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Newzoo’s Games Trends to Watch in 2021

Inside Telecom Staff

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Newzoo’s Games Trends to Watch in 2021

As 2020 is finally drawing to a close, it’s time for us to turn the spotlight onto next year. In terms of trends, 2021 is shaping up to be a hugely positive year for the games market, which will start to return to normalcy after an exceptional growth period.

In the coming weeks, we’ll publish similar articles about the mobile and esports markets, but for now, let’s dive deep into the biggest games trends of next year.    

1. Engagement and Revenues Will Continue to Flourish (Even After the Pandemic Ends)

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly accelerated many trends in the games market, helping engagement spike across the globe. Of course, this engagement trickles into spending.

Even after the pandemic subsides, which we hope will be sooner rather than later, we forecast most of the additional engagement and revenues to stick. Gaming has etched itself in the habits of people during the lockdown, and the investments made to enjoy gaming will not be easily cast aside. However, the level of growth maintained throughout 2020 will not be replicated next year, given the unique circumstances during the year.

Per platform, PC and console gaming has a higher barrier to entry but therefore more sticking power. Mobile gaming saw the largest positive impact of the lockdowns, but the low barrier to entry to mobile gaming means the lowest barrier to exit as well. Retaining the influx of new and returning players in 2021 will be one of the key challenges for developers and publishers.

Our Global Games Market Report shows that in 2021, 2.8 billion gamers worldwide will help the global games market generate revenues of $189.3 billion. Emerging markets will drive much of these new revenues, as infrastructure and economies continue to grow across regions like Southeast Asia and Middle East & Northern Africa.

2. It Will Take Time for Next-Gen Console Supply to Catch up to Demand

Manufacturing, marketing, and launching new consoles is never an easy feat. But orchestrating these tasks during a pandemic—when supply chains are heavily disrupted—made things even more challenging for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S launches.

On the hardware side, the aftermath of these challenges will ripple into the beginning of 2021 and beyond, and it will take time for the supply of next-generation consoles to satiate the skyrocketing demand.

Software development will also continue to feel the impact of lockdowns. Many of the games that were delayed in 2020 were in post-production (meaning the lion’s share of the dev work was already done). Next year, we’ll likely see even more delays for AAA games that were earlier in development at the start of the outbreak.

On the upside, games like PlayStation’s Horizon Forbidden West, many third-party games, and almost all Xbox first-party games will be available on both generations (past and present). Therefore, console spend will remain high in 2021, mostly driven by:

  • The massive installed base of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One generation.
  • The ongoing transition to F2P spending on console
  • The strong performance of the Switch.
3. The Cloud Gaming Market, Having Proven its Value in 2020, Will Grow Its Audience in 2021

This year marked a key inflection point for the cloud gaming market, with most of the major players (including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Tencent) having launched their respective services. Furthermore, stay-at-home orders sped up the adoption of cloud gaming globally, with consumers finding themselves with more time to invest in gaming.

In the West, workarounds to App Store challenges mean cloud gaming apps are finally making their way to iOS (via a web app) and other platforms. Stadia already has an iOS Safari-based app that reportedly works well. Meanwhile, xCloud’s app is due for release on PC and iOS in the spring, and Xbox Boss Phil Spencer has already hinted at smart-TV compatibility.

To that end, yearly cloud gaming revenues will exceed $1 billion for the first time next year, and its serviceable obtainable market (SOM) will spike. Want to learn more? Stay tuned for our Global Cloud Gaming Report update and content next year!

Cloud gaming’s use cases—which we highlighted in our 2020 report—are now becoming more visible. Game developers have been using services like Stadia and Parsec for QA (Cyberpunk 2077), demoing games to the public (Immortals Fenyx Rising via Stadia), and more. This trend will accelerate into 2021.

Next to that, Cyberpunk 2077’s launch has underlined one of cloud gaming’s biggest use cases: high-fidelity experiences without the need for expensive hardware. The Stadia version of the game features hardware-taxing features like ray tracing and DLSS—all while removing the barrier of expensive hardware.

Cyberpunk 2077’s reviews on previous-gen consoles were negatively impacted by a worse-than-expected technical performance, Therefore, cloud gaming services such as Stadia and GeForce Now stood out as one of the best ways for gamers to instantly experience optimized graphics.

4. The Rise of Gaming-as-a-Platform And Metaverse Development Will Expand the Addressable Market for Publishers

Virtual and social spaces have been a growing trend in gaming for over a decade now. However, owing to the lack of physical gatherings this year, the use of games as a “metaverse” has accelerated. The interest in using games as a platform for hosting simulated activities will be one of the most impactful trends for the coming years.

Game worlds can now closely simulate experiences such as fashion shows, music performances, movie viewings, and more. Notable examples include:

  • Lil Nas X’s performance in Roblox.
  • Travis Scott’s and other music performances in Fortnite.
  • Marriages, graduation ceremonies, and even funerals taking place in Animal Crossing.
  • Countless brand, media, and content crossovers in these shared spaces. 

Despite taking place within games, these fundamentally non-gaming experiences have the potential to draw in non-gamers into the games space, growing the userbase for publishers.

The value of such collaborations is beginning to show itself—for publishers, artists, and brands alike. Travis Scott, for example, reportedly grossed roughly $20 million for his Fortnite concert appearance.

So far, over 140 million people watched the Travis Scott concert on YouTube, compared to approximately 12 million who participated in-game, demonstrating both the growth potential and demand for such content.

Even beyond the pandemic, we will likely see brands across numerous sectors experimenting in the space. These digital events will complement their real-world counterparts (and vice-versa).

Video games are ripe with engagement—especially with younger audiences, so we expect to see this trend continue, particularly as traditional ad spend is in flux.

5. Gaming Will Energize Efforts Towards Reducing Toxicity and Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

Games such as The Last of Us Part 2, Apex Legends, and Tell Me Why are prime examples of diversity in games, and more titles than ever before now feature accessibility options, boosted by releases like the Xbox Adaptive Controller and organizations like AbleGamers and SpecialEffect.

Online platforms and ecosystems are also striving to make their social hubs more wholesome and less toxic. To that end, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo recently announced a collaboration committed to safer and more responsible gaming and kerbing toxicity.

Another example from this year came from Riot Games, which formally invested in tackling toxicity in 2020 release Valorant, after its own developers reported incidents of harassment. Companies’ efforts over the past few years are certainly to be commended, but we still have a long way to go.

This year also saw the games industry face a “me-too” wave of allegations of abuse and sexual harassment. In combination with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the attention on social issues will drive the industry to prioritize diversity and inclusion efforts in 2021.

Our recent Diversity & Inclusion Study, which is already helping many top publishers identify opportunities to make games more inclusive, shows that around half of players in the U.S. and the U.K want more diverse characters in games. Many also want publishers to take a stance on societal issues.

With game communities continuing to grow around new forms of engagement, the responsibilities of game IP owners have become even more complicated, leading many companies to create internal positions and even teams dedicated to diversity and inclusion.

We will begin feeling the impact of these initiatives more next year, and we’re excited to see the resulting game experiences for ourselves next year.

One thing is for sure: the next few years are due to disrupt the market as we know it, thanks to the release of the next-generation consoles, cloud gaming bringing about new business models, and games—from AAA big-budget to hypercasual experiences—experimenting with social features.

This article has been written by Amsterdam-based Games Market Insight firm Newzoo, detailing the gaming trends that will shape the year to come.

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South Africa bars WhatsApp from sharing private user data with Facebook

Yehia El Amine

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private user data

South Africa’s Information Regulator (IR) barred Facebook Inc. from sharing any information it collects from WhatsApp users in the country without prior authorization from the regulator, Reuters reported on Thursday.

“WhatsApp cannot, without obtaining prior authorization from the IR, process any contact information of its users for a purpose other than the one for which the number was specifically intended at collection, with the aim of linking that information jointly with information processed by other Facebook companies,” the regulator said.

The regulator added that its decision was in accordance with section 57 of the Protection of Personal Information Act, South Africa’s data protection law. The agency also said that it has written to Facebook South Africa outlining its concerns regarding its privacy policy.

The IR is also “very concerned” that citizens of the EU will receive significantly higher privacy protection than people in South Africa and Africa generally.

“Our legislation is very similar to that of the EU. It was based on that model deliberately, as it provides a significantly better model for the protection of personal information than that in other jurisdictions,” Chairperson of the IR Pansy Tlakula said.

“We do not understand why Facebook has adopted this differentiation between Europe and Africa,” she said.

According to Reuters, WhatsApp is currently reviewing the regulator’s letter while downplaying the privacy update, suggesting that it “does not expand the company’s ability to share data with Facebook, or affect the privacy of users’ messages with friends or family.”

Earlier in January, the popular instant messaging app announced a change in its privacy terms and conditions that would allow parent company, Facebook, to collect users’ data from the app such as their phone number, email address, contacts, location, device ID, user ID, advertising data, purchase history, product interaction, payment info, crash, performance, and other diagnostic data, customer support, and metadata.

However, after a hailstorm of controversy, WhatsApp pushed back the update till May 15 to allow users ample time to review the new conditions. The controversy spread worldwide, as many users began to migrate to rival alternative messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram.

Mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower said last week that Signal saw 17.8 million app downloads on Apple and Google during the week of Jan. 5 to Jan. 12. Representing a 61-fold increase from just 285,000 the previous week.

Telegram, an already-popular messaging app for people around the world, saw 15.7 million downloads in the Jan. 5 to Jan. 12 period, roughly twice the 7.6 million downloads it experienced the previous week.

South Africa joins the line of countries expressing concern over the use of private user data, such as India – a key market for WhatsApp – who asked the company to withdraw the new update from the country.

In parallel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan completely dropped the app as a presidential communication tool in favor of homegrown instant messaging app BiP.

Many Turkish citizens also called for the boycott of the app on Twitter, using the hashtag #DeletingWhatsApp.

Even the head of the Turkish Presidential Digital Transformation Office, Ali Taha Koc, took to Twitter to voice his criticism over the instant messaging app’s privacy policy, and the exemption from the new data-sharing rules for users in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

It is worth mentioning that the sudden worldwide flare up against WhatsApp could be attributed to a deeply rooted problem of trust, or lack thereof.

Facebook has a notorious track record when it comes to digital privacy, to the extent of which its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has frequently testified in front of the U.S. Congress and EU Parliament for that matter.

While the company has clarified time and again that the update will not affect users when talking to friends and family, many refuse to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt.

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Soul App provides a glimpse into a wave of AI-powered social networking

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Of the various social networking apps that have made it easier to stay connected amid the pandemic, one of the social platforms that stands out is Soul App; a Shanghai-based application has recently come to North America, Japan, and South Korea.

The latest trend, such the fast-growing Clubhouse app highlights an emerging social media trend featuring technology-driven social platforms. Yet it still uses the basic model as Facebook, which involves circles of friends, with the distinction that Clubhouse requires only an invitation from an existing member to join the Club.

A social platform that is a little bit different is veteran, Soul App, launched in 2016 which would make it something of an antique, but for the fact it kept its backroom tech updated with Artificial Intelligence (AI) matching of members.

SOUL has benefited from the technological tide of the increasingly matured tech of big data and AI, a trend that helps transform social networking products.

“At a time when Internet-based technologies have penetrated every nook and cranny of life – and social life in particular – nearly 90 percent of Gen Z surveyed want to expand the ways they socialize,” SOUL said in a statement.

This was highlighted in Soul’s Generation Z’s Social Life Report.

SOUL noted that “most social networks fail to move away from the traditional model centered on pre-existing social circles putting younger users under social pressure who would otherwise express themselves freely and honestly.”

Albeit, with slow growth, the AI-powered social networking app has become quite popular, with more than 100 million registered users, and more than 30 million monthly active users, making it the top five most downloaded free social networking apps on the China App Store.

Unlike Chinese dating apps competitors Momo and Tantan, SOUL offers an alternative to superficial swipe culture. By taking profile pictures out of the equation, the Chinese dating app helps its Gen Z users find matches based on common interests, Jing Daily reported.

The AI-powered social networking platform offers users an “explore” feature to post personal statuses and to browse through other people’s posts. The simplicity of the platform’s interface is the main reason for its popularity. Additionally, the application has become a social media hub based on an algorithm-based recommendation system. 

The speedy algorithm-enabled interaction models cater to young people’s social needs. As the younger generation falls into the habit of spending fragmented, sporadic time online, their desire to seek a lifelong friend has been replaced by the pursuit of temporary, but equally meaningful, companionship. 

SOUL also uses a decentralized content distribution mechanism that balances popularity and matching influences, so that everyone’s contents can be fairly viewed and shared with reduced interference on traffic distribution for users and their posts.

On SOUL, users can tag their posted contents to define their topics of interested and enable their contents to reach others with the same interests and hobbies, including music, literature, history, movies and games, according to the company.

Users can strike up a conversation about shared interests or play online games as a team. In this regard, SOUL capitalizes on its accurate and efficient recommendation system to build a “wonderland” of freedom, openness, and enjoyment as a path for its users to have pleasant companionship 24/7, which betrays the core secret of Soul app’s exponential growth.

“The app’s algorithm-enabled friend recommendation system Planet and personalized content feeds allow users to spot someone after their own hearts,” SOUL said in a statement.

Specifically, Soulers can tap their Planet to make matches and interact directly with their friends through various features including Audio Call and Soul Cam.

There is no swiping left or right as is familiar the world over with user of such dating apps as Tinder, instead users look for comonality.

“They can  find potential like-minded friends as they scroll through intriguing posts made by others, where shared interests lead to blossoming friendships,” SOUL said.

Predictably, amid the deeper integration of new technologies and social networking services, stress-free and interest-based social networks represented by the Soul app are set to play an ever-important role down the road.

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New device to help protect athletes from traumatic brain injury

Karim Hussami

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traumatic brain injury

A new device that could help reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury during head impacts was given approval this week by the Food and Drug Administration. The device is authorized for athletes 13 and older, and can be used during football, soccer and other high-impact sports.

The device is intended to protect athletes from sub concussive injuries, by protecting the internal jugular veins, thereby increasing the volume of blood to vessels of the skull.

The additional blood restricts the movement of the brain inside the skull. As the brain moves less, it may be protected from the negative effects of the “slosh” movement that occurs in unprotected athletes who suffer heavy impacts to the head.

The C-shaped device, called the Q-Collar, fits around the back and side of the neck. It works by clamping compressive protection on blood vessels in the neck.

A CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) analysis found 2 million children visited emergency departments because of TBI sustained during sports and recreation activities from 2010 to 2016.

TBI can have emotional, physiological and cognitive effects, while negative health outcomes can stem from sub concussive injuries that alter tissue but do not cause diagnosed concussion.

The researchers used advanced imaging techniques to look at changes in the brains of nearly 300 study participants before and after the season. They found changes in deep structures of the brain in 73 percent of participants in the no-collar group, while no significant changes in these same structures were found in 77 percent of participants in the collar group.

Carolina Panthers’ Linebacker Luke Kuechly, who retired at 28 after suffering a series of head injuries, was seen wearing the Q-Collar in his final seasons with the NFL.

“Today’s action provides an additional piece of protective equipment athletes can wear when playing sports to help protect their brains from the effects of repetitive head impacts while still wearing the personal protective equipment associated with the sport,” said Dr. Christopher M. Loftus, acting director of the Office of Neurological and Physical Medicine Devices in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

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