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Report Highlights Shifting Gaming Industry Trends

Game development companies go to great lengths to deliver cutting-edge products which keep them at the forefront of the industry. From niche titles to legendary franchises, they strive to capture the hearts of game enthusiasts. This quest for excellence sparks trends that shake up the gaming industry. As one of the leading names in the sector, gaming specialists Unity know what it takes to drive innovation in gaming. Their latest industry report highlighted some intriguing trends.

Increased Usage of AI Tools to Save Time

Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly impacting the gaming sector on the back of innovation from respected companies such as OpenAI and Google. The AI revolution has swept the game development landscape, with 37% of surveyed developers saying they use AI to write code. A similar percentage use it to generate artwork and game levels, test gameplay loops and automate narrative elements. Starcoder has become the go-to coding tool for most developers looking to shave off the time needed to deliver a solid final product. They started with code generators such as GitHub Copilot, Amazon CodeWhisperer and Code Llama, but they were too buggy.

To resolve the issue, AI start-up Hugging Face teamed up with workflow automation platform ServiceNow to release StarCoder, which integrates with Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code editor to follow basic instructions and answer questions about code. Apart from code generators, other AI tools such as Leonardo AI are useful for developers. The technology generates game assets with distinctive styles, saving valuable time and resources. These AI tools help game development studios such as International Game Technology (IGT), who are a major player in the associated iGaming industry.

Their products are widely available in key markets such as the United Kingdom and Ireland, crossing into genres such as sports betting, online casinos and lotteries. IGT has used AI tools to develop some of the top Irish betting apps and their innovations have subsequently spread into many other jurisdictions worldwide.

Shift in Monetisation Strategies - A Shift Towards Ads

Mobile games previously relied on players making in-app purchases (IAPs) to generate revenue. Players had to buy new characters, power-ups or additional levels. However, recent data shows a decline in IAP revenue. Players are spending less money directly on games on average compared to previous years. Game studios are turning their attention to advertising to compensate for this decline. They are finding success by showing advertisements to players within the games themselves. In games such as Fortnite, players receive ads to purchase V-Bucks used to buy emotes, character models and skins for default weapons and backpacks.

This in-app advertising (IAA) approach has generated a significant growth of 26.7% in revenue. However, even though more people are playing mobile games every day, they are not necessarily staying loyal to titles. The data shows a slight reduction in how long players keep coming back to a game - after a day (1% decrease) and a week (0.1% decrease). Studios must find new ways to keep players engaged because the data suggests a connection between a game's monetisation strategy and how long players stick around.

Games that offer a combination of monetisation methods, including adverts, tend to see better user retention than those relying solely on in-app purchases. Offering players a free-to-play option with ads can actually be a good strategy for keeping them engaged in the long run. The key for studio bosses seems to be offering a variety of ways to make money within a game, which can also lead to a more engaged and loyal player base.

Studios are Shipping to More Platforms Than Ever

Game development is going cross-platform. They are being built to work on multiple digital devices such as smartphones, computers and consoles. This multi-platforming is a big trend, especially for smaller studios. They are making way more games that work on multiple platforms compared to just a few years ago. By making their games cross-platform, developers can reach more players. It's a win-win situation for developers and gamers.

Mobile games are the most common target due to the massive number of smartphone and tablet users worldwide. However, computer games are still a force in the industry (35%) and console games (47%) remain popular. When releasing their games, studios have a few different strategies. They can launch everywhere at once (40%). Players on all platforms jump in and experience the game together from the start. Studios can also gradually release on each platform (40%). They usually take this approach to test the waters on one platform before releasing it on others.

Developers are Focusing on Multiplayer Games

More than two-thirds of surveyed studios reported working on a multiplayer game project. Creating them is more complex than single-player experiences, but players want them. Mobile multiplayer games have a 40.2% higher Monthly Active Users (MAU) than single-player games. Gamers clearly crave the social and competitive aspects of playing with others. Players of the revered Call of Duty mobile game not only love it because of its action but because you can connect to other players from all over the world.

Mobile multiplayer games offer a fresh experience every time you play. Players must interact with other people and change strategy.  It changes the flow of each play and keeps things fresh, so developers do not have to constantly create new content to keep players hooked. However, every studio is jumping on this growing trend, and developers are prioritising multiplayer from the preproduction stage in order to stand out from the competition. This means more planning and resources to manage multiplayer design, code, testing and the need to manage the player community.

Studios struggle with limited budgets for community management and the sheer volume of player feedback they receive. Multiplayer games offer immense potential, but developers need a solid plan and the resources to thrive in this competitive space. Studios are always looking for investment to meet these demands, creating an exciting business opportunity for entrepreneurs.

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Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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