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Despite only really getting a foothold in the homes of some developed markets in the 1980s, gaming now stands as one of the largest global entertainment industries in the world. Rather quietly breezing past music and movies over the course of the last decade, the scene has expanded to such an extent that the range of software and hardware available makes it an incredibly accessible and immersive way to have fun.

Speaking generally, the first thoughts that come to mind when the topic of gaming is brought up are those of people on massive multiplayer PC games or players with a controller and home console rigged to a TV screen. While this line of the somewhat traditional gaming is still very popular and growing, it’s the two newer extremes of gaming that are growing rapidly among the masses and in the revenues column.

On the one side, you have hyper-casual gaming which, despite being mostly free to start, stands as one of the single largest contributors to global gaming revenue. At the other end, it’s all about those players and organizations who strive to be the best, with the eSports scene growing to rival that of some traditional sports. Given the rate at which these two extremes of gaming are growing, it might not be long before the mainstream deems them the norm in entertainment circles.

The lucrative free form of hyper-casual gaming

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For an industry that heavily publicizes the latest and most expensive feats in development, be it hardware or software, it may come as a surprise that the largest contributor to revenues is free gaming. The games are often considered to be light in form, lacking expansive gameplay or features, and yet, because they’re so easy to play, they’ve become very appealing. The key to these games is their accessibility. They’re filled with bright colors, gratifying noises, and a sense of progress that stimulates endorphins.

The 2020 global games market saw tremendous year-on-year growth across all but one platform – browser PC – but once again, mobile grew the most and continues to contribute the largest portion of total market revenues. Mobile is the home of hyper-casual games, with the vast majority of the $86 billion generated last year coming from the freemium model (free to start with micro-transactions therein).

In the UK, each of the top 20 highest-grossing games, at the time of writing, were free to play, with the 21st in the ranking being the wildly popular, but premium, Minecraft. In the larger US market, free-to-play games occupy the first 23 slots of the top-grossing list, with the streak again being snapped by Minecraft in 24th.

In both markets, it’s freemium titles like Candy Crush Saga and Coin Master that rule the roost. A similar phenomenon can be found in the iGaming sector. Used to a pay-to-play set-up, online casino players can choose between thousands of slot titles but be usually unable to try before they buy, so to speak. However, has pulled in over 10,000 slot games to play for free. The platform now sees over one million visitors per month as it offers a casual way to play well-known titles like Book of Dead, Gonzo’s Quest, and Starburst.

The increasingly popular pastime of watching other game

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The long-ignored potential of an organized competitive scene for gaming continues to capture the headlines, with eSports proving its stability and popularity in 2020. Across the world, there are even gaming centers and fully-fledged live arenas being erected regularly, as shown in Milwaukee, here at This commitment to staging major events isn’t a shot in the dark, either, with revenues continuing to grow for eSports.

In 2018, the industry had already exceeded the $750 million milestones, but in 2020, it geared up once again, growing by 15.7 percent year on year to eclipse $1.1 billion. Now, analysts have eSports pegged as a $1.5 billion industry by 2023. Alongside its tremendous growth as an industry, its biggest events have seen the prize pools grow exponentially. DOTA 2’s The International is a notorious prize pool behemoth, which climbed to a record-obliterating $33.3 million for its 2019 edition.

Of course, the talent on show, the players’ charisma, and the quality of competition allowed by the leading eSports titles – such as DOTA 2, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – are crucial elements. But the key to success all comes down to viewership. In November 2020 alone, it was found that over 16 million hours of DOTA 2 eSports footage were watched on Twitch, with a further 13.7 million hours being viewed of CS:GO. Over on YouTube – a platform which has ramped up its eSports efforts – 100 billion hours of gaming content were watched last year.

Hyper-casual gaming will continue to surge in 2021, with new quirky themes in the vein of Spaghetti Arms expected to emerge. At the other end of the spectrum, updated eSports titles such as Melee or League of Legend: Wild Rift are set to make the genre even more popular and mainstream.