Within less than half a century, gaming has grown to become the world’s most popular form of at-home entertainment. After eight generations of video games, from the most pixelated to the most immersive, gaming is now well and truly embedded in pop culture.

Recent statistics show that the popularity of gaming now outperforms the reach of movies and music streaming combined. Whether it’s fashion or cinema, big business industries are clamoring to get involved with video games, while gamification is present in sectors from education to corporate.

Since digital gaming took off at the start of the 21st century, there have been innovations that have succeeded and innovations that have failed. Here’s our take on the key watershed moments that have pushed gaming into the stratosphere.

Gaming Is More Than Just Play

Ask any diehard gamer today, and they’ll tell you that their passion for gaming doesn’t end when they switch off their console or PC. Gaming is now so mainstream that it’s part of the global education system, with universities providing degrees and diplomas in everything from video game design to eSports.

Gaming Goes Mobile

The relationship between gaming and mobile is symbiotic, with one radically transforming the other. When mobile phones first began to surge in popularity, the games that were available were primitive and served merely as a way for users to distract themselves. Within just a few years, however, the quality of mobile games improved to the point where mobile gaming emerged as a viable gaming vertical.

As smartphones and tablets have become much more innovative, essentially morphing into pocket-sized personal computers, so too have the games we can play on them. Pokémon Go, for example, was revolutionary in the way that it integrated augmented reality tech with geotagging and mobile gaming.

More recently, gaming apps have hit mobile platforms that are at the AAA level, delivering the same quality you would expect from a console or gaming PC onto portable screens. Thanks to dedicated gaming phones like the ASUS ROG and the Black Shark Pro, it’s even possible to play mobile eSports.

Mobile has already beaten out both PCs and consoles combined as the world’s most popular segment – in 2021; mobile gaming generated 52% ($93.2 billion) of the annual sales taken by the global gaming industry. Little wonder, then, that many industry experts have declared it the future of digital gaming.

The Streaming Revolution

The digital generation loves content streaming, so there’s little wonder that game streaming has taken off the way it has. Since Twitch hit the scene in 2011, enterprising gamers everywhere have broadcast live gaming sessions to players all over the world. We’ve even seen brand new world records being set, like the one Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins set in 2018 when he went live playing against none other than Canadian rapper Drake.

Digital Casino Gaming

Another core gaming market that emerged during the 2010s is that of iGaming. Typically encompassing all real money wagering activities, including digital poker and remote sports betting, there’s one sector, in particular, that’s truly soaring.

The online social casino sector is big news right now. Millions of gamers all over the world sign up to social gaming platforms like LuckyLand to play a wide range of slots online and various card and table games. The main appeal of social casino gaming is that, unlike more traditional types of remote casino play, gamers compete to be top of the leaderboard rather than for cash prizes. This makes the genre wholly accessible, giving players access to all the thrill of casino gaming with none of the risks that might otherwise be involved.

Gaming on the Cloud

Unlike more traditional gaming pastimes, video gaming seems to require a regular upgrade in hardware, whether that’s having to go out and purchase a new PC or console every few years or upgrading current machines with more powerful GPUs. Cloud gaming is bringing about a new paradigm that could well see this process come to an end.

Like cloud storage or cloud streaming, cloud gaming utilizes the power of massive offshore servers to host games, which players can then access via a subscription service. What sets cloud gaming apart from gaming as a service is that players can access their games from any connected device – yes, even mobile.

Cloud gaming is one of the most important innovations to have hit the gaming industry, so much so that major players like Sony, Microsoft, NVIDIA, and even Amazon have gotten themselves a piece of the action.

Advanced Tech Makes its Mark

In recent years, we’ve finally seen advanced technology like Virtual Reality establish a proper niche in gaming. While it was initially hailed as a potentially revolutionary piece of tech, it took some time for the tech to be properly integrated into gaming experiences and for players to be able to afford decent hardware.

Now, with games like Half-Life: Alyx leading the way, advanced tech is finally beginning to make its mark.

Multi Platform Crossplay

Looking back on the development of gaming since the late 20th century, it seems that every decade or so, there’s been a major platform and console war going on. Back in the 1990s, the competition was between SEGA and Nintendo, as each tried to outdo the other with home console after home console. Then, the new century brought about disharmony between the makers of the PlayStation and the Xbox.

While there have always been gamers who are firmly in one camp more than the other, the majority dreamt of both being able to play their favorite games on different platforms and playing against friends and competitors on different consoles.

The advent of digital gaming made that dream much more of a reality. Then, with the arrival of hit games like Fortnite: Battle Royale and Rocket League, console manufacturers felt the pressure from gamers and development companies alike to facilitate cross-platform play. Although, as a gaming innovation, crossplay is still very much in its infancy, as the decade goes on, we can expect it to play an even bigger role.