There are a number of interesting trends emerging around video games worth observing. On the heels of the gaming industries biggest show of the year, E3, I thought it would be a good time to outline the broader trends I see happening worth watching.
Gen Z PC Gaming Growth
This is one of the bigger sleeper trends I’m watching. While I’m not ready to completely and boldly state that Gen Z is dumping consoles for PC gaming, it is certainly trending that way. I caught wind of this trend a few summers ago, when all of a sudden, more than a dozen friends or family from around the country asked me my opinion on an affordable notebook gaming PC for their high school boy who wanted to get a notebook for high school but also to play PC games. This peaked my interest, and upon further questioning, I found the gaming desire was driving by many of said teens friends starting to play more PC games and they wanted to start playing PC games online with their friends.
I chatted with over a dozen parents and it was the same story every time. Kid wanted notebook for school, kids friends were all starting to play more PC games online, so they wanted a gaming notebook for school and to play online with friends. I went on to ask all the parents I talked to about the gaming console. Nearly everyone had an XBOX or Playstation in the home and everyone said their kid, and their friends were playing it less and less and instead playing PC gamines online. In fact, in several instances, the parent (who is around my age 40, and was a big console gamer like I am/was) chuckled when they told me this anecdote “my son and his friends think console gaming is for old people.”
It is relevant to trend to understand a game called PUBG (Players Uknown Battle Grounds). This game was single-handedly the reason teen males were flocking to PC games and leaving their consoles. Yes PUBG came to XBOX but that was not the case at the time. This game enlightened Gen Z about the faster pace of innovation in the PC gaming sector in both hardware and software. Every year your games can get richer and more immersive if you are willing to spend money on a new GPU, but similarly, new games are released and updated with new features faster than on consoles. All of this together makes for a compelling experience for this particular generation.
What I was seeing, with a single game, and social dynamic driving adoption of a gaming platform, was like watching a movie I’d seen before with the original XBOX. I had the privilege of doing some work with the original XBOX group, and the Halo phenomenon was remarkable at the time. For my demographic, Halo and playing online with friends in large battlegrounds able to battle each other as well as others, was a brand new experience and one that was responsible for the first XBOX’s rise to fame.
It is eerie the similarities I’m seeing for the motivation driving Gen Z to PC gaming to the rise of the original XBOX and console gaming with Gen Y/X.
Massive Multiplayer Games Going Mainstream
Another interesting trend is how a game like Fortnite may be leading the charge in bringing massive multiplayer online gaming to the masses. Fortnite is a more consumer-friendly version of PUBG and quickly rose to an amazing 2 million concurrent players and boasts around 3.5 million players monthly. While PUBG has similar numbers, Fortnite started on mobile and much of its growth has been people playing it on their smartphones and tablets.
I have a hunch the success of Fortnite, which proves consumers are comfortable playing large multi-player games on their smartphones, may open the floodgate for this type of gaming specifically in western markets. What many may not realize is this is common behavior in China with hundreds of millions of people playing online games on their smartphones and often in large groups. The genre varies that drives this behavior but I think we may have reached a tipping point where mobile gaming starts to become a driver of global MMO gaming.
This is exciting because we could see new innovation in games and gameplay. PUBG was a new innovation in game style, called Battle Royale, but added a twist which starts you off in a massive world but then forces the play area to shrink in order to bring players closer together leading to inevitable battles. It was a fascinating new dynamic that is now bein adopted by other games and game types. Fortnite may have opened Pandora’s Box to the mobile gaming opportunity globally and could lead a wave of new mobile game innovation in both genre and game dynamics.
I know I just covered two completely different ends of the gaming spectrum with both hardcore PC gaming and more approachable mobile gaming, but in some ways, they are related given the genre of Battle Royale is at the center of driving both trends. Ultimately, we may be seeing a new movement to truly massive global multiplayer games that are playable on all platforms. Imagine a game that every person in the world can play together in massive worlds no matter what device they have? High-end gaming PC, smartphone, tablet, basic notebook, console, streaming TV box, etc., all enabling a truly global gaming environment. This would be truly remarkable, but entirely possible, and whoever can crack this first would be sitting on a gold mine.