Since going mainstream in the late 20th century, gaming has experienced an immeasurable amount of colossal shifts related to hardware, software and trends. However, when you’re in the moment it can be difficult to see the way popular trends, user appetites and technologies drive the creative landscape of games. This is something which is especially exacerbated now, in the early 2020s, given that more people are playing and making games than ever before—with around a third of the globe indulging in games frequently.
Let’s take a look at the last two years to identify some of the key trends which will come to define this period of gaming.
As has been the case for the last two decades in cinema, remakes and remasters have finally become a mainstay of the gaming market. Of course, games have for a long time relied on rebooting old franchises but never have direct remakes on current-generation hardware been so common.
From somewhat superficial remasters like Dark Souls: Remastered or Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fuelled to more substantial overhauls such as Resident Evil 2 (2019), all of which you can find for a discount on Gamecamp. Such a trend has even shifted over into the MMO sphere, with games like WoW Classic and Old School RuneScape being incredibly popular rivalling even their current versions.
The mobile market has been around and growing for ages now, more than doubling its overall revenue in the past decade to reach a quarterly gross of nearly $20 billion.
However, while much of this market is filled with mobile only games which are often sneered at by gamers from other platforms, games like Genshin Impact have shown that mobile devices are ready for large-scale, fully-fledged gaming experiences that can rival any other console.
As such, it’s fair to say that mobile gaming is only getting more and more popular.
Genshin Impact is also a title which displays the newfound dedication gaming companies have for cross-play. From Hearthstone and Minecraft to Rocket League and Fortnite, cross-play is a feature that is becoming more and more popular for online experiences. Gone are the days when you and your friends would all need to commit to purchasing the same console and online subscription—whether you’re a PC, console or even mobile gamer more and more services are looking to connect you with your friends on your device of choice.
That said, cross-play certainly does have some issues, especially regarding certain genres like the FPS—but as the feature becomes more commonplace these issues are likely to find their resolutions.
Despite Nintendo’s Virtual Boy releasing in 1995 and the original Oculus Rift becoming available in 2012 the general population are only just getting introduced to the many worlds of Virtual Reality. Fortunately, thanks to pioneering projects like Half-Life: Alyx and the plummeting of device prices, a lot of us have now had our first taste of VR, and—as the numbers will tell you—many of us are hooked sending the market into overdrive.
As mainstreaming VR is only the start of the colossal technological shift that will follow, it’s likely that Virtual Reality will be a device that comes to define how we create and consume media throughout the entirety of the 2020s, and perhaps beyond.
Free to play titles have always been around, so it would be unfounded to say this is anything new. However, with more and more games both launching and transforming into free-to-play, this format has become a staple of the gaming industry.
While this trend has been seen in MOBAs, MMOs and mobile games for a long time, the recent trend for battle royale games—including Fortnite, Apex Legends and Warzone—launching as free to play signals that this format suits hot-trends as well as long-established formulas. Even knowing that most of popular online games are free to play, you can still buy an account for a relatively low price, for example, you can buy Valorant account with highest rank and most of the grind done with almost no cost, saving you tons of hours and commitment to the game, you can skip most of the hard work for only a tiny bit of spending.
In other words, we wouldn’t be surprised to see nearly every online-only game go free to play this decade.
While we may have more games to play than ever, lots of us have begun to use gaming as something completely different—something to watch.
Yes, services like Twitch have been around for a good number of years now, but the amount of people watching streamers only continues to expand. Of course, the explosion of streamers and streaming in 2020 may largely be down to the house-bound nature of the year (thanks to a certain virus), but even before last year Twitch was endlessly expanding.
For example, in quarter 1 of 2018, gaming streamers viewed around 18 million hours of content. But just over a year later, in quarter 2 of 2019, twitch viewers live streamed a whopping 2.72 billion hours.
Most of us know gaming, or consuming any media for that fact, as purchasing a physical or digital product and then playing it—this is what we know as a pay-to-play business model. Gaming as a Service provides something different, serving up games to players instead of selling them to them outright.
While this may sound a little scary, given that we then don’t own our games anymore, we’re actually very used to this model. In fact, it’s what most MMOs used to, and some still do, employ. Take the monthly subscription that players pay for World of Warcraft for example.
GaaS can work both on a single-game basis (like with WoW) or on a multi-game basis by signing up to something like Microsoft’s Game Pass. The main perk of it is that it allows developers to keep making revenue, giving them the funds to provide constant, often weekly, updates to the game which in turn bolster the experience for players.
The 2020s has already been an amazing time for gaming, and we’re only at the very beginning of it. As all these trends have broken through into the mainstream, it’s fair to say that they’ll be here for quite a while—perhaps even defining how we play games for the decade to come.