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Paul Leaman, Vice President EMEA, HyperX provides some insight into just how much the gaming industry has changed in the last 20 years.

Over the last 20 years the gaming industry has changed and grown exponentially. By 2026 it is expected to be worth $321 billion. Besides this financial growth, we’ve seen huge strides in the visual aspect: video games from 8-bit graphics to almost lifelike characters and the introduction of VR. But it isn’t just the look and feel of games that has changed over the last 20 years. The technology we use to game, how we consume our games and who games, have all evolved in ways that few could have predicted in 2002. Here’s a look at some of the most fascinating developments in the gaming industry and what has led us to where we are today.


Evolving tech – the rise of wireless

Rewind 20 years and the PS2 and Xbox were still relatively new consoles to the market, having both launched within two years prior. For those who are not familiar with them, what they will probably find most surprising by today’s standards is that they came with wired controllers. Fast-forward a mere six years and we truly saw the beginning of a new wave of gaming technology – the rise of wireless. Xbox, PS3 and Nintendo Wii, all came with wireless controllers as standard and it would be the start of the modernisation of how people gamed. Wireless became the norm rather than the exception for controllers, headsets, mice, keyboards and chargers. As the technology continues to expand, more users are upgrading to wireless gaming hardware. The wireless gaming headset market alone, is expected to grow by 996.69 million USD during 2020-2024.

For a long time, wired connections led the way for enthusiast gamers. Having a more reliable, stable, physical connection would give you the least amount of lag or delay. However, significant research and development in the modern space has meant this is no longer the case. The ability to deliver to near-zero latency connectivity in wireless hardware has paved the way for its rise. Another important determining factor for gamers switching to wireless is due to aesthetics. Gamers can now create clean and tidy gaming set-ups that seamlessly fit into the design of their room.

Wireless headsets are becoming one of the most popular wireless gaming technologies. They offer freedom to gamers, with no cables to get tangled up in and the ability to move and talk freely. In today’s market most wireless gaming headsets have been designed so gamers spend less time charging and more time gaming in complete comfort with ergonomic designs. The biggest question mark has always been battery life and battery life degradation. However, this year we saw the first headset with up to 300 hours battery life and now gamers even have the option of in-ear buds, perfect for gaming on the move. Which begs the question, what will be possible next?


Gaming as a force for good 

As the passion for gaming continues to grow around the world, it is no longer just seen as a hobby, but a thriving industry that is showing no signs of slowing down. Over 439 million people around the world tuned into esports events in 2020. This is a huge development from 2002 when competitive gaming was still very much in its infancy. While there is still a long way to go for gaming to be more inclusive, there have been huge strides taken in the last 20 years.

There is a long way to go to make gaming more inclusive for women and as it should be. However, over the last 20 years the industry has massively changed. There are now dedicated communities for women gamers, such as Sugar Gamers, r/GirlGamers and Women in Games International. These offer female gamers a greater voice and a safer space to make friends, share their experiences and learn more about the industry. We also have more female gaming ambassadors, that are improving women’s representation in games and communities specifically for female gamers. These play their part in facilitating a healthier environment and help pave the way to a brighter future for gaming.

Gaming is a great force for connecting different people, regardless of race, sexuality and gender. Gamers and the gaming industry is misunderstood by many, with typical stereotypes wildly outdated. In reality, the gaming community is over two billion globally and is very diverse and inclusive. For example, in the US alone, 65% of women between the ages of 10 and 65 play mobile games and research shows that 86% of UK parents game. If we think about COVID-19 and the global shutdown that ensued, gaming provided people with a way to stay connected virtually, even when they were physically isolated. Our research also showed that 50% of parents in the UK felt gaming improved their child’s mental health during lockdown and 52% felt their child coped better in lockdown because of gaming. And while we all need to stay on top of our screen time, gaming has a lot of benefits and can teach people values and skills. Multiplayer games foster teamwork and communication, gaming communities nurture belonging, and games can provide people a useful escape in troubling times. It is different for each person but ultimately, gaming has the power to be a force for good.


Online gaming

In the last 20 years, the world of online gaming has burst onto the scene and grown at a mindboggling rate. Since 2007, the online gaming market has continued to grow at a significant rate, with an annual growth rate of over 20% over the last five years. In the last 20 years, esports has gone from a vibrant niche to a central form of entertainment across the globe. Over 439 million people around the world tuned into esports events in 2020 and research from Nielsen found that 82% of global consumers played video games or watched video game content during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This meteoric rise has led to the opening of arenas such as the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas. A multilevel arena designed to host every form of competitive gaming, the size and standard of the arena is one which historically was associated with traditional professional sports teams. Gaming is no longer just something people do in their spare time at home, it has place in a 30,000 square foot arena. We’re also seeing this level of growth as for many young gamers their idols and the “celebrities” they follow are no longer always in the traditional media. They’re streamers and content creators, such as Tim The Tatman or Valkyrae.


What to expect next

The transformation of the gaming industry over the last 20 years is nothing short of remarkable. The developments of huge online communities, the rise of gamers from all over the globe, from all different backgrounds, the constantly evolving technologies, and the growth of esports and online communities. Like any budding industry, it won’t stop here and it is going to be a fascinating journey. With the rise of new technologies, developing VR even further, completely immersive gaming; the possibilities are endless. And no doubt the next 20 years will be even more exciting.



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