James Ball (Research Analyst)
Liam Hall (Senior Research Analyst)

The gaming industry has seen a digital revolution. With improvements to various technologies and industries boosting the gaming market size, we can see this digitization first-hand in the hardware that consumers can buy.

In the PC market, for example, pre-built machines increasingly do not come with optical drives, while self-built computers, especially smaller towers, don’t even include the room to fit these drives. Instead, they save the internal space for cable management or hard-drive space.

We’re also starting to see this trend in consoles. The digital editions announced for both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X are the most recent examples. This departure from a more physical dependency on gaming is more proof of the rise of digitization, but digitization is not only taking place on the hardware side.

Digitization Is Occurring on the Software Side Too

One of the biggest examples of software digitization is in-game patches. Although a staple in gaming for many years, recently we have seen an increased focus on specific patch types. Day-one patches, for example, which are a great way to fix any bugs or glitches right from the release day, enable developers to work while people play. This creates some tension, however, as improvements to graphics and the increased complexity of digital systems lead to bigger game sizes.

Bigger file sizes equal more wait time for gamers, especially those with below-average internet speed. This can be problematic now, but will become less of an issue with the introduction of 5G, which will enable greater download speeds as well as increased loading times and user interface (UI) and hardware improvements.

Patching is also a great way to use digitization for downloadable content (DLC) — developers can now pre-install DLC and through a small patch activate the content, removing the need for many patches.

Data-Driven Benefits

Digitization has also helped developers to gain great analytical data from the games. With many games having online features or the need for constant internet access, the data about players and their habits is valuable information for developers.

This can be particularly helpful for developers pushing the Games-as-a-service (GaaS) model, benefiting both developers and gamers. They can utilize this wealth of data on which areas are performing above and below expectations, and on the purchasing habits of the entire subscriber base, to make quick, informed decisions.

As the younger generation are more accepting of digitization and are not as nostalgic toward physical disks, subscription-based services and digital copies will only continue to grow. This means there will only be a greater wealth of this data.

Not only does digitization help developers gather information, it also helps the games themselves produce information. Games with procedurally generated worlds and pinpoint detail are now possible without the limitations of trying to fit them onto a disk. Digitization has enabled developers and their games to be uncompromising, meaning that players can experience the whole scope of a game.

Conclusion

Digitization is a good way to provide content to the consumer. Within gaming, this means no physical disks, direct updates, procedural generation, and data processing. But it also puts a greater strain on players’ internet bandwidth and their ability to play games online all the time, even for single-player experiences.

 

Read more:

Will the Rise of Games-as-a-Service Lead to Longer Game Lifecycles?

Development Trends and Risks in the Gaming Market

Gaming in Lockdown: Good for Cloud?

If you want to learn more about this topic or have any questions, please contact James Ball or Liam Hall, or head over to https://uk.idc.com and drop your details in the form on the top right.

 

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