Beyond 2021:
Where does gaming go next?
The past 18 months have been a period of immense global growth for gaming, but what does the future hold for the industry? To answer this question, we commissioned Newzoo to conduct extensive market and consumer research in 16 countries across four global regions. The result is a set of five groundbreaking reports that you can preview and download below
The global view
From the rise of social streaming to changing platform priorities, discover the trends impacting the global games industry in 2021 and beyond

Beyond 2021:

The new frontier
of gaming
2020 saw the global games market increase 23.1% year over year, the highest growth rate in more than a decade. However, the market is forecast to decline in 2021, for the first time in its history
For astute industry observers, this is a chance to reassess where gaming will go next. Globally, the industry is expected to reach $218.7 billion in 2024, passing the coveted $200-billion threshold in 2023.
bar graph
20%
of the gaming market in 2020 consisted of new or returning players
80%
consisted of veteran players who were already playing prior to 2020
Who is driving this growth in the global games market?
By the end of 2021, almost three billion players will have spent a combined $175.8 billion on games.
20%
of the gaming market in 2020 consisted of new or returning players
80%
consisted of veteran players who were already playing prior to 2020

Most of the past year’s growth came from veteran players using newfound free time to play more. Within this group:

173M new or returning players took part in gaming in 2020. Within this group:

Mrinalini Loew
Play Play
Pause Pause
“There are lots of ways that subscriptions can unlock content and engagement — the key is to provide ongoing value”
- Mrinalini Loew

Product Management Director, Google

Tom Wijman
Play Play
Pause Pause
“The biggest change we’ve seen is how people engage with gaming culture and use games to socialize beyond playing”
- Tom Wijman

Market Lead, Games, Newzoo

Which themes will continue beyond 2021?

Our research suggests that some key themes will continue to play crucial roles in shaping the gaming landscape. To help define their impact, we have split them into three categories.

Novel trends

Examples of consumer behavior towards tech and services evolving in new ways:

The emergence of games as a social platform and metaverse
Audiences’ large-scale adoption of games subscriptions

Accelerated trends

Behaviors that existed pre-pandemic and were significantly boosted by it:

The rise of streaming as a form of social engagement
The move to platform agnosticism
The acceleration of cloud adoption

Temporary setbacks

Challenges caused by the pandemic that will ultimately lead to new opportunities:

A reduction in "core" AAA PC/console spending in many markets
Game development delays and supply-side impacts

Who are tomorrow’s players?

As we move into the future, the question of permanence is crucial. While some — including 26%+ of new and returning players, and 18% of veterans — are planning to reduce their gaming, we still expect to see a net increase in engagement.

65-70%

of new and returning players plan to continue playing at the same or a greater level after the pandemic, resulting in a sustainable increase in audience engagement

30%+

of players expect to further increase their consumption of streaming and esports content

The view by region

Click the buttons below to find out what the future holds for different gaming regions around the globe
Tap the buttons below to find out what the future holds for different gaming regions around the globe

Latin America

Beyond 2021:

Latin America shifts to mobile

Latin America is a region in transition. Having moved from PC and console to mobile, players want and expect further democratization of access to games

With the largest gaming audience increase of any region from 2015 through to 2024, Latin America is one of the world’s fastest-growing regions. It also ranks second globally for growth in consumer spending on games (2015-2024), albeit from a small base of 4% of the global games market in 2021.

In 2021, 289.3 million LATAM players will spend a combined $7.2 billion on games, of which 48% will be spent on mobile, 27% on console, and 25% on PC.

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Player demographics

With an average age of 34, Latin America has the youngest audience of the four major global regions. It also features a higher percentage of new or returning players compared to more mature regions such as North America.
Gender
Age
Experience levels
  • *Veteran players were already playing before 2020
  • Returning players stopped playing at least once but started again during the pandemic
  • New players started playing for the first time after February 2020

3 themes that will shape the Latin American region beyond 2021

Mobile gaming is fueling growth in live streaming and esports

Along with promoting player growth and consumer spending, mobile gaming is also unlocking the world of esports, with Latin American players watching top-tier streamers and esports teams in record numbers. As a result, the audience for live-streamed content is expected to rise to 122.4 million people by 2024, by which point the number of esports enthusiasts will have grown to 25.3 million people.
Mobile gaming for live-streaming and esports

The opportunity:

Live streaming and esports are more popular in Latin America than in any other region, including Asia. Developers should embrace this aspect of gaming culture and make it a key element of their expansion strategies.

Graph Legend

New players and effective monetization strategies will be crucial

Latin America witnessed a huge spike in engagement over the past 18 months. However, this growth is expected to moderate across all platforms in the second half of 2021 and beyond, with a predicted increase of just 8% between 2020 and 2021. With this in mind, publishers and developers should explore other avenues for growing audiences and revenue.
player growth

The opportunity:

Despite recent growth in audience and engagement, average spend per player in Latin America remains relatively low. Finding more effective ways to monetize new and existing players is the key to continued growth.

Cloud gaming can solve hardware issues and support subscriptions

Cloud gaming is an opportunity to democratize hardware usage in the Latin American region where regulation has made ownership difficult. From 2020 to 2021, the number of players paying to use cloud gaming services will grow sixfold, to 1.2 million players who will spend $37.6 million on access to cloud gaming services and content purchased via those services. Despite this trend, however, many major cloud gaming service providers have indicated that LATAM is one of the last regions into which they intend to formally expand.
Cloud gaming in Latin America paying users and spending

The opportunity:

In a region where the availability of traditional hardware is limited and few subscription providers exist, developers can scale effectively by partnering with or offering a cloud gaming service that’s capable of expansion.

Paying users
Revenues

North America

Beyond 2021:

North America is primed for innovation

Established regions such as North America are less likely to witness dramatic growth in numbers of traditional players, but interesting experimentation is taking place around engagement and monetization

North America is a mature region where gaming has already reached near-universal adoption levels, and this has several implications for how it absorbs external shocks such as the events of the past 18 months.

In 2021, 212.1 million players in North America will spend a combined $42.6 billion on games, with console being the dominant platform. However, like most regions, North America has also seen tremendous growth in mobile gaming.

double circle graph

Player demographics

Our U.S. consumer research found that 83% of respondents were already playing before 2020, the largest such share of all regions we surveyed. Another 13% were returning players (those who stopped playing at least once but started again during the pandemic), and the remaining 4% were new players (those who started playing for the first time after February 2020).
Gender
Age
Experience levels

3 themes that will shape the North American region beyond 2021

Games have been normalized as a form of social media

In the past 18 months, we’ve witnessed a significant shift from games incorporating social media-like elements to actually becoming social media platforms themselves. Gaming was the second-most popular form of digital socializing in 2020, behind traditional social media. Meanwhile, the number of players meeting in-game or via game-related platforms equaled or surpassed the number of people using videoconferencing apps.
column graph

The opportunity:

In mature regions such as North America, the growth of games culture can be as important or more important than the growth of games themselves. Large-scale socialization and metaverse elements are all rapidly becoming normalized. Additional opportunities lie in further integrating games with social media and streaming platforms.

Mobile offers opportunities to expand and innovate

With the majority of North American gamers already playing on mobile, opportunities for audience growth are limited, but revenue will continue to rise. And as we approach 2024, we expect the total number of mobile players in North America to grow at a CAGR of 0.8% to 199 million, and revenue to increase at a CAGR of 6.4%. This degree of growth will allow developers to experiment with novel monetization strategies, explore cross-play, and expand beyond mobile audiences.
bar graph

The opportunity:

The future of gaming is platform-agnostic. Developers on mobile, PC, and console will all benefit from making their titles as accessible as possible. This could include publishing on multiple platforms or even joining a subscription service.

The popularity of streaming and esports will continue to soar

The North American live-streaming audience will grow to 91.5 million people in 2021, accounting for almost 13% of the global audience. Consumption of game-related content rose by just over 40% in 2020 and is expected to increase by an additional 39% in the future.
column graph

The opportunity:

Streaming has become an integral social aspect of the gaming experience for North American players, and their interests continue to diversify. With the popularity of mobile game-related content expected to increase, developers who prepare to take advantage of this trend now will be well placed to stay ahead of the curve.

Europe, the Middle East, and Africa

Beyond 2021:

EMEA offers diverse opportunities

Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) is the world’s most diverse gaming region, with potential for robust growth in certain markets and for extremely high revenue per user in others

Europe is home to four of the world’s top 10 largest gaming markets (Germany, the U.K., France, and Italy) while the Middle East includes some of the most promising growth markets. Gaming has yet to achieve mainstream status in many African markets.

In 2021, EMEA’s 842.9 million players will spend a combined $37.8 billion on games. Console gaming represents the largest segment as of 2021, but mobile is the fastest growing.

double circle graph

Player demographics

EMEA players tend to spend less time playing than their counterparts in other regions, averaging 2.3 hours per week less than North American players, 3.2 hours less than those in LATAM, and five hours less than those in APAC.
Gender
Age
Experience levels
  • *Veteran players were already playing before 2020
  • Returning players stopped playing at least once but started again during the pandemic
  • New players started playing for the first time after February 2020

3 themes that will shape the EMEA region beyond 2021

Revenue can rise even as playing time levels off

While EMEA players are expecting their activity levels to decrease beyond 2021, playing times will still remain higher than they were pre-2020. What’s more, the resilience of game spending habits means EMEA is still ripe for future revenue generation as spend per player remains among the highest in the world.
Expected increase in playing time

The opportunity:

Many EMEA players (particularly in Europe) are willing to spend a lot on games even if they don’t expect to devote as much time to the activity. Key initiatives to implement in the region include: offering players shorter core gameplay loops; giving them options to spend money to save time; and not overly focusing on driving up playing time or play-session length.

Platform usage will continue to vary by market

EMEA is defined by the diversity of its audiences in different markets, especially with regard to their platform preferences. Western Europe is dominated by console, but Eastern Europe turns to PC most frequently. The region’s developing markets are centered around mobile gaming.
Playing platform graph

The opportunity:

EMEA’s high level of market variance doesn’t allow for a one-size-fits-all solution. Developers who can provide a variety of gaming experiences or take advantage of the emerging trend towards cross-platform are most likely to succeed.
Also, publishers should note the way platforms dictate the economics of markets: console-first markets tend to have some of the highest spends, while mobile-first markets show the highest growth and potential for in-game advertising.

Esports and live-streamed game content are key for player retention

Our research suggests that European players spend less overall time gaming than their peers in the rest of EMEA, and are more likely to churn post-pandemic. However, their interest in live-streamed games and esports content is much more in line with other regions, with major European markets such as Poland and the U.K. expecting their consumption to increase by 30% and 25% respectively compared to 2020.
graph for Esports and live-streamed game

The opportunity:

Tapping into the community, sharing, and fandom that exists around live streaming and esports offers developers a crucial opportunity to engage and retain European players.

Asia-Pacific

Beyond 2021:

APAC’s importance cannot be overstated

Asia-Pacific has been an engine for growth for the global games industry, fueled by diverse and rapidly growing markets, shaped by changing platform dynamics, and defined by agile innovation

APAC is the world’s largest gaming region, home to 55% of all global players and three of the top four markets by consumer spending (mainland China, Japan, and South Korea). Virtually all of APAC’s 1.62 billion players play on mobile. The $57.9 billion being spent on mobile games in 2021 represents two-thirds of all consumer spending in the region.

double circle graph

Player demographics

Our research found that players in APAC have the highest average weekly playing time of all regions (at 17.4 hours per week) and a relatively low average age of 34.3, driven by younger audiences in growth markets such as Vietnam and India.
Gender
Age
Experience levels
  • *Veteran players were already playing before 2020
  • Returning players stopped playing at least once but started again during the pandemic
  • New players started playing for the first time after February 2020

3 themes that will shape the Asia-Pacific region beyond 2021

Gaming technology is evolving digital social engagement

For many years, APAC markets have set the global standard for social features in games. Social multiplayer games dominate, unlike in most Western markets, which tend to focus on single-player titles.

This social integration with gaming is taking place at a business and operational level. Companies such as Tencent (which also operates WeChat) continue to blur the lines between games and social apps, and publishers recognize the potential for further monetizing large, socially inclined audiences in the region.

bar graph

The opportunity:

With APAC’s social gaming roots, it’s more ready than other regions to adopt proto-metaverses and similar innovations.

Console gaming is starting to take off in mainland China and South Korea

Although console gaming has not been widely adopted in APAC, market indicators suggest this is set to change, driven by the mobile-friendly functionality of the Nintendo Switch and the launch of next-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles in mainland China (the first to be released concurrently with other regions).
player graph

The opportunity:

With PC cafes closed in APAC, players are turning to consoles for AAA and single-player experiences. Developers have an opportunity to target this APAC gaming diaspora with innovative premium/single-player-focused experiences on mobile.

Mobile is highly accessible and offers strong monetization opportunities

Mobile gaming activity continued to increase in APAC over the past 18 months. Although 97% of regional gamers already play on mobile, engagement per player continues to grow.

Mobile also accounts for a significant proportion of consumer spending in the region, which has led to fierce competition and monetization innovations among publishers. From cosmetics to battle passes, APAC’s mobile players spend their budgets on a much wider range of monetization options than players in other regions.

player graph

The opportunity:

Developers who embrace experimentation and innovation, particularly around monetization, will be well-placed to take advantage of APAC’s mobile-first, engaged user base.