To mark the start of a new year in gaming, we’ve collated some interesting facts and stats about the world of online gaming – from its humble beginnings to the innovative and lucrative segment of the industry that it is today.
The first successful online game
In terms of commercial success, this accolade goes to ASCII-based role-playing game Island of Kesmai, released in 1985. The game was distributed via CompuServe: a popular online service provider that thrived prior to the advent of the World Wide Web and true ISPs.
However, the first popular ‘online’ game was MUD1, created by two students in England at the end of the 1970s. They designed a ‘multiuser dungeon’ (MUD) – a shared-access text adventure – which ran on a mainframe computer system at the University of Essex.
When the university was connected to ARPANET in 1980 – a network that linked American educational institutions – other students across the world could access and play MUD1, making it the first truly online multiplayer game.
Most expensive online game
This honour used to belong to Grand Theft Auto V, which cost $265 million to produce – $137 million to make the game and another $128 million more for its marketing. It was worth the investment: studio Rockstar North made back $1 billion in just 3 days after its release.
GTA V’s record has since been surpassed by Cyberpunk 2077. The game cost a total of $316 million to produce – $174 million to develop and $142 million to market.
Online gamers are everywhere, but not everyone
In 2021 there were 1.1 billion gamers online. South Korea, Japan and China have the most gamers by concentration in their population.
However, despite female gamers accounting for more than half of all non-competitive gamers, just 5 per cent of the competitive eSports industry is represented by women.
Around 68% of people with smartphones and tablets play online games on their devices. Mobile gaming is set to make up 45% of the global gaming market in 2022.
Scientific achievement through online gaming
Puzzle game Foldit was designed as a research tool with added gaming elements to attract players. The contributions of players using the self-described ‘online citizen science game’ have led to breakthroughs in analysing disease proteins, some of which had been unsolved for over 15 years.
Online gaming is not just for the young
More than 30% of online gamers are over the age of 50. It’s worth noting that ‘online gaming’ doesn’t just cover battle royales like Fortnite or FPS games like Call of Duty. While older gamers do participate, many solve crossword puzzles, play card games and complete word games while online.
eSports revenue is still on the rise
By the close of 2021, the eSports industry was believed to have generated over $1 billion in revenue over the calendar year. This is up from $947 million in 2020. Over 75% of revenue came from sponsorship and media rights. The eSports industry itself was valued at $2.1 billion.
China is still the most lucrative market for eSports, with the US and Europe following close behind. Despite this, the United States won the most prize money in 2021, pocketing $180 million in winnings. Professional gamers in China came second, with a prize pool of $152 million.
Online gaming industry revenues
At the time of writing, the global video game industry was expected to top $180 billion in annual revenue. The online gaming sector alone was thought to have contributed $23.8 billion to this total – the second-largest revenue stream within the industry.
Here at Ghost, we’re all passionate gamers who love gaming and the gaming culture. We are especially interested in aspects of the industry and community that make our experiences online rich, interesting and fun.
In our blog, we put this passion to task, by exploring a range of relevant topics and gaming-related debates.
Enjoyed this post? Check out our other deep dives into the state of the industry, including our look at accessibility options for disabled gamers and how gaming charities based in the UK are working towards improving inclusion.