If the image that comes to mind when someone mentions video games is a teenage boy sitting in their parent’s darkened basement playing Mario Kart, surrounded by discarded Mountain Dew cans and Doritos bags, then it is time to discard this outdated stereotype.

Whether or not you yourself enjoy playing video games in your leisure time, gaming has evolved considerably and expanded well beyond its niche origins to sit squarely in the entertainment and cultural mainstream. Fortnite, you may recall, became a global cultural phenomenon following its 2017 release, with everyone from World Cup soccer players to Michelle Obama getting in on the dances popularized by the game.

The demographics of gaming are rapidly evolving with this expansion into the cultural mainstream. In a recent study by AARP, the percentage of adults age 50-59 who play video games at least once a month increased from 38% in 2016 to 44% in 2019, with women more likely than men to regularly play.

Gaming’s explosion in popularity is due, at least in part, to transformative changes in the video game industry over the past decade.

Ten years ago, if you wanted to play the latest game, you would go to a local store (GameStop, for instance), buy the game for around $60, and take the discs home to install/play. These days, mobile gaming (primarily on smartphones) accounts for the largest share of total gaming revenue worldwide, and popular games are often free to download and play. Developers monetize these free games by offering players in-game purchases.

Another relatively recent development is the rise of subscription gaming, which offers players access to a multitude of games for a monthly subscription fee. Similar to the “streaming wars” between Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc., developers are scrambling to build competitive subscription services as they work to attract larger shares of the growing market.

For those interested in the investment potential of this dynamic market, there are a few important points to understand.

What are video games circa 2020?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a video game as “a game in which the player controls moving pictures on a television screen by pressing buttons or moving a short handle.”

Video games have been around in one form or another for decades, beginning with arcade gaming in the 1970s and transitioning to home gaming in the late 70s and early 80s with popular titles such as Space Invaders, Frogger, and PacMan.

Gaming today largely falls into three distinct categories: console gaming, personal computer (PC) gaming, and mobile gaming. Console gaming happens on devices that are built exclusively to play video games (think PlayStation, Xbox, etc.), while PC gaming happens on high-performance personal computers, and mobile gaming, as the name implies, happens on your mobile device (such as your smartphone or tablet).

Until relatively recently, console and PC gaming were the dominant forces in the video game industry, but the recent explosion of smartphone use and internet connectivity globally has dramatically reshaped the industry.

According to market research firm Newzoo, mobile gaming is currently the fastest-growing segment in the video game industry, and revenues from mobile gaming account for 46% of the total gaming market in 2019. This isn’t to say that dedicated gamers are ditching their consoles and PCs in favor of games on their smartphones; rather, the market is expanding as more people gain access to free or inexpensive games through their mobile devices.

This expansion and diversification of the gaming ecosystem have given rise to novel revenue streams; most notably, live streaming and esports.

Live streaming involves gamers broadcasting themselves playing video games live on the internet. The practice has become wildly popular, as evidenced by Amazon’s 2014 acquisition of the streaming startup Twitch for $1 billion.

Esports, meanwhile, refers to competitive, organized video gaming. You may recall the story about the 16-year-old who went home with $3 million after winning the 2019 Fortnite World Cup.

Global revenues from the burgeoning esports market exceeded $1 billion in 2019, an increase of 26.7% over 2018 revenues. The emergence of live streaming and esports has fueled greater interest in gaming while offering outside investors a new way to reach this diverse group of consumers.

Why invest in video games?

According to Newzoo’s 2019 Global Games Market Report, there are more than 2.5 billion people globally who play video games, and global revenue from gaming reached $148.8 billion in 2019. The U.S. market alone generated about $35.5 billion in 2019.

As a point of comparison, the 2019 global box office for films reached a record $42.5 billion, and the U.S. box office finished with $11.4 billion. This means that in 2019, people spent more than three times as much on video games as they did on seeing movies.

This remarkable performance comes amid a changing revenue landscape in which console and PC gaming account for less and less consumer spending.

Mobile gaming comprised about 46% ($68.2 billion) of overall market revenue in 2019 – an increase of 9.7% over 2018 revenues. Though smaller than mobile, console gaming continues to see healthy growth, occupying 30% of the market ($45.3 billion) with an increase of 7.3% from 2018.

Newzoo forecasts that video game revenues will grow to $196 billion by 2022 at an annual growth rate of 9%. Mobile gaming will continue to grow over the next several years, increasing from 46% of the total market in 2019 to a forecasted 49% by 2020 ($68.2 billion to $95.4 billion).

Mobile gaming’s expansion in the market may even be accelerated by outside factors, including the rollout of 5G networks (faster connectivity means better gameplay in more places) and further advancement of augmented/virtual reality (think Pokémon GO).

The video game market offers a unique investment opportunity because the industry is projected to continue its extraordinary performance in the coming years, and the various segments offer a wide variety of options when it comes to risk vs. return.

How to invest in video games

However, despite their popularity and long-standing growth, investing directly in the video gaming sector can be challenging. There are hundreds of different companies working on individual gaming properties, and the rise of mobile gaming has introduced new players to the sector, such as mobile providers and hardware manufacturers. However, a search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of other ways to profit from the growth of video games as a whole.

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