What can you expect to see across the gaming market for the remainder of 2023? That’s a difficult question but one that Playwire, being a major player in the gaming space, recently took on. 

Keep reading below to learn more about all the gaming trends that we are already seeing in 2023 and what our expectations are for the year (and years) ahead.

The Elephant in the Gaming Room

Before we go into more detail about what exactly is going on across the gaming industry, let’s discuss the elephant in the room…

The recession.

It’s in no way a secret that the economy in the United Kingdom has begun to slide deeper into a recession. Unfortunately, financial hardship is something that is undeniably being felt worldwide. From this, we can deduce that there is going to be an expected slowdown in consumer spending.

Now, you might expect this to impact the gaming industry, just like any other consumer-based industry, but we can’t predict the future. Or can we?

Let’s flashback to the previous recession in 2008 to see if we can find past trends that may be able to help us predict and prepare for the future.

The 2008 Recession and its Impact on Consumer Spending

In 2008, we found that consumer spending did slow by about 3%, but spending on experiences and events sky-rocketed with consumers looking to make the most of the hard times by having fun real-world experiences.

A good example is the cinema industry, which saw a robust year-over-year uptick in box office revenue of approximately 3.8%.

So, let’s bring the discussion back to gaming. In 2008, U.S. game sales jumped 23%. Thus, trend #1 tells us that during hard economic times, consumers typically look to entertainment for emotional and mental comfort.

Trending Up

What can we infer about gaming in 2023 and the current economic turndown or “cost of living crisis”, based on what we saw in 2008? We can expect gamers to keep gaming and spending money on the franchises and video games they love.

Gaming is a cost-effective experience with the average player playing games for well over 8.6 hours a week in the UK. A triple-A game, which costs about £60, typically racks up hundreds of hours of gameplay time. 

Over time, gaming has cemented itself as a cost-efficient entertainment source regardless of the financial state of affairs.

So, what does our first trend tell us? We do not expect the gaming industry to be impacted by the recession despite what many people may assume.

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Game Monetization Guide

Game Monetization Guide: Monetizing with In-Game Advertising

The Death of Physical Games

For generations upon generations of gamers, there has always been a mix of virtual and physical gameplay. Gaming, although existing in virtual reality, has become a physical experience for many gamers due to the tangible nature of the product itself. Let us explain.

Whether it be to their console, controller, disc, or cartridge, most gamers would say that they have built a connection to the game or console they have cherished for so many years.

How many of us gamers can recall blowing on our gaming cartridge, marveling at the beauty of the Dreamcast, or swinging our Wii remote around the living room with pure joy (of course, all while trying to avoid our parents’ brand-new television?

But recent years are showing a new trend: fewer connections to the physical and more stripped-down, gaming minimalism.

A Steady Decline

Over the past few years, physical game sales have shown a steady decline, representing just 29% of the total gaming market last year. Add into the mix Google's abortive attempt at the ill-fated cloud gaming console, Stadia, and you can probably guess where this trend will most likely end. 

Trend #2: Gaming as an utterly virtual medium with the strong possibility of hardware eventually becoming a thing of the past. Those poor consoles and controllers that have been by our sides through all the years of heartbreak…

But how certain are we that this slow death of physical games will actually come to fruition? Let's look at another sector, for comparison, that has seen huge declines in the physical world: the music industry.

In 2014, virtual music sales and subscriptions finally overtook the sale of physical music. Ever since, subscriptions have steadily swallowed physical music sales to the point where they now account for only 11% of all sales, whereas music subscription services account for 82% of total music industry revenue.

So, what does this mean for the gaming industry? 

We see the subscription model becoming more and more prevalent. Think Netflix for gamers. It's already here (thanks Xbox games pass).


Special Edition Games

There are always exceptions to the rule, of course, and the second of our gaming trends is no exception.

Going back to our music industry comparison for a moment, the music industry recently saw a huge surge in special edition releases. For instance, Bob Dylan's 60th-anniversary vinyl collection, sold at retail for over £250, quickly became a collector must-have ultimately selling out in the UK.

Gaming already has examples of these special editions. Think FatSharks latest offering Darktide, which is out now and may or may not be nestled nicely on my shelf. Okay, it is, and it may never even be opened but I absolutely had to have it! This is a great example of a niche game, aimed at an enfranchised audience who are more willing than most to pay a premium for a one-of-a-kind product!

Will Physical Games Come to an End?

In time, the answer to whether or not physical games will come to an end is probably yes. 

But, we all like the tangible and believe there will remain a market for physical games. The types of physical games that are selling may just shift a bit to more one-of-a-kind launches with premium prices aimed at hardcore fans in the collectors space.

Gaming Gets Old School

Let me ask you a question. How old do you think the average gamer in the UK is? Do you think they are 19, 24, or 32 years of age? 

The average gamer is actually 34 years old, which may be a bit higher than you expected. When we look more specifically at gamer demographics based on gender, the average female gamer is 36 years old while the average male gamer is 34 years old. 

During Covid, statistics actually showed that the majority of gamers were in their forties, playing hyper casual games.

What exactly does this information mean? First of all, it smashes gamer stereotypes that the gaming industry is only reaching younger male audiences under the age of 18. It can be that, but it certainly isn’t ONLY that! And, what does that mean for the future of gaming?

Trend #3 tells us that we can expect more game developers building games that cater to and actively seek out a more mature audience, as well as female audiences, in the coming days.

Gaming Trends and How They Relate to Ad Monetization

In conclusion, we expect the gaming industry to remain quite strong in 2023. We also expect it will become less and less physical-based and more virtual than we’ve ever seen before, with trends indicating there will be more of a focus on hyper-casual gamers who skew older.

Why are knowing and understanding these types of trends so important, especially for someone like Playwire? In order to build a monetization strategy of any kind, you need to understand the vertical you’re working within and the audience you are trying to reach. The more granular, the better.

The fact that the game industry has shifted towards more mature audiences in recent years, which have a commodity both publishers and advertisers seek, disposable income, is incredibly valuable insight. Just as important is knowing that women gamers typically tend to spend more money on in-game purchases than their male counterparts.

As the industry shifts, so must all those that wish to live within it, advertisers included.

Interested to learn more? Contact our team today.

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