The past few months have been huge for the gaming world. There has always been a trend for larger companies to buy up the competition, but Microsoft and Sony’s latest acquisitions have sent shockwaves through the community and questions what the future for diversity in gaming will look like.
The Latest Microsoft News
A few months ago Microsoft announced that they were buying Activision – a developer that itself had opted for the “buy out the competition” strategy. As a result of buying Activision, Microsoft now also own King (developer of the ever-popular Candy Crush) and Blizzard developer of almost every other popular mobile game that isn’t Candy Crush). As if this wasn’t a big enough blow to the industry, Sony also announced that they would be buying Bungie – creator of Halo. The clincher is that Halo is one of the most popular Xbox games ever. Meanwhile, Microsoft now owns the creator of one of the most beloved games to be released on PlayStation – Call of Duty. With each company now owning the competition’s most successful release, there are a lot of people talking about what might change in the gaming space moving forward.
Diversity in Gaming
One of the most widely shared concerns is a potential lack of diversity in the mobile gaming space. Traditionally mobile gaming was a platform where just about anyone who had the right skills and enough of a budget could make a runaway successful game. We saw several smaller developers explode in popularity, seemingly coming from nowhere. You may remember the story of Flappy Bird – an addictive endless game in which you had to tap the screen to make the bird fly higher and dodge obstacles in its path. The developer, Dong Nguyen, created the game in two days as a fun project but removed it from the app store because it became too popular. As larger corporations buy up smaller developers, we’re less likely to see these breakout megastars that turn people into overnight millionaires because the charts are taken up by games that have been strategized for months by big companies and marketed with a 7 figure budget.
Is There a Real Lack of Diversity?
Does this mean diversity in the gaming industry is dead? Maybe – some degree of monopolisation is inevitable – but there is still a chance for independent developers to succeed, however slim that chance is.
There are a huge amount of types of games on the app store – strategy, puzzle, roleplay, action or platform games just to name a few. It’s impossible to dominate every single gaming chart on the app store. Larger companies tend to stick to well-produced games with a high budget, like Halo, because it’s what they know. The other option is that they use the same formula that they know has worked in the past to create slight variations on a game – like with the many Candy Crush instalments we’ve seen pop up. It’s much easier to stick to what you already know than start from scratch, and it’s between the cracks that smaller developers have a chance at success.
Of course, the size of the market demonstrated by the number of available games and pay by mobile casinos just goes to show that the mobile gaming industry is one that is continuing to grow. The way we access games and what features gaming has is always expanding and this is mostly led by consumer trends.
Why Do Games Become Popular?
It is hard to say why a game becomes popular; the trend of sharing games online certainly helps. People like to compete with and share success stories with friends – the likes of Candy Crush a few years ago the perfect example of this – where players should share lives and boosts in order to give friends also playing the game a helping hand.
You only have to look at the popularity of Wordle – which has mostly taken off due to the popularity of sharing scores on Twitter. The game is a simple word game, in which players can only take part once a day. It was developed by one man (Josh Wardle) for his wife however it was recently purchased by the New York Times – a testament to just how quickly a game can take off if it reaches the right audiences
The Future for Diversity in Gaming
A great way to look at what could lie around the corner for the gaming industry is to look at a similar industry that’s already monopolised by a few large companies. The UK gambling industry is mostly controlled by two companies – Flutter and Entain. These companies gathered their huge market share by buying up most of the independent bookmakers and casinos. Having said this, there are still some gaps in the market where smaller casinos and bookmakers are seeing success.
If you search “gambling” on the Apple App Store the number one result is 888 Casino, owned by 888 Holdings. This is still a large player in the market – they own Bet 365 and William Hill – but they’re much smaller than Flutter or Entain. After this, the most popular results are mostly owned by smaller entities.
These smaller developers have taken advantage of the large corporations’ delay in moving towards mobile gaming to get ahead of the competition and it’s worked. The most popular mobile casino apps are overwhelmingly from small developers, and this is the same story with slots. There are also several more niche themes of slot games and casino apps that are successful because they’re outside of the big corporations’ specialist areas.
Monopolisation is indeed inevitable to some extent, but it’s not going to entirely ruin the market. There will always be space for smaller creators – it just might be difficult to stand out; with NFTS and microtransactions increasing in popularity this might well help lesser-known creators carve out a space in the gaming sector, the future for diversity in gaming remains to be seen as to how successful this route could be.
Keen tech writer outside of my day job in I.T. and spending time with my family.