Gaming companies are entering a new dimension, no longer bound by place, time or physical reality.
Since its inception decades ago, the video gaming industry has grown with stunning speed. Over the last five years in particular, it has experienced significant expansion as users worldwide play games of all types across a variety of platforms. Video gaming is also on the verge of a major transformational shift due to the emergence of the metaverse — a shared, persistent, three-dimensional (3D) virtual realm where users interact with objects, the environment and each other through digital representations of themselves or avatars. While many believe that the metaverse will eventually be pervasive throughout society, including in the business world and on social media, gaming has quickly become a first mover in this space. With this in mind, we recently surveyed a group of executives from leading gaming companies to gain their insights about the impact of and outlook for the metaverse.
The state of the gaming industry
An estimated 2.9 billion people — more than one out of every three people on the planet — played a video game in 2021,¹ when global revenue for the industry exceeded $193 billion (see Figure 1). In addition, from 2016 to 2021, gaming grew at a compound annual growth rate of 15.6%.²
The video gaming industry also saw a considerable boost in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced people to stay home and utilize connected technology to access entertainment and to socialize. While this industry momentum appears poised to continue, global gaming revenue growth rates are expected to slow in 2022, as the industry faces difficult year-over-year comparisons, chip shortages slow the delivery of gaming devices and society “reopens” as pandemic restrictions fade.
Nevertheless, the favorable demographics (e.g., the participation of more female gamers), evolving technology and community-building nature that underpinned the industry long before the pandemic have not changed. By 2025, the gaming industry is expected to generate an estimated $211 billion in revenue, with mobile gaming contributing $116 billion.³
EY Gaming Industry Survey Methodology
Amid the rapid growth of gaming, its basic drivers are still familiar: processors are getting faster, improving graphics and the overall gaming experience. Console makers are also launching new hardware with better capabilities and offering more exclusive game titles. Moreover, global internet availability will continue to rise, enabling more people to play online games. Multiplayer games, mobile games and the population of casual gamers all are expected to continue to expand.
In addition, the rollout of 5G communication networks will greatly accelerate the uptake of mobile and cloud-based game delivery. Faster network speeds and reduced latency allow game developers more freedom in producing games because they are not confined by the limitations of hardware platforms. For players, this provides several new and exciting possibilities for gameplay that won’t tether them to existing devices. In addition to driving cloud gaming, 5G will allow consumers to use virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) gear on the go, providing a far richer mobile experience. According to a recent EY report, the 5G investment outlook for the next year remains strong.
How the metaverse will impact the gaming industry
The concept of a new digital universe is not a new one. It was originally conceived in a 1992 dystopian science fiction novel in which people use avatars to interact with each other in a futuristic virtual world. Today, this fictional universe is becoming a reality, with a number of early adopting gaming companies experimenting with a metaverse presence and many others formulating strategies for their own entry. How vast will the economic opportunity of the metaverse be? According to one estimate, the global metaverse market is expected to reach $280 billion by 2025.⁴
Gaming titles will continue to compete with one another, but because each title is just one of many “realms” in the metaverse, they will also compete with a seemingly endless number of destinations and activities. This could lead to significant change in gaming companies’ business models, the way they develop their products, the employee skill sets needed and even the way these companies are structured.
As it matures, the metaverse will continue to incorporate various technologies, such as VR, AR and 3D functionality. It is also associated with the decentralized Web 3.0 concept, which many view as the next chapter in the evolution of the internet. The metaverse will span multiple platforms, as well as the digital and physical realms. It will also create entirely new ways of interacting — and, for gaming companies, drive revenue.
Our survey on the metaverse and gaming industry growth
In late 2021, we teamed with Oxford Economics, a global economic forecasting firm to survey 200 of the gaming industry’s leading participants from North America, Asia and Europe. The companies represented have annual revenues ranging from $20 million into the billions and cover the entire gaming value chain — from console makers and gaming platform companies to game publishers and technology suppliers. Respondents include C-suite members, directors, senior VPs, heads of strategy and chief product officers.
1. Kellen Browning, “Game world celebrates at its Oscars,” The New York Times, 11 December 2021, via Factiva.
2. S&P Global Market Intelligence; EY analysis.
4. Ben Natter, “The Move To The Metaverse And Beyond Series: Basic Trademark And Branding Considerations,” Mondaq Business Briefing, 4 November 2021, via Factiva.