2022 proved to be a crisis year for the gaming industry. After a long period of continuous growth, the market showed an overall negative trend and declined in volume. This led many investors to take a risk-off strategy, to studio layoffs that had already expanded during the pandemic, and to a greater focus on alternative monetization methods.
The war in Ukraine also had a significant impact on the gaming industry landscape. The Russian market, which was among the top-10 revenue contributors, stopped generating payments, and major companies withdrew from it. Ukrainian developers were forced to either flee the country or work in dangerous conditions. There is a significant concentration of development studios in Ukraine, including some international companies, and many faced production slowdowns and project delays.
Geopolitical events triggered a crisis in living standards in Europe and the USA. Residents of these countries faced high inflation rates and a significant decline in real income levels, perhaps for the first time in a decade. These events led to reduced spending in games but an increased frequency of ad views. Subsequently, developers became more interested in hybrid monetization methods.
Decreased purchasing power, combined with more challenging marketing conditions, made it difficult to launch new products. Some companies, like Playtika, even canceled new releases. Others, such as Supercell, publicly acknowledged the challenges of launching new games. More developers started transitioning to or actively utilizing a service model, prolonging the average lifespan of games and intensifying competition. Innovations became crucial in attempts to surpass games with multi-year content and an established user base.
However, it is worth noting that the market declined from a high base. In 2019, the market volume reached $144 billion, and by the end of 2022, it stood at $184 billion, reflecting an average annual growth rate of 8.51%. In comparison, the growth from 2018 to 2019 was only 3.6%, with the market increasing from $139 billion to $144 billion. The explosive growth cycle unexpectedly ended for many companies, necessitating changing strategies.
|№||Country||Games market revenue, mln USD||Mobile market, mln USD||Number of gamers (millions)||EF EPI (English Proficiency Index)||Internet penetration (%)|
|4||South Korea||7930||4800||34.1||53.7 (Moderate)||98|
|5||Germany||6620||1570||49.5||61.3 (Very high)||93|
|17||Thailand||1040||763||38.3||42.3 (Very low)||77.8|
|18||Saudi Arabia||1010||570||24.8||40.6 (Very low)||97.9|
|23||Poland||745||310||23.1||60.0 (Very high)||87|
|24||Hong Kong||643||352||5.09||56.1 (High)||93|
|25||Singapore||511||288||4.20||64.2 (Very high)||92|
|28||South Africa||236||210||25.9||60.9 (Very high)||68.2|
Investors in the gaming industry decided to take a pause. Many startups that raised funds during the prosperous years of 2020 and 2021 faced difficulties in securing new rounds, and investor appetites for risky deals declined.
In the coming years, with major players like Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and EA having billions of dollars in the market, the recent consolidation trend will intensify. Investment and acquisitions will focus on proven products and opportunities with minimal chances of failure. The government will play an active role in such deals, as the Activision Blizzard acquisition saga showed that even the world’s largest companies can face significant difficulties.
However, it is premature to conclude that the industry has entirely entered a period of decline. Firstly, initial figures for 2023 indicate cautious optimism. Secondly, growing regions such as Latin America, Arab countries, and Southeast Asia are starting to generate significant revenue. Thirdly, there is a real possibility that major platforms like Apple, Google, Steam, and others will reduce their commissions in the next couple of years. And lastly, semiconductor supply issues have been resolved, positively impacting console demand.
The gaming industry, like the rest of the world, has entered an era of change, so 2023 and possibly 2024 will be turbulent years. I believe we can expect:
- Reduction of commissions on Apple and Google platforms and the emergence of strong alternative stores like Epic Games and Microsoft.
- Increased role of tier-2 and tier-3 countries in global revenue.
- Mass transition of developers to alternative payment methods.
- Fewer new mobile device hits from small and medium-sized developers. Almost all hits will be based on existing intellectual properties (IP).
- In 2022, a noticeable trend of successful PC mechanics being ported to mobile became more prominent. The brightest examples are Survivor.io and Stumble Guys. It is likely that we will see more examples in the near future.