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Why demand for cross-platform multiplayer games is growing – 2021

November 17, 2021 in Games | 11 min. read
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Gaming gear (headphones, controller, keyboard, mouse)

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Multiplayer gaming is bigger than ever and with that growth has come a longing for greater cross-platform accessibility. Unity has partnered with The Harris Poll to bring you insight on the rising demand for games that are easier to play with friends. 

Multiplayer games are part of everyday life for millions of people around the world. Being able to connect with or make new friends is a powerful contributor to the huge and enduring popularity of online gaming.

The kinds of experiences and moments you can create with friends in multiplayer games creates an unmatched sense of fun and community. This could explains why 43% of cross-platform gamers express that they want more cross-platform game options - because people want to unlock these experiences with friends who play on different platforms. 

At Unity we want to make sure that developers of all kinds have access to the information they need to make informed decisions on where to focus their resources when building games.

This report is the second part of a survey, commissioned by Unity and conducted online by The Harris Poll among over 2,000 U.S. adults, released earlier in the year on disruptive behavior in multiplayer games and is part of our initiative to keep multiplayer experiences fun and accessible for all, alongside all the work we do to ensure our solutions are cross-platform ready.

[Get the full report]

Is now the time to focus on crossplay?

Unity’s 2021 gaming report discovered that there was a 38% increase in people playing HD games, a 28% increase in people playing mobile games, and a 52% shift in the difference between weekend and weekday gaming, in weekday gaming’s favor.

At the end of the 2021 gaming report, we predicted that cross-platform between mobile and HD would be the future of multiplayer games and that new habits around gaming regularity and playing online with friends would be formed by those who had adopted gaming during the pandemic. 

We’re pleased to say that the results of our latest survey reinforce some of these ideas, and want to run you through the key points of the findings. 

1. Over half (56%) of all Americans played multiplayer games in the past year and a significant majority (87%) of those gamers have played cross-platform games.

Gaming as a whole has seen record-breaking levels of engagement this past year with multiplayer games specifically seeing massive engagement. The top types of multiplayer games played among multiplayer gamers were puzzle (52%) shooter (51%) and sports (31%). 

Although it’s unsurprising to see that younger adults (ages 18-44) are more likely than older adults (ages 45+) to be multiplayer gamers (82% vs. 34%), it’s important to highlight that there is still a very significant proportion of those in the age 45+ bracket (over a third) who are multiplayer gamers.

2. 87% of multiplayer gamers have played cross-platform games in the past year, and they are seeking out more cross-platform games to play. 43% of cross-platform gamers express that they want more cross-platform game options.

Gamers want to play on their terms – they want to play games, with one another, on any platform, with as little friction as possible and they want more games that can deliver this experience. Below, we can see the demand for cross-platform games outstrips that of platform-specific games in most genres. 

In fact, more than half of cross-platform gamers (51%) would like to see more cross-platform shooter games being made. Just over two in five cross-platform gamers (41%) would like to see more cross-platform puzzle games, and 31% would like to see more battle royale cross-platform games being made.

On average, cross-platform gamers have played 4.1 cross-platform titles in the past year, with over a third (38%) having played four or more. 

3. Among cross-platform gamers, more than 2 in 5 (44%) play on both mobile and console and more than 1 in 4 (29%) play on mobile and not console. 

Mobile can’t be an afterthought when it comes to cross-platform. The divide between mobile and console gaming has blurred as mobile shows to be a critical platform to support with its popularity amongst crossplay gamers. 

Historically the line separating console games and mobile games was clear and distinct, but mobile is proving to be an extremely critical platform to include for cross-platform experiences. 

With advances in the mobile hardware available reducing the gulf in technical limitations, as well as huge growth in mobile gaming as a default in key growth markets around the world, mobile is a critical element to cross-platform success.  

Playing for keeps

Crossplay gaming is here to stay. As a feature that the gaming world has been crying out for starts to see successful implementation in top titles, the possibility of going back to being siloed from your friends based on what platform you choose will no longer be an option. 

Developers ensuring that their games are cross-platform are reaping the rewards of increased appeal to highly engaged player bases, with many hit titles making it a table-stakes feature. Connecting PC, consoles, and mobile gamers was likely a secret strength for many of the top multiplayer games of the year. 

Scalable cross-platform third party solutions have become critical to the success of multiplayer games going forward, but making sure you can deliver this kind of connectivity for your games isn’t something you’ll need to be responsible for doing entirely on your own.

The backend services that developers choose to buy instead of build need to commit to delivering solutions that put cross-platform at the forefront of their thinking and product roadmap.

Creating crossplay Unity

Unity delivers battle-tested solutions to help developers connect gaming communities across all platforms.

  • Get players online and connected – fast. Multiplay, Unity’s engine agnostic game server hosting and scalable matchmaking platform enables creators to deliver the best experience to gamers, wherever they are and on whatever platform they’re playing, without having to build and maintain their own infrastructure.

  • Match the right players across all platforms quickly and at scale – currently in closed beta, Matchmaker provides configurable match logic with out-of-the-box integration with Multiplay to make matchmaking simple. The solution is flexible, dynamic, and scalable, allowing developers to match the right players, in the right place, and at the right time.

  • Equip players with feature-rich ways to safely and effectively communicate with one another. Vivox, one of the most popular and feature-rich comms technology in the gaming industry, makes it easy to integrate and manage voice chat into your game, across all platforms, helping you drive engagement in multiplayer experiences.

  • Enable peer-to-peer game connections across distances and platforms in a cost-effective manner with our new Relay service, now in open beta. Relay allows you to connect your players and provide great multiplayer gaming experiences without the need for a dedicated game server. 

  • Empower players to play together on any platform with our new Lobby service – now in open beta. Lobbyᴮᴱᵀᴬ allows your players to create public lobbies using simple game attributes which other players can then search, discover, and join. Invite-only lobbies also allow players to create private spaces for select participants only.

  • Build a reliable foundation for your next cross-platform multiplayer hit with Unity’s Netcode for GameObjects. We’re evolving our netcode solution in the open to deliver a netcode foundation that you can depend on – customizable and extensible to meet the needs of your next multiplayer project.

Survey Method:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Unity Technologies from June 21-23, 2021 among 2,076 adults ages 18+, among whom 1,167 are multiplayer gamers (i.e., have played multiplayer games in the past year), and 1,010 are cross-platform gamers (i.e., have played cross-platform videos games in the past year). This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

[Get the full report]  

November 17, 2021 in Games | 11 min. read

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