recently announced PS5 sales had surpassed 10 million despite supply shortages.
In less developed countries where the gaming market is still in its infancy, mobile gaming maintains its lead, facilitated by the widespread accessibility of budget smartphones that can run high-end mobile games. In India, where mobile gaming is thriving, games downloaded from the Android Play Store from 2019 to 2020 increased by 51%, and games downloaded from the iOS App store increased 20%.
Where does gaming generate the most revenue?
Stats from Newzoo show that out of all the countries in the world, China generated the most revenue from video games in 2020 with just over 44m, followed by the US with 42m, and then Japan with 20m.
China’s revenue is unsurprising considering how large its population is. However, it’s interesting to note that gaming still generates such a large amount of money despite numerous efforts by the government to clamp down on the time its citizens spend playing video games. Its most recent regulation which has recently come into effect restricts the number of hours children can spend playing games online.
China boasts the world's most lucrative gaming market
Despite people being shocked by the ban, restrictions around video games in China are nothing new. Many other countries also have laws in place which restrict how and what games are played. Venezuela has a total ban on video games in which the goal is shooting people, Japan bans games that contain ‘controversial content’, Australia puts restrictions on games that promote violence, sexual content, nudity, drugs, and even graffiti, and Singapore bans games that the government deems ‘inappropriate’ for their citizens. One of the most famous video games banned in this country is the Mass Effect series which promotes homosexuality.
Despite strict regulations around gaming, China is also responsible for many of the world’s most popular games. Chinese studios have produced titles for the Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, Tom Clancy, and Rayman franchises, to name a few. Chinese game house miHoYo is also responsible for Genshin Impact. A hugely popular cross-platform action role-playing game that became the first mobile title to surpass $1bn in revenue in less than six months after launching last September.
Shaking off the negative stereotypes
There is an identifiable trend that countries with large numbers of gamers often develop the most games. If you grew up in the US, for instance, where two-thirds of Americans play video games, you’re more likely to pursue a career in gaming compared to somewhere where gaming is not accessible nor deemed a worthwhile pursuit.
The stigma that often comes with video games is rapidly beginning to disappear. With the industry growing, the rise of free-to-play titles and mobile gaming skyrocketing, gaming is becoming accessible to everyone, no matter their age, income, location or background. This means the idea of a ‘gamer’ being a teenage boy locked away in a dark room somewhere is disappearing, and with it, a whole new vision is emerging of what a ‘gamer’ is.
Despite this, there is still a huge diversity issue within gaming, in part due to this negative stereotype that many people still associate with a ‘gamer’. This has led to a predominantly male-led industry, with many of the world’s most popular franchises coming from a select few countries, notably Japan, China and the US. This has also meant many of the stories and characters players have come to know and love don’t represent them, their values, or the places they live.
Aerial Knight's Never Yield - a video game created by a black developer, starring a black character
As gaming grows, we’re beginning to see this change with more diverse characters, locations, and values represented. However, we still have a long way to go. As gaming continues to permeate new places and societies, it’s exciting to imagine the diversity that will come from players and studios within those regions, allowing players to experience alternative cultures, people and views. It would be amazing to see more playable titles that draw inspiration from places like Africa and India, made by the people who grew up there. After all, one of the great advantages of playing games is being transported to somewhere completely different to experience what life is like through the eyes of someone else.
Preparing for the metaverse
With gaming growing at an epic rate and money flowing through the industry, many believe the metaverse, first coined in Snow Crash and more recently in Steven Speilberg’s Ready Player One, is on its way. Game studios are beginning to prepare for this space where people will gather to play, socialize, learn and create. We can already see the foundations of this happening on hugely popular global platforms like Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft.
The brands, agencies, and games studios preparing for this space should consider what values carry over to this virtual world. If it’s designed to be an open space for everyone, we should allow people from around the globe, who come from all different backgrounds, to lead and shape it, rather than having a select few set the rules and regulations to benefit themselves and those around them who look, sound and think the same.
The future of the gaming industry is on its way, and it’s down to the game studios and the advertisers who help to fund many of them to ensure the right foundations are laid to allow for a naturally diverse, equal and inclusive environment for all.