**Originally Published April 3rd, 2019, Updated October 11th, 2019**

From consoles to cell phones, everyone seems to play them at some time or another. Gaming is huge, that goes without saying. Some even make a living from doing it. There are sports leagues and multi-billion dollar industries devoted to it. The mobile games industry alone now is a $138 billion-earning sector, an indication that emerging trends in 2019 could potentially represent a massive amount of money. And of course, this isn’t limited to the mobile sector. Gaming as a whole is undergoing a surge in growth that will shape the industry for years to come. So with that in mind, let’s examine which trends are likely to show up in the coming year and which games made a splash in 2018.

1. A Revolution in Game Streaming & Advertising

Google recently unveiled “Project Stream” and soon afterward began testing its potential with the help of Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey”. This solution is intriguing because it will try to enable the streaming of graphically-demanding games on any standard PC.

Google is not the first to attempt this, but they undoubtedly possess the resources and the necessary partners in order to make the concept work and bring it to the market. And do so relatively quickly at that. If successful, the project will mark the beginning of a major new era in gaming by doing 2 things:

  • Opening the advertising doors to a whole new untapped market of players who would not be able to support these games otherwise
  • Large corporations who specialize in powerful gaming hardware being challenged to further re-evaluate their business models and expand into software solutions in order to maintain market share

Additionally, this year has marked a major milestone for the eSports market. Revenues will reach an impressive $1.1 billion in 2019, a year-over-year growth of over 26.7%. Close to 82% of the total market ($897.2 million), is expected to come from brand investments (such as media rights, advertising, and sponsorship). Sponsorship is the highest-grossing individual esports revenue stream worldwide, generating $456.7 million in 2019. But while sponsorship is the highest-grossing, the fastest-growing eSports revenue stream far and away is media rights.

2. Indie Games are Redefining and Revolutionizing the Industry

Millions of people play games, and that number is expected to continue rising as accessibility becomes more abundant for gamers around the globe. The already astronomical revenue from the gaming industry is anticipated to reach $123.5 billion in 2019. But just like any other successful venture —to stay successful, the industry must adapt to consumer demand.

What that means today is anticipating consumer interests. Consumers want something that piques and holds our interest, like the ability to make unique decisions. Indie developers are at the forefront of this anticipation, creating games with branched and non-linear storylines.

More than anything else, it’s about the experience itself. Re-skinning and adding mild alterations to previously successful titles simply aren’t doing it for consumers anymore. Consumers today want more than the mundane results of well-funded developers collaborating on multimillion-dollar projects (*cough* Call Of Duty *cough), they want a revamp of the actual gameplay. We get it. The big brands won’t put an end to the same old thing they’ve been doing, because it’s been so insanely profitable and lucrative for them. But this approach will not work forever. Soon, we will likely see a shift in the “who’s who” of game production, with Indie developers gradually becoming more popular due to their unique approach – and the

3. Console-Quality Games Become The Norm on Mobile

Console-quality games have begun to emerge. Players with high-end devices have asked for mobile developers to push their handsets to the limit, and developers have been listening. Expect those with premium smartphones to continue to see advancements in gameplay and additional options continuing to evolve in the console/mobile crossover. We have seen this evolution most prominently with the likes of Fortnite and PUBG.

Fortnite released their iOS version of the game in April 2018 while the Android version rolled out in June, raking in an estimated $2 million per day. Meanwhile, the launch of Season 5 saw it make more than $3 million in one day. This is largely due to its Pixar-like graphics and cartoonish cosmetics look the same on mobile devices as they do on PC and consoles. The same applies to PUBG Mobile: while the game isn’t known for its visual prowess, the gaming experience you get on mobile devices is incredibly similar to that on PC, Xbox One, and most recently, PS4.

As mobile hardware continues to become more powerful, developers will have more to work with from a technological standpoint, and in turn, will develop the ability to rival console games. Stay tuned!

4. Advancements in Interactive Multiplayer

Titles like Fallout 76 certainly had its share of bad reviews. However, there still seems to be plenty of hope that games of this nature will eventually become a staple in the industry. Communities coming together and affecting the outcome of the game together has long been a dream of gamers around the globe. Those dreams are finally becoming a reality with some of the new interactive online multiplayer games. If Fallout 76 can get itself together and more titles the likes of Rust are released, we could potentially see a boom in these types of games this year.

5. Major Franchises getting Mobile Spinoffs

Expect more spinoffs and mobile ports of games this year that first made it big on PC and consoles. For example, Blizzard Entertainment is planning to release Diablo Immortal soon. It has also confirmed plans to launch mobile titles of its other IPs, which include World of Warcraft and Overwatch.

Meanwhile, the Pokemon series is a prime example of an established gaming IP receiving a full-scale mobile treatment. And though the hype has died down to a large extent, Augmented reality (AR) title Pokémon GO has made more than $2 billion from its more than 500 million players worldwide.

6. Increased Regulations on In-Game Purchase’s

By the end of 2018, PEGI (Pan European Game Information) will have fully introduced a new rating icon on physical game copies. This rating icon was created to notify the buyer that the title includes in-game purchase possibilities. Additionally, increased efforts this year to ban loot boxes globally do not seem to be slowing whatsoever.

When looking at these factors together – among others – we predict that in 2019, companies who rely largely on in-game transactions will surely continue to experience challenges in monetization. This is especially true for mobile, as it has been reported that the costs for in-app purchases are rising, while the returns are diminishing seemingly by the day.

Regulations are becoming more abundant it seems, as we are embarking upon a new era of technology and social media. We have seen regulations across the entire internet, everything from in-app purchases to content creation in influencer marketing for branded media.

7. Cross-Platform Play

Cross-platform play is increasing, due to the fact that many popular mobile games are also available on PC and consoles. Gamers don’t want to be separated from their friends simply because they’re playing on a different device; cross-play keeps these friends playing together. Cross-platform progression, which allows you to keep your PC, mobile and console stats and game unlocks under one account also saw a surge in popularity in 2018.

If console-quality games and mobile spinoffs of PC and console series are to expected trends in 2019, expect cross-platform play to also be a growing trend this year as well.

8. A boom in e-Sports and Live Streaming

Home video gaming has slowly evolved in the past couple of decades from a mainly solo hobby, to more of a social event – and now even a growing spectator sport. eSports – organized multiplayer competitions that pit teams of professional gamers against each other in a battle for a prize – have only grown exponentially larger in recent years, and are currently attracting impressive crowds all over the globe. eSports has evolved into a multimillion-dollar industry, with even more growth on the horizon. As of May 2018, the total prize money awarded to players taking place in Dota 2 eSports competitions amounted to a staggering $141 million, while Epic Games recently announced that Fortnite will receive a $100 million prize pool for the 2018-2019 season. That’s big money.

It’s clear that eSports is a fast-growing industry, but what does that growth look like specifically in 2019? The global eSports audience is projected to grow to 453.8 million worldwide in 2019, a year-over-year growth of 15.0%. This audience is expected to consist of around 201.2 million Esports enthusiasts (a +16.3% year-on-year growth) and 252.6 million casual viewers (a +14.0% year-on-year growth). As the eSports market continues its maturation and the number of local events, leagues, and media rights deals increases, data indicates the average revenue per fan is expected to grow to $6.02 by 2022.

9. Arcade Games are Coming Back Better Than Ever

Arcade games have been making a comeback for years now. Between the emergence of console emulators for PC, and the actual reproductions of classic consoles like the original NES, arcade classics are resurfacing and increasing in prevalence once again. Of course, not all developers are hopping on the bandwagon. Some still prefer our pixelated past, and for good reason — arcade games are growing in popularity among gamers, particularly those longing for the nostalgia of a different era. Not buying into it? New releases like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate beg to differ. SSB is a classic that likely won’t digress too much from the previous games in its series. And it’s set to keep the basics the same. But being that it is now the sixth release of the franchise, Smash Bros. Ultimate is bound to keep players on their toes with new abilities, characters, and stages.

Developers who long for the early 80s and are hopping on the arcade bandwagon aren’t the only players in the game, no pun intended. Casino game developers have also started to do it as well. Classically-styled games like Starburst Slots from Wink Bingo are coming back into fashion in a big way, with more players becoming interested in this throwback. 

10.  An Emergence in Audio Cues

Audio has always been a major component of video games, but it was primarily a design element in the early days. Audio wallpaper, for lack of a better term. But now that video games have evolved so much and most players are choosing to wear a headset while they play, audio has become an increasingly important gameplay element for the modern player. If you have a nice set of headphones for your console or PC, expect all the newest titles to put plenty of work into improving audio cues during gameplay, as well as advancements in ways to integrate sound into the entirety of the game. #soundon

11. Regulations in China Will Begin Change Developers’ Strategies at Home and Abroad

Following regulatory reform in China and the formation of the Ethics Game Committee, it will be increasingly difficult for publishers to release games in China. In order to adhere to the new committee’s standards, foreign companies will need to invest time and resources into adjusting their titles to be in accordance with these regulations. With that said, companies will likely only make these adjustments if they are confident that their games will perform well in China, meaning that only the biggest titles and franchises will likely be able to justify the inherent risk of Chinese releases.

As a result, these new regulations will also likely lead to a shift in focus overseas from Chinese game companies. In particular, Southeast Asia, Japan, Europe, South Korea, the U.S., and the Middle East are high-potential markets. It will be exciting to see these developments unfold.

12. AR will be the dominant immersive reality in 5 years

According to GDC’s 2019 game-industry survey, game makers are fairly bullish on AR, or augmented reality, becoming the dominant immersive reality over VR (virtual reality). Titles like Pokemon Go, The Walking Dead Our World, Jurassic World Alive and the upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite are trailblazing a path to immersive play on mobile phones. It should be noted though that 17 percent of the developers who took part in the GDC survey also think neither AR or VR will be important in five years. Only time will tell.


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