The online gaming industry is one of the most economically significant sectors in the world today. Billions of people play games online, generating revenue of almost $17 billion in 2019 alone. The primary gaming device used by gamers today is the smartphone, with the advent of online and mobile gaming having created a whole new audience.
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The increase in popularity of playing online games has also led to a new phenomenon. There is now an entire industry sector dedicated to watching other people play computer games competitively, known as eSports. Watching eSports is now more popular among young adults aged between 18 and 25 than watching live sporting events. Games such as League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive attract millions of viewers and generate revenue through gambling on the outcome of competitions.
Demand for online games has increased in 2020, including wider audiences for popular favourites and new players attracted to the latest releases. There are multiple genres of online games, ranging from single player casual games such as Spider Solitaire, Candy Crush and online slots games, to vast multi-player online worlds such as those in Call of Duty and Overwatch. Developers are becoming more inventive to meet the demands of an audience that is growing both in terms of numbers and expectations. Of the many hundreds of games released each year, there are certain ones that stand out from the crowd and draw in huge audiences in terms of players and in some cases spectators.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, often referred to simply as CS:GO, is a popular eSports video game that is played competitively. As of June 2020, the number of concurrent CS:GO players on Steam reached one million, and there are more than 20 million active monthly players. CS:GO tournaments attract millions of viewers and cumulative prize pools for the players reached $22.65 million by 2018. The multi-player first-person shooter is the fourth game in the series and has remained a highly popular choice for gamers ever since being released in 2012.
Slots are one of the most popular genres of games and there are hundreds of thousands of variations for players to choose from, which makes it all the more impressive when one manages to stand out from the crowd and attract significantly higher player numbers than any other. Starburst from NetEnt has achieved this unlikely goal, becoming the most popular slots game ever in a market that is saturated with possibilities. Starburst has a relatively simplistic formula that appeals to most slots’ players, with flashy graphics and a cool soundtrack of eighties disco hits. The stunning graphics combine with straightforward gameplay that makes Starburst accessible to almost all online casino visitors.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The first Animal Crossing game was released almost two decades ago, and the concept has since gone from strength to strength. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the latest offering from game developers Nintendo, released in March 2020. Afficionados of the series will be pleased to recognise favourite characters returning, but with new opportunities for customisation and intriguing side games and features designed to create a more immersive and personalised experience. Animal Crossing is at heart a social game designed to be played with a group of friends to create an online community.
Call of Duty: Warzone
The Call of Duty series, shortened by players to CoD, first launched in 2003 and since that time there have been multiple versions released, each increasing the popularity of the series. One of the most recent releases was Call of Duty: Warzone, which launched in March 2020 and has already achieved the milestone of 75 million active players. CoD games are first-person shooters which were initially set during World War Two. Over time, new fictional worlds based on real historical wars and fantasy warzones have been created, offering players the options to experience the Cold War, combat in space and a variety of futuristic worlds.
Candy Crush Saga
Candy Crush is one of the most popular games of the match three genre, attracting millions of players worldwide since the original launch in 2012. Candy Crush draws in a large audience in part due to its “freemium” platform, which allows people to play completely free of charge if they choose to do so. The game generates revenue through offering appealing in-app purchases, such as opportunities to buy power-ups or continue after all lives have been lost. In 2018, Candy Crush generated a record of $930 million for makers King, showing that every small in-app purchase really does add up. There have been more than 2.7 billion downloads of mobile versions of the Candy Crush Saga series, which now includes Soda Saga, Jelly Saga and Friends Saga.
One of the latest games to hit the market is Valorant, which completed its closed beta testing phase earlier in 2020 with an official launch date of the second of June. There have not yet been any figures released for players numbers following launch, but a statement released by makers Riot Games during the testing period claimed three million players per day had logged into the game. When factoring in the limited access granted during the beta testing phase, where potential players were required to watch Valorant streams on the Twitch platform to get their hands on a beta key, the potential for players numbers now full access is live is huge. Valorant tactical first-person shooter, which is one of the more popular online genres, and is multi-player, encouraging online relationships.
The average player of online video games spends six hours and 20 minutes each week dedicating themselves to the pastime. In the under-45 age group, playing video games has overtaken watching television and films as a favourite hobby. With so many online games to choose from and more being released all the time, it seems likely that growth in the online gaming industry will continue for quite some time.