Games Industry Saw Global Growth in 2019

22 Jan 2020

Games and interactive media earned a record $120.1 billion in 2019 (up from $115 billion in 2018) and is on track to grow 4% to $124.8 billion in 2020. 

According to SuperData’s ‘Year In Review’ report, the games and interactive media industry grew 4%, despite the lack of market movers released last year, in comparison to Fortnite which was first released in 2017, or 2018’s Red Dead Redemption 2. 

The top ten premium games were all sports games or shooters, aside from Grand Theft Auto V and Sims 4. The top spot went to FIFA 19, which generated $786 million revenue, followed by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare with $645 million revenue. 

Marvellous marketing from chart-topper Fortnite 

Fortnite remained the most profitable game for the second year in a row, generating $1.8 billion in revenue in 2019 - no doubt as a consequence of their successful crossover promotions with Avengers, Stranger Things and Star Wars. The Avengers: Endgame limited-time game mode allowed fans of the Marvel franchise to use the powers of the Avengers to battle Thanos and his alien army, the Chitauri. 

The Stranger Things 3 crossover brought The Upside Down to Fortnite’s island, with portals appearing in the Mega Mall region of the game that transported players to another section of the map. 

On 14 December, an exclusive scene from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker premiered at Fortnite’s digital drive-in cinema Risky Reels, and director J. J. Abrams even appeared virtually. For fans who missed out on this promotional event, there are now lightsabers, Star Wars challenges, and new unlockables like a Jedi training emote.  

Free-to-play and AAA titles ensure mobile success 

Mobile games earned $64.4 billion in 2019, driven by the success of free-to-play titles and AAA game franchises that were brought to peoples’ phones. 

Games such as Candy Crush Saga and Honour of Kings pushed mobile’s share of free-to-play revenue to 74%, with free-to-play titles accounting for four out of every five dollars spent on digital games in 2019. Apex Legends and Destiny 2 are two titles that have enjoyed success with the free-to-play model, which has a low barrier to entry and is therefore ideal for multiplayer games that need a large player base. 

Call of Duty Mobile earned $116.8 million in 2019 after its October release, and alongside Mario Kart reflects the ability for publishers to reach new audiences because increasingly powerful phones are creating handheld gaming experiences that are closer to the console versions of a game than ever before. 

The Quest to take VR gaming mainstream 

XR revenue, including virtual, augmented and mixed reality, climbed 26% to $6.3 billion in 2019. 

The sale of standalone VR headsets more than doubled in 2019, no doubt assisted by headsets like the Oculus Quest which launched in May and sold 208,000 units in Q2 2019. This product evidently appealed to mainstream consumers, who might not necessarily have the high-end gaming PC or console setups required to plug in and play with previous headsets. The device launched with titles including Beat Saber and Superhot VR, with VR game revenue rising by 41% in 2019. 

Standalone headsets accounted for 49% of VR shipments and brought VR gaming to a more mainstream audience than existing PC and console devices. 

Meanwhile, mobile AR game earnings rose 12% in 2019, with the enduringly popular 2016 release Pokémon GO generating 81% of all AR game revenue. 

Retro revival continues 

A remake of the 1998 original saw Resident Evil 2 generate $176 million in digital revenue, and the release of other classic games such as World of Warcraft Classic, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Halo: Reach show that the widely observed ‘retro revival’ penetrated the games market too. 

2020 games market set for further growth

Looking at the year ahead, and premium titles are set to have their biggest year to date with a projected $19.8 billion in revenue thanks to highly anticipated games such as Cyberpunk 2077, The Last of Us Part II and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. 

Upcoming consoles set to be released by Microsoft and Sony look set to revive the flat revenue of $15.4 billion in 2019, and will no doubt combine with steady improvements in global internet speeds to improve the gameplay experience.

It’s certainly an exciting time to choose to be a part of the games industry, so if you’ve ever thought about a career in Games Programming, Animation, or VFX, find out more about studying at SAE today!