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The runaway growth of Games and the work ahead…
Joann Hoffman & Wanda Meloni
AUG 25, 2015 18:23 PM
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The runaway growth of Games and the work ahead…
The games market has exploded in the past seven years, expanding across an array of platforms that includes PCs, consoles, and mobiles devices. In 2009, mobile gaming barely made a dent in this market, but today it is one of the fastest growing segments. Advances in graphics quality and player engagement have fueled this growth. Continued growth will be supported by emerging opportunities in virtual and augmented reality, eSports, and social gaming applications.
The latest data from the Open Gaming Alliance shows the total global games market for 2015 is estimated at $76 billion and is expected to reach over $100 billion by 2019. The handheld segment has been shrinking since 2009, and consoles have only recently begun to emerge from a three-year decline. And while revenue from PC games has shown steady growth, revenue from mobile games has continued to increase rapidly.
This growth has been fueled by smaller companies, and this reflects a major shift in game development itself. Research conducted by M2 Research shows that start-ups and smaller studios have generally been in business less than eighteen months, yet make up 62% of all game studios. These companies need support and access to solutions and tools.
More accessible tools and game development engines have thus played a significant role in opening a new phase of gaming industry expansion. Unity Technologies has been the vanguard of serving game developers in this respect since 2005. Unity has become an important tool for developers and publishers looking for a flexible game engine, a deep toolkit, and an active developer community. In just three years Unity has gone from 250,000 registered users to close to 4 million by leveraging new technology and supporting a broad range of applications in education, neuro-gaming, architecture, engineering, construction, and visual simulation. The Unity game engine is currently supported on 22 different platforms.
This new phase of game industry expansion is also in response to platform vendors such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Sony looking to grow their individual ecosystems. Developers must now innovate for each platform and build games that take advantage of each platform’s strengths while maintaining a broad multi-platform strategy. Games platforms for non coders are also expanding the field beyond the traditional game development community. Unreal has developed a free platform that prints out blueprints and enables game prototyping without coding. 
Market growth in response to platform-specific innovation and more accessible development tools and engines has also fueled the use of games for social impact. This Infographic from the recent Games for Change Conference demonstrates an increasing interest in social impact gaming from an ever widening variety of participants.
Games of Change Conference 2015 Attendance Demographics
In a keynote speech at Games for Change conference in April, Jesse Schell of Schell Games said there has been rapid growth in games used for purposes other than entertainment. This growth has occurred outside of mainstream gaming companies as they struggle to define or deny available marketing channels. These markets demand evidence of impact beyond web analytics for justification of adoption. And as the demographic of decision makers in government, members of academic institutions, and even schools teachers becomes populated with native gamers, the landscape is changing. There has been a diversity of research into the impact of social games. It ranges from the “Gold Standard” of a randomized control experiment with Hope Lab’s research into the impact on cancer in youth playing ReMission, published in the prestigious journal Pediatrics, to a more qualitative assessment report from The Joan Carney Ganz Center, an independent research lab which focuses on emerging technologies and learning, which showed that three quarters of teachers interviewed use digital games as part of their teaching strategies. An Atlantic Monthly article on game use in schools cites federal government officials who say that games have what is needed to reform and fix education. Movements are underway to push back on the limitations of traditional research and create impact measures adapted to the game development community, many of whom see impact measurement extraneous to game play and engagement. At the June E3 conference, ESA sponsored a Learning and Games summit to bring together thought leaders on how to move the field forward. Impact evidence was cited as a needed driver. Also noteworthy, Games for Change recently publish a Gaming Impact Report based upon their research over the past year on how to provide evidence that will assist in not only funding of social impact games but will also help to push out the adoption of games in markets where evidence is needed to show cost vs. benefit.  
The growing interest in virtual reality and augmented reality will have an instrumental impact on the industry - which we define here as social gaming and gamification - over the next twelve to twenty-four months, as the first hardware solutions launch and the first commercial immersive environments appear. Virtual reality and immersive experiences coupled with evidence of impact will further expand markets into immersive entertainment, education, training, medical, and communication applications. We will be covering this in more detail in a later blog post. 
The predominance of mobile gaming fueled by increasing technological advances and evidence of impact out of the realm of entertainment will bring the power of gaming increasingly into education, health, and social applications. This move will be fostered by a mix of innovation, imagination, and inspiration.
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