The 2010s saw an explosive growth in the video game industry, with the global market bringing in more than US$120 billion in 2019, compared to US$25 billion in 2010. Gaming has become part of mainstream culture, from casual free-to-play mobile games to competitive e-Sports, and it is here to stay.
How have games evolved over the past 10 years? What are the big ideas that have driven the industry to deliver ever bigger and better entertainment experiences? In our decade-in-review edition, we take a look at the biggest gaming trends during this period.
The formula is simple: drop 100 players onto an island that shrinks in size at timed intervals. Scatter equipment such as guns and armour around the environment, which includes buildings and different types of terrain. Force them to fight until only one person is left.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is the game that started it all, but other contenders have added new ideas to the genre. Fortnite added building defensive structures on-the-go, while Apex: Legends puts players in three-member groups, with the ability to respawn. Regardless of the mechanics, the visceral joy of being declared the “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” has resonated with a new generation of Twitch-happy gamers, and will continue to be one of the most popular genres in the 2020s.
Sandbox games such as Minecraft allow gamers to express their creativity by giving them the tools and environment to build whatever they want. Though the graphics may not be top-of-the-line, players love the freedom to create anything from a miniature Hogwarts, to a fully-fledged functional RPG in the virtual world. Entries exist in many genres, including space exploration (No Man’s Sky), military (Arma 3), survival (Conan Exiles), and role-playing games (Mario Maker).
Freemium games with a premium currency (that players can pay real cash for) have become very, very profitable.
With the rise of the smartphone, games such as Clash of Clans let players get the full experience without paying a cent. However, if they want to progress faster or show off special avatars or skins for their characters, they can choose to pay. Even gaming giant Nintendo has jumped on the (cash-filled) bandwagon by releasing mobile versions of Mario Kart Tour and Fire Emblem Heroes.
A related trend is the prevalence of downloadable content packs (DLC) that are released as expansions to the main game a few months after it is launched. This is an easy way for publishers to make more money out of the game assets they have already built, and fans can get more of what they know and love. Popular examples include Capcom’s Monster Hunter: Iceborne expansion and new game modes for Tom Clancy’s The Division series.
Though the medium is still far from perfect, virtual reality games have received a lot of support from industry titans, including Sony’s PlayStation VR. Though early games were barely more than glorified tech demos, recent stand-outs such as Beat Saber combine great gameplay with immersive controls.
Augmented reality is another up-and-coming trend in gaming, where items and tasks can be mapped to a real-world location.
A hugely successful example is the mobile game Pokemon Go, where different types of Pokemon can be found just by wandering around and looking through the viewfinder on the app.