The video game industry, once riding high on unprecedented investments between 2020 and 2022, has now witnessed a dramatic drop in funds from private equity sources, plunging below pre-Covid levels. According to Konvoy’s Q3 2023 Gaming Industry Report, investments in the gaming sector, which had skyrocketed to $14.78bn in 2021 and $14.49bn in 2022, experienced a sharp decline to just $2.09bn in 2023. This amounts to roughly one-seventh of the investment seen in each of the preceding two years.
Correlation with Industry Layoffs
Many experts have connected this precipitous decline in funding with the considerable layoffs that have been sweeping the industry in the past year. Recent examples highlighting this trend include:
- Destiny 2’s Bungie: Laid off about 8% of its previously 1,200-strong workforce, affecting nearly 100 employees.
- Crystal Dynamics: The developers behind Tomb Raider have also announced workforce reductions.
- Epic Games: Known for its iconic Fortnite, the company has undergone layoffs.
- Sega: Another big name to join the list of studios reducing their workforce.
Post-Pandemic Gaming Landscape
The surge in gaming was in part due to the global pandemic, which saw a considerable increase in consumers gravitating towards video games while confined at home. The industry grew by a staggering 26.3% and 9.8% in 2020 and 2021, respectively. However, as conditions normalized and people resumed their regular activities, there was an inevitable 5% decline in the industry. Despite this drop, global revenue numbers are forecasted to bounce back, albeit at a subdued annual growth rate.
Forecast for the Decade
The MIDiA Research 2023-2030 global games industry report titled ‘Life post-peak’ paints a picture of the gaming landscape in the upcoming decade. The report forecasts:
- Modest single-digit growth for the remainder of the decade, staying below the current inflation rate.
- A steady rise in the number of gamers is expected to touch 3.8 billion by 2030.
Advice to Smaller Studios
As the gaming subscription services market grows, smaller and mid-sized studios are faced with an important decision. MIDiA Research Lead Games Analyst Karol Severin offers crucial advice to these developers:
- Join Subscription Services Early: For studios contemplating joining a subscription platform, the time to act is now. Delaying could mean reduced negotiating power in the future.
- Exception to the Rule: Distinct niche premium games with loyal, high-spending user bases might receive attractive acquisition or investment offers in the coming years. This is because subscription services and publishers aim to enhance and differentiate their portfolios.
However, it’s essential to note that subscription models won’t necessarily overshadow regular game purchases. Traditional game buying is expected to see growth, albeit minimal, as per MIDiA’s forecasting analyst Perry Gresham.
Reimagining Investment Strategies
While the recent setbacks have raised concerns, they also present an opportunity for the industry to reassess and reimagine its investment strategies. The decline in private equity funding underscores the need for diverse financial avenues. Crowdfunding, partnerships with non-gaming sectors, and exploring new markets could be pivotal for garnering fresh investments.
Engaging the Gaming Community
One of the industry’s unique strengths is its vast and dedicated community. Game developers can leverage platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to crowdsource funds for new projects. Not only does this method secure necessary finances, but it also provides an early gauge of a game’s potential reception in the market.
Exploring Untapped Markets
Regions like Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, and South America have shown a growing appetite for gaming but remain relatively untapped by major studios. Exploring these markets could offer new revenue streams, and the unique cultural influences of these regions could inspire fresh gaming narratives and experiences.
Industry Challenges and Future Outlook
The interplay between plummeting investments and the wave of layoffs paints a picture of an industry in turmoil. Game development firms grapple with maintaining financial stability while ensuring they don’t compromise on quality and innovation. As the gaming world undergoes this transformation, stakeholders need to strategize, innovate, and collaborate to secure the industry’s future stability and growth.