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Gamers at Japan's First Dedicated e-Sports gaming Hotel

Magazine

Fantasy world of gaming is facing hard realities

Published 5 March 2021 in Magazine • 10 min read

During lockdown, families have turned to PlayStation, Xbox and Twitch in ever increasing numbers. That’s good for business, but there is a social cost and the regulators are circling, reports Öykü Işık.

The gaming industry is facing a day of reckoning. After a watershed year of growth since the pandemic hit, driven by new players seeking sanctuary in fantasy worlds from the upheaval in real life, now comes the sobering reality of managing massive communities of players who are using games for far more than mere entertainment: they are becoming platforms for political action and social justice.

There are also real concerns over ethical issues that dog the industry. For game makers such as Nintendo, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, this presents management and leadership challenges. In a fiercely competitive market with low barriers to entry, the main impediment to growth has been the need to keep refreshing best-selling games to retain old users and attract new ones. The greatest challenge now is growth management. Gaming surged in popularity under COVID-19 lockdowns, a rare bright spot amid the chaos of 2020. Global revenues grew 20% to $179.7bn, according to IDC, making gaming bigger than the movie and music industries combined. The pandemic cemented the industry’s cultural legitimacy, putting gaming on a par with Netflix and Hollywood.

The boom was well underway before COVID-19 struck, but it has been turbocharged by the crisis.

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