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How & Why People Engaged With Games During the Pandemic

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How & Why People Engaged With Games During the Pandemic

Since the previous round of research, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated gaming trends already in motion, leading to an expanded gaming audience and through-the-roof engagement.

To that end, our data shows that over half of gamers in North America and Western Europe spent more time gaming since the pandemic began. Will that engagement continue after the pandemic?

We recently published that games market revenues will decline slightly this year, owing to people enjoying renewed freedom (and spending more disposable income on non-gaming activities). However, we think that the trend of using games as social spaces is here to stay.

In this article, we’ll explore how and why people played games during the pandemic, zooming in on engagement beyond playing alone. We’ll mainly focus on gamers in North America and Western Europe, and we’ll cover other markets in upcoming articles and infographics.

From Partying to Partying-Up: Is Gaming the New Clubbing for Younger People? 

COVID-19-related restrictions and lockdowns have had a colossal impact on people’s lives. In many cases, gaming has replaced in-person socializing for players.

As we touched on earlier, 51 percent of gamers in Western Europe and North America reported spending more time playing games since COVID-19 began. While some of this engagement will drop once the world opens up again, many (new) gamers will continue engaging after the pandemic.

Our data also shows a clear connection between age and increased time spend playing games in these regions. As you can see in the image below, the younger the age group, the higher the likelihood of playing more:

We also asked gamers about the reasons why they play games. A third of 10-20-year-olds cite socializing as a major reason for playing.

The group is also more likely to cite competing and improving skills as major factors. Meanwhile, older age groups are likelier to value relaxing experiences:

Given the above, it’s unsurprising that online multiplayer modes are more popular among younger gamers across the two regions.  According to our Consumer Insights, almost half of gamers aged between 10 and 35 claim they play online multiplayer modes most vs. 36 percent of those aged between 36 and 50. 

Game-Related Engagement Goes Beyond Playing Games

We’ve long been proponents of gaming engagement beyond playing, like viewing and owning hardware, here at Newzoo. The popularity of live viewership shouldn’t be understated. By the end of this year, the games live-streaming and esports audiences will hit 728.8 million and 474.0 million, respectively.

But there’s more to gaming fandom than just playing games, viewing live streams, and owning peripherals. To reflect this, 2021’s Consumer Insights saw us putting more emphasis on other types of engagement.

We’ve established that gaming is an inherently social affair. Not only do many gamers play titles and watch their favorite creators live on sites like Twitch and YouTube; many also:

  • Read, watch, and listen to industry news and developments via websites, apps, and podcasts.
  • Actively contribute to discussions on Reddit, Discord, ResetEra, and other communities. 
  • And discuss developments with friends, family, and peers (virtually and in person).

More gamers than you might think engage in such behavior—even the more casual personas. According to our 2021 Consumer Insights:

  • In the past six months, 80 percent of gamers in North America and Western Europe talked about games with peers.
  • 61 percent engaged with gaming communities. 
  • And 60 percent visited gaming websites/blogs/listened to podcasts.  

For some gamers, community engagement can even matter more than playing. That’s why we’re excited to announce our brand-new gamer persona, the Community Gamer.

Introducing the Community Gamer, Part of Newzoo’s Gamer Segmentation.

The Community Gamer is the ninth and newest persona in Newzoo’s Gamer Segmentation. The clue’s in the name: for this group, it’s all about the community.

The above image shows that, based on 33 markets, 10 percent of all game enthusiasts are Community Gamers, and social engagement and viewing are more important to this persona than playing.

Community Gamers also skew male, have an average age of around 29, and are likely to enjoy value non-competitive elements of games more, such as strong narratives and stories, exploration and open worlds, and specific themes.

The unique ways Community Gamers engage with games also means the ways brands and publishers can reach them are also unique.

Our Consumer Insights boasts plenty of insights into the social platforms these players can be found, the type of games they play most, demographics, and much more. 

This uniqueness may be important, as this group drives online conversations by nature, making Community Gamers inherently influential on the online narrative around games, game-related brand promotions, and more.

This group, and many others, has been engaging with games even more throughout the pandemic, and our stance is that the trend of using games as social spaces will stick. Gaming was always massive, but now it’s even bigger. It’s bigger than movies, and is a true entertainment innovator.

Thanks to the burgeoning metaverse trend, social aspects of games will play an even more vital role going forward, and the community is at the heart of it all.

This article has been written by Amsterdam-based games and esports data company Newzoo, outlining the state of the global games market during 2021, and beyond.

We’re a diverse group of industry professionals from all corners of the world. Our desire is to provide a high-quality telecoms publication that caters to an international market, offering the latest and most relevant telecoms information to businesses, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

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The 19th century called, it wants its phone system back

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The future of telephony lies in VoIP

Recent Ofcom data found that if business landline numbers continue to drop at their current rate, they will be all but extinct within just six years. But would this be a bad thing? The landline has enabled connectivity from 1876, so is it time for an upgrade? Here, Douglas Mulvihill, UK marketing manager at business phone system provider Ringover, explains why businesses should move on from the landline.

Landlines have been an office staple for decades, enabling communication, customer service and collaboration. However, as technology has evolved, more efficient tools have been created that help businesses to do everything that the landline offers, but in a more streamlined way.

The decline of the landline

The landline’s lifespan has been cut short by the announcement of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) switch off. The PSTN has formed a large part of the UK’s telephony infrastructure since its creation, but the rise in popularity of digital solutions has led BT to the decision to permanently switch it off from December 2025.

This means the businesses need to start thinking about what the future of their telephony system is going to look like, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), is taking centre stage as the landline’s successor. VoIP phone systems have all the features of traditional landlines with the addition of some modern upgrades.

VoIP telephony transmits calls over the Internet, rather than phone lines, for almost instantaneous connectivity. By using the internet, it completely removes the reliance on the soon-to-be obsolete PSTN. But why is VoIP the future of business communications?

Ready for anything

VoIP phone systems don’t require any additional physical components beside the device, meaning the entire system is accessible from a mobile or browser application. No time is wasted on infrastructure installation and businesses can deploy their system rapidly, such as when onboarding new employees.

A survey from the British Chambers of Commerce revealed that 66 percent of UK businesses are looking to retain some element of remote working in the aftermath of the pandemic. So, an employee’s communication setup needs to be flexible to enable remote task completion without any limitations.

In this progressive working model, a landline is not a viable option for remote work. Employees need to be able to take calls from wherever they are working. Yes, the IT department could provision and reallocate numbers and install physical phonelines in employees’ homes, but when there is an entirely digital option, this is unnecessarily complex.

Globetrotting… from your desk

A common challenge for companies with a global footprint is how to make calls cost-effectively. Making international calls from a landline typically results in astronomical charges, but VoIP offers the capability at a fraction of the price.

VoIP enables businesses to use virtual phone numbers, which, unlike traditional phone numbers, aren’t tied to a physical device. Businesses can give the appearance of being locally present in several countries from one system without actually having a base in any of them.

For businesses working across multiple time zones, automated smart routing ensures calls are diverted to employees working at the time of the call, in the relevant language and with the skillset to handle the query.

Giving the appearance of a local presence is also beneficial to business growth. When sales prospecting, using a local number suggests a degree of proximity, improving pickup rates and, by extension, sales leads.

Work-life balance enabler

How do landline-based employees answer calls when away from their desk? They may be able to set a voicemail to direct people to their mobile, but does this approach promote a healthy work-life balance? The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Good Work Index 2021 revealed that 56 percent of workers struggle to separate work from home life, so surely there’s a better solution?

While VoIP systems are accessible from an employee’s own device, they use a different phone number, creating a physical distinction between professional and personal life. However, this doesn’t mean that calls should go unanswered if one person is out of office.

VoIP enables group routing, where incoming calls are directed to relevant employees if the recipient is not available. It is possible to create groups according to expertise, working hours or language competencies. Calls are cascaded down these groups until an available employee answers, maintaining high-quality service without putting employees under pressure to be available 24/7.

The landline has served us well, but with dramatic changes to working practices and the looming PSTN switch off, it’s time for an upgrade. With a VoIP phone system, employees benefit from all the features of the landline, but with a modern zing, facilitating international, balanced work for the future. 19th century? You can have your landline back.

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Almost 4 Billion Smartphone Users, $90.7 Billion in Mobile Game Revenues, and much more

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The mobile ecosystem is changing. Mobile developers build much of their success on data-driven insight, enabled through smart tracking and targeting of users. Stringent (privacy-based) policies from Apple, Google, and regulators have created new challenges for developers, publishers, ad tech companies, and marketers. Despite these challenges, the mobile market—and the games market within it—is more extensive, lucrative, and diverse than ever before.

The total number of smartphone users will reach 3.9 billion worldwide in 2021, representing modest year-on-year growth of +6.1 percent.

Meanwhile, global mobile game revenues via consumer spending will grow to $90.7 billion, a year- on-year growth of +4.4 percent. While growth will continue, mobile companies have been forced to shift their strategies amid the changing market (due to tightening privacy measures across the board).

During this crossroads of the mobile ecosystem, we and our partner Appopia are proud to publicly launch our 2021 Global Mobile Market Report. A key throughline of this year’s report is contextualizing and analyzing the impact of the market’s disruptive changes.

This article will present some high-level findings from the report, including:

  • An overview of the global mobile market by smartphone users and mobile game revenues (via consumer spending, excluding ad revenues).
  • A look at some of our revenue and user forecasts towards 2024.
  • A concise analysis of the privacy and app store changes rocking the market (and what they mean for mobile’s future).

Smartphone User Numbers Are on the Rise Across the Globe

The number of smartphone users worldwide is fast approaching the four-billion mark. As you can see below, the Asia-Pacific region accounts for over half of 2021’s smartphone users, primarily thanks to highly populated countries like China and India:

Due to growth regions like Central Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, the number of smartphone users worldwide will reach 4.5 billion by the end of 2024, a +6.1 percent CAGR (2019-2024). As always, this growth of users—and the mobile gamers among them—will trickle into game revenues.

Which App Store Accounts for the Most Mobile Game Revenues?

One of the most significant changes in this year’s Global Mobile Market Report is our revamped app- store-revenue model, which breaks down mobile game revenues per app store. Of 2021’s $90.7 billion global mobile game revenues:

  • $41.1 billion will come from the iOS platform (45.3 percent of the global number).
  • $28.2 billion from Google Play (31.1 percent).
  • $21.3 billion from third-party Android app stores (23.5 percent)—mainly via China, where Google Play is banned.

As you can see in the image below, the global mobile games market will generate $116.4 billion in 2024, representing significant growth from 2019:

In the future, we expect Google Play and third-party-store game revenues to outgrow those on iOS. After all, Android’s popularity is continuing to flourish across the globe. And users in Android- first growth markets are enjoying more disposable income, which some will spend on mobile games on their Android devices.

We believe that Apple’s and Google’s privacy changes will have a limited impact on consumer spending across app stores. Newzoo will keep monitoring the impacts and update the forecasts when necessary—as we always do.

Apple vs. Epic and Its Potential Impact on Mobile (Game) Payments

Last year, Epic chose to leverage its strong position in the games market to pressure Apple and Google (especially the former) into loosening app store restrictions. Epic sued both companies for monopolistic behavior.

The U.S. court unveiled the results for the Apple vs. Epic lawsuit earlier this month. The judge ultimately ruled in Apple’s favor on nine-out-of-ten counts, penalizing Apple (via an injunction) for its anti-steering App Store policies for in-app purchases.

These anti-steering policies, which Google also recently implemented, prohibit app sellers from advertising alternate payment systems outside the platform holder’s ecosystem. But what does this mean for the mobile (games) market?

The likely scenario is that developers will be allowed to charge less in external payment options for in-app purchases in the United States if Apple doesn’t appeal to the injunction:

  • Developers would not need to pay Apple’s 30 percent cut in this scenario, giving the developers the fuller share of revenues (if they have external payment options in place).
  • As developers would bypass the App Store, they may try to pass on savings to consumers, incentivizing them to use third-party payments (rather than Apple’s).
  • Apple could therefore lose a significant amount of its App Store revenues if external payments options don’t cause too much friction for consumers.
  • Still, it is costly for companies to build, maintain, and support a payment system that is safe and stable. Currently, only large developers can afford to build such systems in-house—or acquire the necessary tech via mergers and acquisitions.
  • Payments companies such as Stripe and PayPal, which can provide payment systems for small and mid-sized developers, could benefit here.

While you can learn the potential ripple effect of the judge’s ruling in the full report, we believe that Apple will be forced to open its mobile payment ecosystem across the globe, rather than juggling various policies across different markets.

To offset the potential revenue loss, Apple will continue diversifying its business, especially towards its advertising network. On that note, the mobile advertising ecosystem is also facing significant disruptions, and Apple is again at the center.

Privacy Changes Are Also Poised to Change the Mobile Market, But What Do They Mean for Gaming?

This year, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which requires users to opt in to be tracked, has been another major disruption to the mobile market.

ATT is part of iOS’s 14.5 update, which is significant as our Mobile Device Data shows that 85 percent of iOS users updated to iOS 14.5. And most users are not opting in to be tracked. According to Fyber, opt- in rates for ATT were just 17 percent globally as of mid-September.

To retain some of the tracking ability they had, mobile companies are turning into content fortresses, and companies—including Apple itself—are doubling down on internal ad networks.

Mobile game developers were already adopting hybrid monetization and IP-based-game strategies, and mobile privacy changes are only accelerating these shifts. Understanding the impact of these changes—and how consumers might react to them—means exploring mobile gamers’ motivations, attitudes around in-game ads, and IP preferences.

To help clarify the situation, we went straight to source to spotlight consumer sentiment across these topics, surveying 5,400 mobile gamers across China, the U.S., Germany, and Japan.

In the end, these challenges mean mobile developers and publishers must continue to adapt to offset potential revenue loss. Luckily, the market boasts some of the savviest and most innovative minds in gaming, tech, and indeed the world.

Mobile companies are already rising to the challenge of the new age of mobile, and we’re confident that their successes will continue into 2022 and beyond. We hope you’ll join us for the journey as we navigate the shifting waters of the mobile market together.

This article has been written by Amsterdam-based games and esports data company Newzoo, outlining the state of the global games market during 2021, and beyond.

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The Office: A remote working special

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The Office has been off air since 2013, but we can’t help but wonder how Dunder Mifflin employees would navigate present-day life. Would Michael spend more time switching up his Teams background, than managing his actual team? Would Angela turn up in a hazmat suit? And how would one of television’s most dysfunctional work families stay connected and keep sales alive while working remotely? Here, Douglas Mulvihill, UK marketing manager at Cloud communications software developer Ringover, explains how he’d keep Dunder Mifflin pushing paper.

The Office taught us many lessons about the importance of company culture — but not so much about how to effectively run a business. Fortunately for Dunder Mifflin, the team didn’t have to handle a pandemic. But could the chaos presented in TV hit be sustained in the new hybrid and remote era of working?

Remote working has become the new normal for companies across the UK, and it’s here to stay. The BBC reported that almost all 50 of the UK’s biggest employers said they do not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time, with many small and medium enterprises following suit.

Like an episode of The Office, introducing remote working during the pandemic was chaotic as many firms scrambled to get their communications infrastructure into place. Now, those wanting to adopt long term remote working require more sophisticated technologies to ensure its success.

Keeping things productive

The first challenge Dunder Mifflin — and any company adopting long-term remote working — faces is keeping staff productive. With employees dispersed, measuring productivity is no longer as straightforward, and businesses need tools in place to measure and track performance. For workers in sales roles, like those in call centres, tracking productivity wherever employees are based is key.

A fully integrated platform that analyses data allows businesses to monitor their key performance indicators (KPIs). For example, those operating call centres need to track metrics such as queue time, average call duration and the percentage of calls answered.

Using a dashboard to collect data will enable businesses to export reports about productivity that can be reviewed, organised, and acted on accordingly.So, if a remote team member is failing to get through to customers or make any sales, they can receive the necessary support.

The future is VoIP

Remote working is not the only challenge The Office would face in 2021. Ensuring an acceptable quantity of good work is one thing, but quality communication is also vital. The next biggest communication challenge to hit businesses is the switch off the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which will take place in December 2025.  

The switch off has been influenced by greater digitalisation of telephony, which goes hand-in-hand with remote and hybrid working. It’s also where Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) comes in. VoIP phone systems transmit voice calls over the Internet, rather than phone lines, which improves quality and responsiveness of phone calls, and reduces costs by up to 50 percent.

Traditional telephones rely on analogue lines to carry voice signals, which requires physical installation before calls can be placed. This is costly and time consuming — not to mention unfeasible for remote working.

Up in the Clouds

Supporting the transition to VoIP requires a Cloud-based communications system, such as a Cloud private branch exchange (PBX). Currently, PBXs connect internal phone extensions to the public telephone network, which won’t be possible after 2025. However, managing a VoIP system using a Cloud PBX eliminates the need to maintain a traditional on-premises PBX system so everything is handled digitally.

Switching to a Cloud-based business phone system, like the software that Ringover provides, doesn’t require downtime for installation and can be set up by any member of staff.

In addition, using the Cloud means a phone system can be accessed from anywhere in the world, allowing businesses to expand remote working internationally and add new lines without the need for new equipment.

If The Office was based in 2021, there’s a lot that Dunder Mifflin would have to do differently. However, with a fully integrated telephony system, Michael and the team could keep on selling paper — in between searching for novelty video backgrounds.

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