Fortnite, streaming, and the future of gaming – Key takeaways from E3 2018

E3, the leading global event for the games industry, is typically associated with the launch of big games. In 2018, however, the even bigger stories are around larger structural shifts reshaping the future of the industry itself. MTM has picked out some of the key trends that emerged from E3 this year:

The shift to subscription gaming models is accelerating

As OTT services like Netflix have changed the face of TV, we are seeing the big players in games – including developers such as EA and Ubisoft and platforms such as PlayStation – ramp up investment in models based on a monthly fee, rather than one-off purchases. While such services have been around for some time, they have tended to offer less desirable catalogue titles rather than the hottest new games. This appears to be shifting, with big titles set to be available from day one.

The future of gaming may look more like Hulu or Spotify than Netflix

Very few games publishers have a deep enough catalogue to sustain a subscription service, so we’d expect new alliances or partnerships to underpin future service models. The future may be less the much-touted “Netflix of gaming”, and more like a Hulu or even a Spotify, where the content owners remain stakeholders.

The shift to streaming games means we are moving away from a device-based universe

Advances in network infrastructure and the greater sophistication of personal connected devices (including smartphones and Smart TVs) are enabling gamers to access console games on a range of devices. The next generation of console could be the last, as the industry moves towards a cloud-based streaming model. This would appear to favour Microsoft, with its ability to combine the Xbox brand with its strength as a cloud platform. But if owning a proprietary hardware platform is no longer a prerequisite to be a games platform, there may be opportunities for new entrants, including the like of Amazon, Alphabet or Facebook.

The battle for the best content is heating up

Amid the shift from device-specific play to streaming, and as games become more platform-agnostic, success in the future will come not from locking users into a platform-based universe but about having the best content, available across all platforms and devices. Microsoft’s decision to invest in games developers (and to open up its Xbox platform) will make it a formidable player even in a post-console universe.

Fortnite will further boost the eSports market

Building on the huge popularity of Fortnite – which now has more than 125 million active players – developer Epic Games has announced a Fortnite World Cup in 2019, with prize money set at an incredible $100m. While eSports is already a red-hot market, such an investment is likely to create even more excitement. With a large part of Fortnite’s success coming from the ability of players to compete equally across a range of devices, PlayStation’s decision not to allow PS4 users to play against Fortnite users on other platforms has come under fire.

Gaming still has diversity issues.

Though the games industry long surpassed the movie industry in terms of revenue, it lags in at least one key area – representation. As “Gamergate” demonstrated, the industry could be better at addressing diversity, even as Hollywood has (belatedly) realised that, as with films such as Black Panther, content that reflects a diverse audience can be very profitable too. The latest round of games announcements has seen some concessions to diversity in big gaming titles, including the introduction of female and black characters, though there is still a long way to go before games reflect the make-up of the audience who play them.

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About Nick Thomas

Nick Thomas is an Associate Director at MTM and an IBC veteran, though he avoids wearing a grey suit where possible.