How Gaming Changed in the 2010s

2:10 PM 12/23/2019

by Trilby Beresford

From the meteoric growth of Twitch and mega moves in esports, to the ease of on-the-go gaming with Nintendo Switch and rise of cloud gaming subscriptions, the video game industry has many reasons to show off their success.

Gaming Split - Getty - H 2019
Getty Images (4)

The last 10 years have brought the video game industry, now some 50 years old, to the forefront like never before with the launch of software that makes gaming more accessible and portable, such as the Nintendo Switch console and the introduction of live-streaming platforms like Twitch and Microsoft's Mixer, as well as gaming subscriptions like Apple Arcade and Xbox Game Pass becoming the norm. And, of course, the swift rise of professional streamers in the esports industry.

At The Game Awards earlier this month, ex-Nintendo chief Reggie Fils-Aimé predicted advances to come. "As the technology evolves to be cloud, and as download speeds increase, what it means is you're going to be able to play any game on any device at any time," he said. 

As we prepare to wave goodbye to the last decade and stumble into a brand-new abyss, The Hollywood Reporter revisits some of the gaming trends that have changed and defined the last decade. 

  • Introduction of Twitch

    Some may have forgotten that the live-streaming service — now synonymous with esports —  launched in June 2011 as a spinoff of the single-channel video broadcast website, which was co-founded by entrepreneur Justin Kan in 2005. The reality show concept of the channel, set up like a Big Brother window into someone's webcam-documented life, listened to feedback from users and morphed into a site where people could create their own video streams, which turned out to be hugely popular. Twitch became known as the place for video games like the battle royale shooter Fortnite, the multiplayer strategy game League of Legends and the block-building adventure MInecraft to be competitively streamed live. The platform, which Amazon bought for $1 billion in 2015, routinely welcomes more than 15 million daily active users and has spawned five annual Twitchcon fan conventions so far that may soon rival ComicCon. 

  • Launch of Nintendo Switch

    First released in 2017, the Switch console has been a game-changer. With its ability to perform as a portable handheld device, as well as a permanent home gaming console, sales have maintained high numbers. Since its debut, the Switch has sold over 40 million units worldwide and over 17.5 million units in the Americas. In July, the Japanese gaming company introduced the Switch Lite, a cheaper, lighter version of the console dedicated entirely to handheld gaming — as the majority of players take their games on-the-go.

  • Gaming Subscriptions

    Xbox Game Pass, Apple Arcade, Google Stadia, Playstation Now, Twitch Prime and EA Access are just a handful of gaming subscriptions currently on offer, and the last couple of years have seen a steep increase in options. In reference to the cloud gaming service Stadia, Jack Buser, director of games at Google, told THR, "This is where you’ll see the next big jump in what games can be. You’ll never download a game or have to download an update. We’re already used to this in movies and TV, we just haven’t seen it in games yet. It’s tough to go back to console." With a roster of games across all genres, styles and aesthetics on each subscription platform, the idea of a 'Netflix for Gaming' model has arrived.

  • Rise of Esports

    Gone are the days when the term "esports" was only understood by those inside of that world. The competition is reaching more people by the day, with its visibility impacted by the presence of main players Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, who left Twitch for Microsoft's Mixer platform in August, and 16-year-old Fortnite megastar Kyle Giersdorf, who made worldwide headlines when he won $3 million in the Fortnite World Cup tournament in July. These days, top gamers can earn up to $15,000 an hour broadcasting gaming to their followers on platforms like Twitch. As a result, the competition to sign streamers has grown heated in recent months.

  • Narrative Games

    Something would be amiss if the leaps and bounds of narrative games weren't mentioned somewhere in this list. While story-based games have existed for 30 years, the last 10 have indicated a move toward the mainstream. From Annapurna Interactive's exploration into life, death and family secrets in What Remains of Edith Finch, to the strength of the relationships in Naughty Dog's The Last of Us, to the emotionally real mobile game Florence from Australian game studio Mountains, to the investigative quality of Sam Barlow's Her Story follow-up, Telling Lies, to the layered narrative, difficult themes and choose-your-own adventure quality of Life Is Strange; story-driven titles have earned their place in video games, offering an opposite — and often more sanguine — experience to the many playful shoot-em-ups and death-defying first-person shooter titles that dominate the industry.

  • Games as Star Vehicles

    John Wick star Keanu Reeves takes on the role of an outlaw in CD Projekt Red's highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, due out next year. The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus starred in Kojima Productions' Death Stranding, which racked up eight nominations at the recent Game Awards. Westworld's Angela Sarafyan stars in Sam Barlow's investigative game Telling Lies. As casting director Emily Schweber told THR, "Five or six years ago, I was explaining to every agent and manager why it was a great idea. But now, these scripts are so well written, it's not just [actors reading lines like] 'Get down!' — and that's also exciting to the actors."

  • Mobile Gaming

    While mobile games have been around since the early Nokia cellphones (Snake, anyone?), they really came into focus with the widespread availability of Wi-Fi in 2002 and the iOs App Store launch in 2007. The defining moment in the last decade for mobile games is the in-app purchase functionality introduced by Apple in 2009. Since then, mobile games have risen to meteoric proportions. Niantic Inc.'s location-based AR mobile game Pokemon Go hit $3 billion in lifetime revenue this year. Tencent Games' multiplayer PUBG Mobile passed 100 million downloads in the first four months of its life on App Store and Google Play. Mario Kart Tour scored Nintendo's biggest first-month mobile launch with 129.3 downloads in the first 30 days of release, generating over $37.4 million in player spending since September. That was toppled by Call of Duty Mobile, which gained 148 million downloads in its first month to become the second-most-successful mobile launch of all time. These are just a few of the titles and figures responsible for the market's steady rise of late, hitting its highest single-day record of $69.7 million in the U.S. on Black Friday last month —  the majority of revenue generated by the App store. Mobile games now make up 59 percent of the digital game market share. In October, video game company Zynga posted record revenue figures fueled by on-the-go content, with $328 million from its mobile games division, amounting to 95 percent of the company's total revenue. 

  • The Game Awards

    Established by video game journalist Geoff Keighley in 2014 as a reimagined version of the Spike Video Game Awards — which ended their run in 2013 — The Game Awards have steadily increased viewership to arrive at this year's 45 million live streams. "When I started the show, I said I wasn’t going to invest the money to do it unless I could get all the game companies to back it," Keighley told THR earlier this month. "They’ve all been with us since the beginning." The awards are presented at the Microsoft Theater and accompanied by live musical performances and numerous new game reveals, as well as a red carpet traversed by stars, video game veterans and esports elite. The awards themselves honor not only the best in video games, but recognize best content creator of the year, esports game, event, player, team, coach and host.