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The Rise of Multiplayer Video Gaming

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Video gaming is one of the biggest sectors of the global media market, which produced worldwide revenue of almost $347 billion in 2022. The number of gamers globally is staggering, and it is growing year on year. 

Part of this growth can be attributed to the social side of gaming that comes from multiplayer games. Gamers choose to play games that they can play with others, whether that means teaming up to defeat an enemy or working against each other to win. This includes things like online slots, racing games, role-playing games, shooters, and even puzzle games (and everything else you can think of). 

Although the growth has been bigger in the last half a decade than we might have thought, multiplayer games are not new. Arcades in the ‘70s and ‘80s brought out competitive spirit with leaderboards and split screens. Getting from clunky arcade cabinets to slimline consoles might have taken a few decades, but what has always been apparent is that gamers want to share their experiences with like-minded friends, even when the technology couldn’t support them. 

A Quick History of Multiplayer Games

Doom and Quake were some of the earliest titles built for multiplayer experiences. Doom was popular for LAN parties, where before the internet became popular, local networks were set up in neighborhoods, allowing players to choose whether they would team up or compete against each other in the shooter. The early Nineties was a time of quick development in the game world, and with the burgeoning internet coming into its own, game creators wanted to ensure that players could get the best of it. 

Quake was the first game to enable online multiplayer using TCP/IP – you could connect and play with someone else if you knew their IP address, and games ran on dedicated servers (like you would see today). 

As the 1990s rolled into the early 2000s, game genres developed, including MMORPGs and mods of popular titles – in fact, Counterstrike (which is a lynchpin of the eSports world) came about as a mod developed from the popular game Half Life. 

It was really when Microsoft launched Xbox Live in 2002 to coincide with the release of Halo 2 that online multiplayer was really legislated for in terms of development. Understanding that what players really wanted was to be able to play online with their friends meant that Halo 2 (and Xbox Live) actually changed the face of online multiplayer gaming forever.

From the late 2000s, multiplayer has become the norm, with almost every game created with the developers focused on making the best player experiences in an immersive and enjoyable way, whether that is through MOBA, Battle Royale, or FPS – or any other genre. 

The eSports Role

There is much to be said about the role of eSports in the rise of multiplayer gaming – and much of it has come from the truly competitive nature of most gamers. 

eSports is an umbrella term used to cover all sorts of different video games that are played competitively. These can range from classics like Counterstrike and DOTA2 to relatively new titles like Rocket League and Fortnite. These are played in tournaments, sometimes online but more recently being held at conventions, and are supported by not only legions of fans who are streaming the competitions online, but also by sponsorships that are worth millions of dollars. 

eSports are growing at such a rate that college scholarships are being awarded in some states to eSports players – in the same way that a talented football player might. Professional gamers exist, earning money from their sponsorships but also from winning tournaments, and that means that it exists as a potential career choice in the same way that a professional baseball career does. As more players get into competitions, more interest is generated, and it probably won’t be long until we see mainstream cable channels showing the top tournaments in the same way they do the NHL. 

The Future of Multiplayer Gaming

Just a brief look at the way gamers play today can give an idea of where multiplayer gaming is headed in the future.

In 2020, 65% of US gamers said that they played multiplayer games. By 2022, this had risen to 83%, and it is still growing. 

On Steam, 54% of the most active gamers worldwide have said that they play multiplayer games at least once a week for about seven hours on average. 

With statistics like these, it is no surprise that for pretty much every new game developed in every genre, there is a whole world being built to allow for online multiplayer, whether that be competitive or cooperative. As technology and innovation develops, we can expect to see even more immersive online multiplayer opportunities – including things like virtual and augmented reality. The future is multiplayer.