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Although video game prototypes were created by scientists as early as the 1950s, the very first gaming console was not introduced to consumers until the ‘70s. Subsequently, use of online games began to proliferate in the ‘90s as a result of widespread internet adoption. Nowadays, the industry is considered to be one of the fastest growing ones on the planet.
From tabletops to virtual reality, how we play games is changing with the times. This infographic from Visual Capitalist explores the humble beginnings of the online gaming market and dives into the technological possibilities driving its future.
In 1990, online gaming rapidly gained popularity due to the increasing availability of the internet. In 2003, digital storefront Steam launched, allowing gamers to buy and review games online, a key milestone given that the model presented by Steam at that time is one of the most adopted today.
One year later, in 2004, “World of Warcraft” was launched. This is the first massively multiplayer online (MMO) game to eclipse more than 10 million active subscriptions. That same year, “Counter Strike,” another online video game giant, definitely rose to fame when it released its 1.6 version, which continues to attract fans to this day.
In 2007, the booming of mobile phones generated that this trend also came to video games, which began to present attractive options for small screens. Two years later, Apple announced the in-app purchase feature for iPhone apps, another revolutionary tool that is really common these days.
Following the mobile trend, 2016 was a turning point from a technological point of view: the augmented reality game "Pokémon Go" was launched, which generated the highest amount of revenue collected by any mobile game in its first month and a worldwide fascination. People crowded the streets of cities all around the world in search of these fictional creatures.
Throughout these years, in addition, there were several online games that marked a before and after in the online gaming industry, such as "League of Legends" (released in 2009), “Minecraft” (2009), "Fortnite" (2017), and “Playerunknown's Battlegrounds” (2018), just to name a few.
In 2019, Google released Stadia, a cloud gaming service that allows gamers to play without a console. This was another revolutionary concept, as the platform is capable of streaming video games up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second with support for high-dynamic-range, to players via the company's numerous data centers across the globe, provided they are using a sufficiently high-speed internet connection.
Therefore, in just three decades, the videogames went from being just moving pixels to complex developments in an industry that shows no signs of slowing down. For the future, the mobile segment positions itself as the next big thing in the gaming business.
Although still a relatively new segment of the industry, mobile gaming has developed at an astonishing rate, with 2.4 billion people playing games on mobile in 2019. Part of this growth can be attributed to an innovative and seamless user experience which relies on engaging features such as in-app purchases and loyalty rewards.
With the 5G era just around the corner, these pocket-sized game consoles could transform online gaming, and make the industry even more exciting. Other concepts, such as virtual reality, cloud gaming, and real-time personalization are also set to shape the future and keep writing gaming’s history.