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Who was playing games in 2014? Half a billion people...

From virtual to reality, what do gamers look like in 2014?

THE STEREOTYPE OF the lonely gamer playing alone on their computer until the wee hours of the morning is long gone.

The gaming industry has gained legitimacy quickly in the past ten years, especially in Ireland where we have some of the biggest names in the industry as well as a thriving independent games industry and community.

E-sports is also now a growing global phenomenon. At The International, an annual Dota 2 championship hosted by the game creators Valve Corporation, the prize pool for the winning teams was over $10 million in 2014. That is more than at The Masters, arguably one of golf’s most prestigious events. To put it into perspective – every member of the winning team left Seattle as a millionaire.

Newbee Newbee, the 2014 winning team. Source: The International/Dota2

Today there are more than half a billion people across the world playing PC, console and mobile games for more than one hour each day. It’s estimated that as a planet we clock more than 3 billion hours a week playing these games.

Did you know?

  • The average gamer now is 31 years old.
  • And they have been playing for approximately 14 years.
  • Contrary to some notions, 48% of these gamers are in fact women and women aged 18 or older account for 31% of the game-playing population.
  • Families of gamers are as common as families of painters or musicians as gamers have grown up and had gamer babies.
  • One third of parents are regularly playing games with their children on consoles, computers or mobile devices (at least once a week) and over 50% play at least once a month.
  • 16% of children are accompanying their parents while they play their own games.
  • 40% of parents are gaming with their friends.
  • And 17% are playing with their spouses or significant others and 34% of adults are playing games with other adult family members.

shutterstock_133718012 Group of friends playing video games at home. Source: Shutterstock

As of November this year, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One had sold a combined 24 million in their first year respectively. This is about 70% more than the sales of the PS3 and Xbox 360 in their first year and demonstrates the rapidly growing industry.

It’s not just consoles though. We are now downloading and playing more mobile and online games than ever before. Some estimates even have mobile gaming revenue set to overtake console revenue as the biggest part of the games market in 2015.

Source: TheESA

Last year’s blockbuster game, Grand Theft Auto V, reported that 6% of their total sales were digital downloads. And this year’s big hit, Destiny, recorded a total so far of almost 20% digital sales.

This has pushed games companies to look at the way they market and distribute their games. EA (Electronic Arts) is experimenting with a Netflix-like subscription service for Xbox One which allows players to have access to a range of their titles and Sony has a streaming rental service called PlayStation Now which they announced at their Gamescom press conference will be available in Europe in 2015.

Xbox made history in September as the Xbox One became the first video game console to launch in China in over twelve years, reportedly selling 100,000 consoles in the first day alone. A ban on games consoles was implemented by the Chinese government in 2000 as an attempt to protect children from the allegedly bad effects of playing video games. China had reported widely at the time about the damaging effects video games were having on their youth culture.The lift on the ban in China was a significant moment in gaming history.

Source: XboxWire

The Evolution

Since video games burst onto the scene in arcades and at home in the early 1970s, the single most damaging perception to the industry was that they were a waste of valuable time. There was an opinion that games were fundamentally separate from reality. This has been challenged many times with games being proven to help children and adults learn new skills, assist with rehabilitation and promote social interaction as well as doing exactly what they say on the box and just be fun.

The ESA notes: 

In barely more than a generation, video games transformed from a diversion for the few into a mass medium, helping people live, learn, work, and of course, play.
The Magnavox Odyssey was the first ever commercial home video game console. It was released in August 1972 and predates the Atari Pong which came out in November of the same year.

Source: PPSU

The history of the industry in Ireland goes back to 1979 when Atari opened their factory in Tipperary. Ireland was also home to Emerald Software who produced parts of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for the Commodore 64. Now home to the likes of EA, Zynga, Riot Games, Bioware, Activision Blizzard, Havok and Demonware, as well as a host of uber-talented indie games companies, this is one innovative area of major growth in Ireland.

TheJournal.ie spoke to Marcus Segal, former COO of Zynga and Richard Glynn, Founder and CEO of Studio PowWow about the games industry in Ireland, the changing profile of gamers and their games related plans for Christmas…

Tell me a little about yourself and how you got into the games industry. 

M: I have been working on tech start-ups for 15 years, mostly in the consumer internet space.  I had never worked for a game company before Zynga but I had always played games. When Mark Pincus told me about his vision for Zynga I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Mark wanted to make games that could be played between friends in just a few minutes for free. I thought that this would catch on, who doesn’t want to take a break during their day to connect with friends and family in play?

R: Studio PowWow was set up two years ago in Dublin. My background was in animation and I was looking for a new route to establishing an entertainment brand essentially through games rather than the traditional way. I, along with my two business partners, decided to create Shipantics as a game first, build our initial audience online and take it from there.

As a gamer, what types of games are you playing at the moment?

M: I enjoy playing games, mostly mobile and board games.  Right now I am playing HonorBound, Zynga Poker, This Means War and Pirate Kings. Kevin Abosch showed me an arcade game he is working on recently, I can’t wait to see that.  My favorite board game is definitely Settlers of Catan.

R: I used to be a big gamer but now that I am a father of two and running my own company, it’s not as easy as it used to be. I haven’t turned my Playstation on in a while but I have been playing mobile games. They appeal to me the most. I enjoy Angry Birds and Cut the Rope and I play both of them with my four year old son as well.

The age of gamers has risen substantially in recent times. In your opinion, why is this? 

M: I am happy to go on record saying this – PLAYING GAMES IS FUN!!! There is no shame in that. When we were children our parents all played with us and sang songs to us. The desire to have fun is instilled in our brains at an early age.  With the advent of the internet and now mobile devices there are thousands of games of every kind to try.

R: The gaming industry is relatively young. I remember getting my first console, a Comodore 64, about forty years ago. Our parents didn’t play these types of games because they weren’t around for them. The first generation to really experience the console games were those who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. They have grown up with gaming and for them, like me, there is a sense of nostalgia and love of games that has grown with them.

What do you think are the main benefits of allowing your children to play games?

M: I learned how to type by playing a video game when I was a kid.  There are tons of educational games out there that can teach maths, language, and music. There is actually clinical study out of UCSF that shows that playing some kinds of games can help memory, hand-eye coordination and even driving.

R: There are a number of benefits when it comes to children playing games with the best really being to learn as they play. With so many games on the market, there are obviously some that are more beneficial than others. I think parents play a role in this and are very careful these days of what their children play and for how long. 

Richard, as a parent, gamer and creator of games, how do you manage your own children’s gaming?

My own son is four and loves playing Minion Rush, Cut the Rope, Angry BirdsMinecraft and of course, Shipantics. We do limit his tablet usage but it is just all about balance really. Santa is hopefully bringing the Skylanders trap team tablet edition so I think he will be playing a little more than usual over the festive period which is no harm.

I think parents look for the more pedagogical games for their children, especially when they are of the pre-school age. As they get older then, I don’t think there is anything wrong with playing for entertainment either. It’s entertainment in moderation and games are so innovative these days that they are designed with the user in mind and very often intentionally beneficial to children and their creativity. 

Happy 20th birthday Playstation! Here are some of the moments that helped shape it

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About the author:

Amanda Connolly

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