Presented by Google for Games

Catch up on the other articles from Google for Games in this series covering a wide range of topics that help developers take their games to the next level. Find them all here.

The global gaming market reached $162.32 billion in 2020. By 2026, that number is expected to rise to $295.63 billion. In other words, the industry is booming — and incredibly competitive. To keep up and get ahead, it’s essential to stay on top of the latest insights from around the globe.

To that end, Google has stepped in, with the 2021 Google for Games Global Insights Report. It covers key questions game developers are asking about the world of gaming, around the globe, as we move into the next decade: What are gamers searching online? What’s keeping them engaged? What are they purchasing? And what can gamers expect next?

The report covers these essential questions, some surprising statistics, and a look at some major global trends, including the boom of women gamers and competitive games in some of the world’s biggest markets, shifts in how players are paying, and how the very nature of gaming is changing with the evolution of cutting-edge technology.

This comes with more in-depth coverage of some of the biggest topics in the industry from a panel of Google for Games industry experts.

Here’s a closer look at how some of the leaders at Google are weighing in.

The rise of “gaming as a lifestyle” is here

Staying at home has meant that the number of people playing games has increased dramatically, as well as the kind of games that people are playing. Global game downloads increased by 75%, from 2019 to 2020, and watch time for gaming live stream increased by 45%.

“As part of the pandemic, we saw that games continue to be how people create and maintain connections,” says Meagan Timney, Head of UX, Stadia at Google. “Gaming grew as a socially connected experience, whether that was watching streams or using games as a way to connect with family and friends while sheltering at home.”

As COVID-19 altered the day-to-day, the game industry had to get a bit more creative, with a potential market shift toward more digital and cloud-based gaming platforms. This meant a seamless experience became paramount — games that were easy and fast to start, easy to put down and playable anywhere — on a variety of devices, switching seamlessly during the span of a day.

“The big opportunity here is for developers to consider ways to make it easier for players to hop in and out of the action — and cloud gaming platforms can be a great way to help support this,” says Timney.

There’s also an enormous pool of potential gamers out there that remains largely untapped, she says. Google estimates 15 to 30% of the population has one or more disabilities, which is about 300 to 400 million potential players with visual, hearing, motor, or cognitive disabilities around the globe.

“The bar should be set high as an industry to enable experiences for people with those visual, auditory, or motor impairments,” she says. “What that means for  developers is continuing to place more emphasis on accessibility and ease of use in their games, whether that’s through the hardware we provide or the platforms and solutions we build,” she says.

That means personalizing games to make them more equitable, and really digging into how players interact with a game, not just in traditional ways, but through various devices. It also means thinking about that seamless cross-device experience, and what those narrative moments look like for people who hop in and out of games, no matter how they’re showing up to that game or interacting with it.

“I’d encourage developers to spend time deeply understanding their gaming populations and areas where their players could be better served, whether that’s different genres, accessibility features, really allowing and thinking through how to invest in games that allow that connection and immersion,” she says. “Focusing on connection, personalization, and accessibility will be keys to success in the digital gaming world going forward.”

The key to success is how you measure it

For growing game developers, the key to success is understanding what success actually looks like. Even if your game never reaches Call of Duty or Candy Crush levels of revenue, studios are enjoying long-term success with the right strategies. In part, that means moving toward a hybrid monetization strategy, as single streams of revenue just won’t cut it anymore, says Francis Ma, product director for Firebase, Google’s platform for mobile apps and game developers.

“A hybrid monetization strategy is about being able to take advantage of the best of both worlds, because there are different types of players that respond differently to types of monetization schemes,” Ma says. “The idea of hybrid monetization is where game developers take advantage of these multiple ways of monetizing their player base.”

A challenge many developers face is recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all solution, meaning you can’t merely replicate one game’s strategy in another. That means developers often have to create their own path — there isn’t an existing playbook. Add to that finding the right tools and infrastructure to execute on monetization plans, especially for smaller development shops and studios that don’t have the same amount of resources as the well-established studios.

“That’s where products like Firebase come in and help solve some of these problems,” Ma says. “We provide tools to help small developers, or even developers that are well-resourced and would rather channel their resources elsewhere.”

When it comes to hybrid monetization, it’s especially important to focus on the gaming experience and ensure that your monetization strategy is tied in deeply with the gaming experience, as opposed to a bolt-on or an afterthought, Ma says.

From a developer’s point of view, you want to combine both behavioral analytics and also technical performance analytics, making sure that the core experience of the game works well for both. For example, Google Analytics helps uncover user behavior, while tools like Crashlytics and Performance Monitoring offer data around performance for players’ specific devices.

“We often talk a lot about the behavioral side and less about the technical side, or sometimes these discussions happen in silos where the game designer may focus on the user, the player behavior, whereas the core engineering team is focusing on the technical side,” he says. “Ultimately, to provide an amazing player experience, you need to marry both sets of data when you look at them.”

Tap into — and take cues from — the APAC market

APAC is a gaming powerhouse in the wake of lower-cost smartphones and more affordable access to the Internet. The mobile apps user population is booming and the audience and developer community for connected games in the region is surging, says Paula Wang, Director of App Developer sales, APAC.  It’s not just about expanding successfully in the APAC market with the right strategies — though that’s a solid road to profit these days; they can also leverage the most important lessons APAC studios now offer.

“APAC is not one homogeneous market; it is a rich and diverse collection of countries and sub-regions,” Wang says. “When entering the region, developers should be careful not to oversimplify the market needs into one entry strategy. Instead, they should focus on understanding each market’s specific nuances in order to be successful.”

It’s an area ripe for expansion, but also inspiration for success wherever a studio is positioned in its strategy. APAC studios have demonstrated that building a locally relevant product or product portfolio is key, followed by having an effective user acquisition strategy.

“We’re seeing that many developers in Asia tend to invest a higher percentage of their revenue into user acquisition compared to other developers in the world, and it seems to be working well for them,” she says. “And we’re now seeing more and more games developed by Asian studios ranking in the top global positions.”

The number of women players are also growing rapidly in the APAC region — as of 2019, China is home to one of the highest populations of female gamers in the world, making up 45% of total Chinese gamers.

“Female players are a core component of the gaming population, both for today and tomorrow,” Wang says. “The growth rate for new female players is much faster than the one for males, so, in a future where females could be the majority of the player population in many markets, it’s important we think about what they enjoy most, and how they’re different. This will influence the types of genres that are created and launched. It’s all about understanding the audience, what they enjoy and care about.”

Dig deeper: For more on the global state of gaming today, more insight from Google’s in-house gaming experts, and how Google’s solutions can help you across the entire lifecycle — today and tomorrow — read the full 2021 Google for Games Global Insight report.

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