Gaming takes many, many forms these days, ranging from the absolute premium hardware of virtual reality PC gaming down to free app mobile gaming. It’s opened up the market to millions, if not billions of people who can now consider themselves to be gamers, with the more accessible options often opening the gateway to higher-priced forms of the entertainment medium. In 2021, we’re coming off of another record year for global game revenues, with even more people expected to join the community over the coming months. The mobile sector is the dominant piece of the pie, with it being very much a wild west of apps vs apps. Here, we’re looking at the gaming platforms that directly compete with others by providing a means of playing the best games available.
Near-monopoly rules being chipped away
In the PC launcher wars, two leading contenders battle across the range of new releases. In the browser gaming platform wars, yet, there are hundreds of sites offering thousands of games with them all trying to win over players. This is the world of online casino gaming, which has increased in popularity over the last decade, making it viable for creative new platforms to muscle into the scene.
Availability and aligned payment options used to be enough. Now, several key factors need to be included for a site even to hope to compete as a good gambling site. These include state-of-the-art security, a huge range of games from major developers, generous welcome bonuses, frequent promotions of account holders, and a top-class platform, according to the gambling site guide VegasSlotsOnline to rank.
As it did last year, 2021 should see the top platform in their rankings regularly switch, with each provider seeking to build and edge ahead on these relied-upon sites. As it stands, though, it’s the platform with regular tournaments, over 2000 slots, a four-tier VIP programme, and a 100 per cent welcome bonus with free spins, that rules to roost.
The storied PC launcher arena is now looking increasingly like a two-horse race, as opposed to a monopoly. While some several developers and publishers only grant access to the computer versions of their games via their own sites, the titan has been Steam for as long as is worth remembering. Since 2019, however, the Epic Games Store has sought to usurp the crown.
Through the first half of 2018, Steam lost 17 per cent of its users, and then Epic decided to take on the dominant force. To the dismay of some players, Epic would land exclusive and timed-exclusive deals with major releases and go one step further: give games away for free. Steam is well-known for its annual sales, but Epic users get at least one more free game to claim and keep every week.
From its first year to its second, Epic grew from 108 million registered users to 160 million, proving that there is space for a worthy adversary to Steam. That said, it’ll take a lot for the newcomer to take the throne. The monthly active user count in December 2020 clocked in at 56 million for Epic, which trembles in the shadow of Steam’s 120 million monthly active users, as of January 2021.
Players seek the exclusive next-gen experience in console gaming
Dominating headlines through two pre-order periods last autumn and an eventual November release was the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The name of the game for the Xbox creators, Microsoft, has been accessibility, with their Series X being joined by a significantly cheaper Xbox Series S – which offers a lesser step up from the last generation of consoles.
To say that the launch day strategy of the Sony and Microsoft consoles was different would be an understatement. Both advertised for months, hyping up the next generation of gaming to hyperbolic levels, but only one decided to deliver a new step in gaming at launch. The PS5 offered a new experience and launched with a stack of exclusive games for early adopters. The XSX|S ran the same experience as the last console and didn’t release with any new exclusive games.
Xbox fans had to wait for late January to play the Series X’s first exclusive, which was the horror game The Medium, but the console’s focus has turned to the subscription model. The ‘Netflix for video games,’ Xbox Game Pass, reportedly climbed to 18 million subscribers in 2021, with many paying the relatively low price to gain access to over 100 titles.
Regardless, the audience looking to buy into next-gen have sided with the PS5’s new experience en masse. Through the first six weeks of worldwide availability, the Sony hardware reportedly sold nearly 87 per cent more units than the Xbox duo of consoles. Also in the mix, though, is the ever-surging Nintendo Switch. Released in 2017, the hybrid console continues to sell very well thanks to its steady stream for exclusive releases.
In fact, since the next-gen consoles arrived, the Switch sold more than the Xbox Series X|S. Of course, supply issues have made the next-gen launch slower than perhaps it would have been, but Nintendo’s timeless exclusives like Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, and its daily-updated eShop library keep it relevant and popular. Still, to come, the Switch has enough upcoming exclusives to go toe-to-toe with the PS5 and continue to surpass the Xbox.
In the realms of PC gaming, it’s the most player-friendly platforms with the most extensive game libraries that can compete at the top. In console gaming, it’s those exclusive, must-play titles that shift the hardware.