The video game industry is expected to grow significantly for several years, with mobile and social games leading the way.
The industry as a whole is expected to break nearly $75 billion in sales this year, an increase of $7 billion from 2010, according to Gartner. The research firm predicts sales will exceed $110 billion over the next four years.
“This large market size means that many consumers embrace gaming as a core piece of their entertainment budget and will continue to play as long as game publishers deliver compelling and fun games,” said Fabrizio Biscotti, Gartner’s research director.
Smartphones and tablet computers are the fastest growing gaming platforms, which accounted for nearly $45 billion this year and could control 20 percent of the market by 2015. These devices are expected to continue growing in popularity as young gamers move toward iPhones and Android devices over traditional consoles and handhelds from companies like Nintendo and Sony.
“As the popularity of smartphone and tablets continues to expand, gaming will remain a key component in the use of these devices,” said Tuong Nguyen, a Gartner research analyst. “Although they are never used primarily for gaming, mobile games are the most downloaded application category across most application stores.”
In May, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the iPhone 4 as the fastest selling portable gaming device in history, selling about 1.5 million units since June 2010. Apple’s App Store so far received 6.5 billion downloads of its 37,000-plus games, making it far-and-away the largest gaming destination in the world.
Social games are the other big contributor to the gaming industry’s continued growth. Companies like Zynga, maker of the popular Facebook games “FarmVille” and “CityVille,” helped the industry grow to almost $12 billion this year. Analysts expect the market to only increase as more people buy more virtual goods and digital subscriptions to games.
Though social and mobile games are trending up, console games from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are still strong sellers for retailers. In November 2010, “Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops” made over $650 million in just five days.
The gaming industry is stronger than ever as it evolves away from television and computer screens towards smartphones and tablets, especially as hardware on these devices becomes more powerful and robust. These new platforms may serve a vital role in the future of video gaming, expanding the pastime to audiences beyond traditional gamers.