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Unity Gaming Report 2022: 5 insights on the gaming industry today

March 17, 2022 in Games | 7 min. read
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Discover new data-driven learnings that you can use to fuel your game’s success.

Over the past few years, games have brought us together, providing human connection in a time of distance and isolation.

While out-of-house entertainment was largely unavailable during the pandemic, the gaming industry stepped up to feed booming demand. 

This year’s report covers the most important trends of 2021 and makes some predictions for the coming year and beyond. It draws on original data to uncover how the games industry is changing.

Read on to learn about five insights on the state of the gaming industry today, to hone your strategy for making better games and running a stronger business.

There are more developers, and they are making more games.

The gaming industry has entered a new phase, with more games, more creators, and more players.

Graph showing publishing rates by percentage of total developers

The production slump of the pandemic’s early phase is now far behind us, as the numbers of both developers and games have grown throughout the industry. Based on the data in the chart shown above, we’ve observed that there were almost twice as many games made with Unity in 2021 than in 2020. What’s more, the number of creators using Unity increased by 31% in the last year.

The pandemic spike in game revenue is here to stay.

With fewer entertainment options over the last two years, players have spent more money on games than ever before.

Graph showing revenue growth from IAP from players in Americas and EMEA

In-app purchases (IAP), which measures the players’ spending within games, has increased significantly since 2020, as can be seen in the chart above. Throughout the pandemic, IAP revenues have been flat in China, Japan, and Korea, while IAP revenue rose in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa (EMEA), and Asia-Pacific (APAC).

While this data shows revenue growth that can be attributed to player activity, it also hints at the fact that the implementation of in-app purchases can be successful, as long as it does not disrupt player experience.

Graph showing ad revenue growth in Americas and EMEA

Ad revenue for mobile titles also grew as more players joined in. As the chart above shows, the increase in mobile ad revenue was almost entirely driven by the Americas, but there were also substantial increases in EMEA. 

Some developers may worry that ads push players out of their games, since people might follow ad links and not return to the game. But ads, especially those that offer in-game rewards, can actually raise user retention – a trend that has consistently been documented in Unity research.

Different genres of games are finding different audiences and monetization strategies, but casual games are leading the way.

Targeted monetization strategies can work for any game category, but this past year we observed more significant growth in genres like hyper-casual, casual, action, adventure, and sports games.

Chart showing revenue rates in various game genres

Although nearly all genres saw IAP and ad revenue grow during 2021, as this chart shows, total revenue growth was up the most in puzzle, card, adventure, casual, and hyper-casual games. Action, role-playing, and arcade game revenue grew the least.

Chart showing Ad vs. IAP revenue by game genre

Also, different genres make money in different ways. As shown in the chart above, in genres like hyper-casual and word games, ad revenue plays a significant role. In other categories of games, like RPGs, we’ve observed that in-app purchases drive revenue.

Developers are tearing down the walled gardens around platforms with an explosion in multiplatform reach.

With multiplatform development, game makers are tearing down the walled gardens that previously separated players on different devices.

Graph showing increase number of multiplatform game releases by year, per platform

The chart shows games with cross-platform functionality like multiplayer or persistent accounts. Games needed to have this functionality on two or more platforms to qualify. It does not represent Made with Unity games on each platform.

For those raised on schoolyard debates over which consoles were better, the importance of platform loyalty appears to be waning. We expect to see all forms of multiplatform game development continue to grow, as the chart above shows.

Diversifying your game portfolio can have a big impact.

A growing number of third-party services and data analytics tools have given developers and studios of all sizes the ability to compete at the highest level and to publish more games in different genres – which can have a significant positive financial impact.

Graph showing how number of publisher daily IAP and ad revenue increase as number of game genres per publisher increases

Developers that publish three or more styles of games have daily revenue 119% higher than developers that publish only two kinds, which in turn have 78% more revenue than those that publish only one. That’s roughly a 197% jump from single-genre publishers to those that publish three or more.

To accomplish this, indie developers have access to better tools than they ever have before – and many of them need those tools to compete and make more games.

Where do we go from here?

2021 was a great year for the business of gaming. More games were created, game revenues were up, and players found their favorite games a respite in a troubled world. As we all slowly emerge from the upheavals of the pandemic, the gaming industry continues to find its way forward.

Read the full report to dig deeper into each of these topics, and to find out all six of our predictions for trends beyond 2022. 

If you’d like to get started with tools that can help you up your game, Unity is here to help. Even the leanest development team can harness others’ expertise by fleshing out their creative arsenal with assets and tools from the Asset Store, strengthening their testing and DevOps solutions, managing game operations with Unity Gaming Services, and accessing free learning resources to step up their skill sets.

March 17, 2022 in Games | 7 min. read

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