During CES 2024, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel that focused on the future of gaming. The panel was moderated by Steve Hummel, senior manager, Market Research at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Other panelists included:

  • Moonlit Beshimov, head of Google for Games
  • Judy Johnson, head of Gaming and eSports, HP
  • Mike Lucero, head of product management for Gaming, Samsung Electronics

The panel opened with each of us offering high-level takeaways for the gaming industry. I believe that flexibility in the application of different business models is the key when it comes to publishing and developing video game content. There is no one future of gaming, but rather a successful mix of premium sales, subscription, add-on content, streaming and future models that have not even been thought of yet.

Steve asked for the panel’s take on the role of the subscription model. For many years, the gaming audience kept growing, but now, with four out of five people playing video games of some kind, audience expansion won’t drive growth as it has in the past. So, the industry must focus on driving engagement, keeping consumers’ eyeballs focused on the gaming platforms, and maximizing revenue opportunities. Subscriptions can be a valuable arrow in the quiver of the marketing mix that can help do this. Subscriptions are also great in helping titles that may have struggled at a premium price point find an audience. Subscriptions also can boost player counts and attention for titles that have been in the market a bit longer. And subscriptions can help less affluent parts of the player base discover and play content they otherwise may not have.

The most successful games have taken a hybrid approach to reach the largest audiences and find the greatest opportunity. Whether it’s Grand Theft Auto, Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox or Call of Duty, the most successful games are everywhere and available for play on just about anything — whether a dedicated device or streamed on a remote play device. There are options to access content via premium models, free-to-play, subscription, or some combination of all three and beyond.

Part of the discussion focused on interaction between indie developers and the big players. Those big games are extremely difficult to break through, and that’s why it’s so important to be agile and adaptive to find the best way to get to market with your game beyond just, “OK, it’s for sale now, now we’re going to make it free-to-play.” You can’t do it anymore because that block of games at the top of that pyramid is so established.

Games are living, breathing things that change over time. It’s easy to look at other industries that went through a subscription or streaming revolution and say, “OK, well, the music industry went this way. The movie industry went this way. Games are going to follow it eventually.” The gaming industry will follow those models in some respects, but in other respects, it won’t.

As for the immediate future, I amexcited to see the continued creativity in the market and what the talented developers in this industry are able to create and release. It may end up being a tough year for the business, but that creativity will make a difference, and could end up (as it often does) surprising everyone.

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