Video Games as the New Mainstream

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Retro video games” (CC BY 2.0) by JackBrookes

There was a time, decades ago, when video games were mere novelties. They were usually expensive, niche, part of a tiny market, and few avid players would dare to display their love openly.

Today, however, video games are one of the most popular and profitable forms of entertainment on the planet. Looking at a few components, we want to explore what makes video games the new mainstream, and why this could be a very good thing.

The Big Money

Probably the biggest indication of how far video games have come is total revenue. For example, looking back to 1990, the total video gaming market at the time was estimated to be worth $13 billion. Yet by 2000, the market value had increased to $48.2 billion, which was followed by a jump to $65.9 billion in 2010. According to the most recent stats, the total revenue of the gaming market in 2020 had topped $159 billion, as reported by Reuters. For reference, the entire global movie market in 2020 reached a relatively paltry $80.8 billion.

Clearly, the industry continues to grow in success over time, which is likely down, in part, to the vast array of titles available, the convenience with which gamers can play from numerous portable devices, and general ease of accessibility thanks to streamlined interfaces.

Also indicative of the gaming industry’s success is the fact that many notable video game titles have cemented themselves at the core of pop culture. Grand Theft Auto 5, for example, has sold 150 million copies and is regarded as the most single profitable video game of all time, bringing in more than $6 billion in revenue in its eight-year lifespan.

Savvy features such as the game’s notorious use of the car radio to platform real artists and their music have meant that the game is a frequent talking point for gamers and non-gamers alike. Revolutionary graphics quality, an extensive map, and the inclusion of other features such as mini-games like golf have ensured that this game stands the test of time.

Also illustrative of video gaming’s success is the popularity of Pokémon, which, as notes, has so far earned over $90 billion to become the most profitable franchise of all time.

Public Visibility

Of course, money only tells part of the story. For a complete picture, we need to look at how public perception of video games has changed over time. One of the most visible examples of this change is the expansion to other markets, for instance into the world of sports, as evident in the increased coverage of video games on traditional sports stations such as ESPN. Though there are still holdouts reticent to accept new ideas, these broadcasts have gone on to become huge hits.

Similar indications of mass-market appeal are found in the industries which spring up to surround major forms of gaming. A popular example of this could be seen in how lists the best eSports betting sites. The websites here aren’t niche, they’re some of the biggest iGaming services that the world has to offer, and they fully embrace eSports as a legitimate market within the overarching umbrella of sports betting. So popular are these services, that they need to be separated by ratings and features to show users to which among the enormous range could be right for them.

Whether you’re a long-time gamer or a relatively new convert, the substantial and ever-growing state of the market is something we can all appreciate. All we have to do is avoid the gatekeeping that infects so many hobbies as they become mainstream, and build on what made games special for us in the first place. Remember, there are no wrong answers, so if you want to play alone, or reach for the highest levels of competitive success, rest easy that you’ll always have a way forward. Even, dare we say, if you play on mobile.