Gaming Industry Paves the Way

Written by

Jonathan Singer

September 17, 2021

The gaming industry produces the most cutting-edge, connected, customizable, entertainment experiences on the planet.

Full stop.

Currently at $200 billion per year and growing, the gaming industry has grown from humble beginnings in the 1930s (during which games like Baffle Ball and pinball were considered a degenerate form of leisure that would lead young men into lives of sin) into a massive global phenomenon widely seen as the savior of parents’ sanity during a global pandemic.

But games are more than just fun. And the industry is more than just a darling set of financial investments that thrived during a pandemic. The gaming industry has pioneered technologies and interactive models (and will continue to) that would be used not only for video games themselves, but for video, music, sports, fitness, medicine, industrial training, and beyond. As this multitude of technologies continues to converge into a connected social/technological landscape (the metaverse), it’s clear that video games are one of the key driving industries paving the way forward.

You can’t talk about games today without talking about Epic Games. Creators of both the Unreal Engine and the international juggernaut Fortnite, Epic has left its mark across the world in many ways. In May 2020, Fortnite boasted 350 million monthly active players, who together played a total 3.2 billion hours in the previous month of April alone. Through Fortnite, Epic has not only revolutionized a popular form of gaming (battle royale), but has leveraged its game to change other industries, as well. The music industry, for example, will never be the same.

In the last two years Fornite has played host to increasingly large and intricate concert acts. In April 2020, Travis Scott’s Astronomical concert in Fortnite, with 5 airings over 3 days, drew 45.8 million live attendees (27.7 million unique players). For more on how this concert shook up the industry, read this excellent in-depth article by Billboard magazine. That collaboration led directly to this year’s spectacle, drawing in international superstar Ariana Grande. And this is only the start.

Music isn’t the only industry influenced by Fortnite and Epic Games. The Unreal Engine powers not only many of the world’s most popular video games, but also increasingly the movie and television industries. Those gorgeous backgrounds in The Mandalorian? Unreal Engine was a key technology there.

And beyond entertainment is the future of how we connect. I heard Epic CEO Tim Sweeney speak at D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit 2020 (sadly, my last bit of travel before the pandemic), and he called Fortnite one of the largest social media platforms on the planet. He’s right. Epic is a strong competitor in the race to provide foundational technologies for the metaverse, and we shouldn’t expect this particular bus ride to end any time soon.

No discussion of the metaverse and gaming during the pandemic would be complete without talking about Roblox. While children and parents alike were (and are? kinda? mostly? whatever!) stuck at home with a pandemic raging across the globe,Roblox was there as a social, creative, and educational outlet for children and teens. Roblox may be making similar moves to Epic Games in the realm of music (Lil Nas X being a prominent act), but where Roblox has really advanced the industry is in terms of user-generated content (UGC). Although certainly not the first to include UGC (many games, of course, specifically focus on UGC), Roblox has built an economy and a business on it. Estimates point to there being anywhere from 520,000 to 40 million published games on Roblox. If that seems like a bit of a wide range to choose from — it is. But regardless of the correct number, Roblox certainly does not lack for users interested in making games, and it gives them an excellent opportunity to do so. Whether someone manages to make a quality game or not, get rich or not, anyone can try their hand at game design and that, by itself, is leading more kids down the road of STEM engagement.

In the same way that no discussion of the gaming industry during the pandemic would be complete without talking about Epic and Roblox, no discussion of the future of online entertainment would be complete without talking about Riot Games and its League of Legends (LoL). Although Riot didn’t invent esports, it certainly was one of the pioneers of the multiplayer online battle arena genre and is undeniably one of the most successful international esports stories. Riot launched the LoL World Championship in 2011 and has consistently run this massive global event series for a decade. In 2020, the championship drew 139 million hours of viewership and 3.8 million peak viewers. The LoL World Championship was one of the first major gaming events to crack into the mainstream and demonstrate that watching video games was a normal, and acceptable, thing to do. Now in 2021, LoL currently enjoys a monthly active player base of approximately 115 million players. On top of its advances from a pure sport perspective, Riot engineered their own internet backbone (Riot Direct) for better gaming performance and customer experience. The strength of this backbone allowed Riot to successfully launch Valorant in 2020 despite massive pandemic-created traffic.

These are just a few companies of note in a massively creative, technically accomplished industry with the drive and will to change the way people consume entertainment. And there are very few modern technological industries that do not bear some imprint from gaming. As modern technologies continue to converge on the metaverse, video games will continue to be paving the way for the future. What’s next for the industry... and the world? We’ll find out soon — and in the meantime, there are games to play.

Read more about what Akamai helps make possible in the gaming industry.

Written by

Jonathan Singer

September 17, 2021