The film and music industries may have the red-carpet glamour, but these days, video gaming is the industry where you’ll find the big bucks. For the past eight years, the gaming industry’s earnings have easily surpassed that of film and music combined. It earned $135bn in 2018 and has huge potential for further growth, with an estimated total of $180.1bn by 2021.
And while film and TV were slow to catch on to multi-platform potential, gaming is forging ahead in the digital future. Get it right and the numbers are mind-boggling. Mobile gaming alone is a whopping 47% of the market. Free-to-play multiplayer, multi-platform game Fortnite is a good example – released in 2017, it now has around 250m players and earned revenues of around $2.4bn in 2018 alone.
Given the above, it’s hardly surprising that Google is competing for a share of the market. Enter Stadia – the so-called Netflix for games. It aims to take out all the pain points from 21st century gaming and let you play anywhere, on any screen.
That’s a big deal for both consoles and gaming PCs. Many of today’s builds are vast and complex, and while they come with incredible graphics, there’s still long downloading and installation wait times, and storage space can become difficult to manage. Google Stadia claims to get rid of that. You simply install it on your device – whether that’s through your TV (though you’ll need Google’s streaming device, the Chromecast Ultra) or your smartphone – and Google will stream your game to you via the cloud.
Of course, there’s a cost. The Founder’s Edition bundle will set gamers back around £119 and, just like traditional streaming services, there’s a monthly fee which will probably be around £8.99 per month. But there’s an impressive lineup of games confirmed so far, including big franchises such as Final Fantasy, Elder Scrolls, Doom and Destiny.
And the time is right. Games with serious graphics, and online games that demand low latency need some serious connection speeds. Decent WiFi is usually sufficient if you’re playing at home. But if you want to stream massive games to your smartphone or your tablet when you’re out and about, you’ll need the speeds that only 5G will offer. And the 5G revolution, of course, is just about to get started.
As TechRadar’s Tom Bedford points out: “You’ll be able to cast your gaming from your phone to a TV or other screen, and use your phone as a tiny console on which to play all your games.”
Several commentators have pointed out that many of us don’t feel like we need to upgrade our smartphones to those with 5G capability – 4G and decent wifi at home is enough – which is why the smartphone market has plateaued this year. Although 5G has huge potential, notably around the Internet of Things and smart vehicles, that’s still a few years in the future.
But for keen gamers, the increased gaming capacity of a smartphone-as-console could prove a big selling point, and provide a concrete reason to be an early adopter of 5G. So Stadia could be responsible for an uptick in smartphone sales, too.
That could help boost other industries, and even gold prices – there’s a small amount of the precious in every smartphone.
Naturally, Stadia will be facing competition. It now looks likely that Sony’s Playstation 5 will launch in 2020. It’s likely to be offering faster load times – a recent demonstration loaded a level of Spider-Man in less than a second, as opposed to the current model’s eight seconds.
And it could well support cloud gaming, though Sony’s staying tight-lipped on that for now.
Microsoft’s ‘Project Scarlett’ is also due for release in 2020. Again, it’s promising faster load times, and, apparently, hardware four times more powerful than the current model – and again, nobody knows for sure what its streaming capabilities might be. But both are promising that those gamers still attached to buying a physical disc will still be able to do that.
Of course, not every Google project is a sure thing: remember Google Glass and Google+? But even if Stadia proves a flop, nothing stands still in the world of video gaming. This is an industry that’s never been afraid to innovate. Whatever the future for gaming looks like, it’s bright – and, like its revenues, it’s big.