The modern gaming industry has changed irrevocably over the last decade. That’s thanks to the eSports phenomenon taking off worldwide. Today, the most competitive teams compete in regional competitions in the hopes of facing off on a global stage. Just like traditional sports, fans tune in by the millions to watch the greats battle in out in virtual arenas.
The numbers are staggering. Earlier this year, the Counter-Strike World Cup Qualifiers saw over 20 million eSports fans tune in live, crushing previous records and setting a new standard in 2023. Overwhelmingly, analysts and industry experts believe this trend will grow and continue to diversify over various gaming markets and titles.
But that doesn’t mean that mainstream eSports is the only cool development in the industry. In fact, the rest of the gaming sphere hasn’t slowed down on account of eSports taking off. Behind the scenes, there are massive trends developing and taking off. Let’s dive into a few of the most unique trends, communities, and games that are evolving.
Poker’s Global Growth Continues
Estimates about the total number of poker players worldwide vary greatly. Some reports hint that this number could be around 12 million, while others put it much higher. Regardless of how many virtual players there are, there’s one thing that’s easy to see: they’re an incredibly dedicated brunch.
PokerStars, the world’s largest virtual provider, recently released a story about one of its qualifying players, Oliver Hutchins. After developing his poker chops over a ten-year period, he finally made the cut for a major event. Having grown up watching live poker tournaments, he’s now prepared to join the greats in a major online event—but he’s just one of thousands worldwide hoping to make it big as a poker pro.
APAC Puts Mobile Gaming on the Map
Poker has been around for decades, making it a long-lasting gaming community. However, it’s not nearly as large as the mobile gaming community. As early as 2017, gamers in the Asia-Pacific region started showing a huge preference for mobile games. At first, casual titles were taking off, such as Angry Birds. However, many competitive gamers in the region are skipping over competitive console and PC titles, instead opting for accessible and affordable mobile games and devices.
This year alone, Statista reports that mobile game revenue will reach close to $100 billion for this region alone. By 2027, the same report predicts that the Mobile Games market will have nearly 1.5 billion active users.
Back-to-Back Hits Push DCCGs to New Heights
Similar to poker, collectible card games have been part of the gaming zeitgeist for a long time. From Magic: The Gathering to Pokémon, collectible card games cover a huge range of interests. However, there are two new hits that have helped reposition interest toward digital collectible card games (DCCGs).
These are Hearthstone (2014) and Gwent: The Witcher Card Game (2018). The former builds on the hit status of Warcraft, which includes characters and lore from the original. There are currently 5.8 million active users. The latter comes from the hit series The Witcher, released by Projekt Red. Its stats make it harder to estimate the total number of active players, which counts active players only by daily usage.
Indie Gamers & Developers Unite
Some of the greatest hits ever released have come from indie creators and developers. They’ve also nabbed dozens of prestigious awards. Though non-gamers may not realize it, indie gamers and developers are a highly active part of the industry. Minecraft (2011), the world’s most-sold video game of all time, came from an indie developer.
The same goes for hits like Cuphead (2017), Hades (2020), Stardew Valley (2016), and Rocket League (2015). Similarly, many game-hosting platforms have also started to open their doors to indies, making it easy to upload their games and market them to new gamers. Steam, for example, includes an indie category. Others, like Itch.io, take a closer look at indie developers.