Streaming—It’s for gaming, too

Some streamers have developed advanced technologies to run gaming and streaming video services smoothly, keeping subscribers entertained.

Andy Marken

Who knew after getting tired of binge-watching TV shows/movies, people could find solace in playing video games, be it on a large screen or smartphone. Gamers love to be a part of the content and even find it relaxing. Surprisingly, parents also prefer their children play video games, instead of watching movies/shows or using social media.

What do we think? We occasionally played video games back in the Atari heyday—okay, it was part of our job, but we were never very good at it and got distracted way too easily. It was always you against someone/something else. But that’s what some of our friends like about games. At the end of the day, though, movies, shows, and games are still entertainment, and they’re meant to suck you in and keep you there until you are exhilarated, thrilled, scared, happy, satisfied. As our son says, it’s all good.

There’s a large audience of gamers out there; streamers should take notice

“I played Tetris for five minutes. I still see falling blocks in my dreams.” Henk Rogers, Tetris, Apple TV+, 2023

A typical Tetris game screen. (Source: Brandenads, Wikipedia)

year, all focused on propping up a crippled theater industry and streamers loading up on projects to keep people connected to their services, obviously it’s the movie for creators. If you’re Microsoft trying to convince governments that their $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard or Sony buying up everything that WBD’s Zaslav has to offer, it’s the game.

Yeah, it was the game, hands down.

Go, probably the world’s oldest board game, originated in China some 4,000 years ago, is both simple and complex to play; it has more than 50 million casual/professional players around the world (most in East Asia); and talk about binging, as professional games often exceed 16 hours. It just doesn’t have the aura of chess that helped The Queen’s Gambit, Critical Thinking, and other shows/movies attract so much attention. While movies/shows racked up an impressive $95 billion last year, the video game industry brought in an eye-watering $236 billion.

Not everyone is a gamer, but most are. The casual game player wouldn’t consider herself/himself a gamer compared to the person with the tricked-out computer, three screens, and custom chair, but they contribute a lot to the video game economy. Not only is the money good, but more than 3 billion people of all ages play video games, even though only 10% of them consider themselves gamers. No wonder Netflix has quietly amassed a library of 60 game titles, including some noteworthy exclusives, and Apple keeps adding titles to its Arcade.

Despite the global interest/demand in video game play, it’s not an easy business to get into and stay on top of.

A few years ago on his first tour as boss of Disney, Bob Iger moved the company from being a title publisher to a licensing model. During an earnings call, he said the company is good at making movies, TV shows, theme parks, and cruise ships but had never mastered the game publishing formula. At about the same time, NBCUniversal shut down its game studio and Zaslav struck his deal(s) with Sony and kept the rest as a sub-scale part of WBD.

But with streamers switching their focus from acquiring more subscribers every month to improving their ARPU (average revenue per user), they may be in the mood to consider a second look at “the gamer.” This as theater attendance remains stubbornly flat to slightly down and typical consumers—according to Hub Research—are spending an average of $85 per month, 25% more than they feel is reasonable for their video services.

Of course, over half aren’t certain what their maximum budget or number of services was. According to Hub, the cost was less of a factor than the platform’s library.

Streaming your entertainment grew rapidly because it was easy/economical to join and have the best films/shows available. But that set the stage for making it easier to switch services “just because.”  Changing to an “extended contract” would be difficult, almost impossible, to achieve. 

This problem is going to persist as long as services focus their attention on keeping their content in their silo, forcing subscribers to go from app to app searching for something to watch. There’s a big difference between Netflix, Apple, and Amazon (the other folks with a game lineup). Yes, they were tech first and then content producers/distributors. Why’s that important? They know how stuff moves through Internet pipes and the cloud—and it isn’t easy!

Xbox controller

Game shift—For the longest time, games were produced that supported certain game systems, but game developers realized they were limiting their sales by waiting for new hardware from a particular manufacturer. As a result, most have now made the switch to being platform agnostic and let folks play on whatever screen that is available. (Source: Thiago Japyassu, Pexels)

As with streaming video, bandwidth is the key to fast, responsive gaming, regardless of the device or screen. In their early years, Netflix developed codec (compression/decompression) technology that would enable them to deliver a smooth 24 FPS or 60 FPS video stream with variable bit rates, so you didn’t have to stare at the frustrating buffer wheel, or your movie/show didn’t drop frames.

Amazon also provides cloud storage for almost everyone, and Apple didn’t want you to throw your smartphone against the wall, so they developed similar advanced technology. Ultimately, they and other tech streamers worked with organizations such as SMPTE to develop industry bandwidth standards, even as they continued to enhance their own technologies. While the performance and quality have improved dramatically, the business model remained the same… developing new shows/movies to attract subscribers, generally from the other guy—churn. And gamers are following the same habits they developed with streaming video services by adding/subtracting services when they get tired of the game or there is a change in the game’s “community.”  

Netflix, Apple, and Amazon could rapidly move games into the same cloud model they have perfected for streaming video: bundle the two entertainment services, providing added subscriber stiction. We know it’s hard to believe, but people do get tired (or restless) of binge-watching one movie after another or an entire season of a show even if it has a great following like interactive choose-your-own adventure projects like Stranger Things or Black Mirror.

And if a person is ready for a change, the company can simply offer them a video game version or another equally exciting game in their bundle, which Apple has been doing very successfully for a long time.

People young and old want to take a break from sit-back shows and get a little more involved with their content. They are finding that passive entertainment (films, shows) is fine, but it’s more fun when you feel you’re involved in and predicting the outcome of the “show.” But still, folks are increasing their screen time.Might as well be in the streamer’s app! With the three firms, simply sign up for the service filled with their array of added/dropped films/shows and games that will run on any platform—computer, console, iPad, portable game player, iPhone, or smart TV.

They’ve already perfected what it takes to adjust the quality dynamically to the amount of horsepower and bandwidth you have access to… big and brilliant on your 4K big home screen or throttled back so it looks/performs “well” on your smartphone. 

PS controller

All good—Today, younger and older folks like their gameplay on the screen, whether it’s on the large-screen setup, on their totally immersive system setup, or simply wasting time on their smartphone. It’s simply “your” game (content) on whatever screen you happen to be looking at right now. (Source: EVG Kowalievska, Pexels)

Admittedly, video gameplay got a big boost—across the family—during the 2020–2021 time-out. In addition, it remains strong and includes players across all demographics—gender, race, ethnicity, and age. While males like to think that video games are a man’s territory, it doesn’t work that way in the real world, with females of all ages not just playing more frequently, but being very good at it. Increasingly, though, folks have more options available to them when they want to “escape.”

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the average video gamer is 32 years old and has played video games for many years. Most of the players are male (53%). However, females (46%) have increasingly grown to appreciate the single-user smartphone games as well as hard-core gameplay such as Resident Evil, The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed, and many others, as well as MPGs (multiplayer games like Minecraft, Call of Duty, Halo, etc.).

Parents prefer their children playing video games to just watching movies/shows and feel it is much less harmful to them than social media. The number of Americans playing video games remains strong and encompasses players across all demographics. Pew Research reported that parents feel game play is beneficial for their children and has a positive impact on them. Respondents noted that it helps them develop problem-solving skills, promotes teamwork, enhances their persistence, logical thinking ability, and communication skills. They also said video games—especially when played with parents—is overall is a better/more productive form of entertainment than simply watching movies/shows. 

Parents also monitor children’s gaming activities and place restrictions on video gameplay, especially ensuring that the game’s rating is age appropriate. While parents like to believe that they’re totally in control of what the kids play and when they play it, they usually overestimate their control but try anyway. 

ESA officials note that playing video games has become the new norm for young and old, helping to develop a broad and diverse playing community. 

Nevertheless,like almost anything a person does, video gameplay does provide benefits and relieve anxiety.  However, it can also cause harm and become addictive. Fortunately, the good outweighs the bad most of the time.

Deloitte reported in a global digital media report that younger and older adults like the value they get from video gameplay, as it stimulates their thinking and helps them relax. Parents say that video games inspire their youngsters, teach them to win and lose in a healthy manner, and improve their creative skills. Adult players say video games provide mental stimulation, stress relief, improve their cognitive skills, and are a great way to have fun and pass the time.

A key point for streaming services is that universally, people feel that games provide the best entertainment value for the money spent and that they stay involved with their video games longer because of the competitive relationships they establish. 

As Alexey Pajitnov said in Tetris and as content streamers that have expanded globally have proven, “Good ideas have no borders.” Of course, streaming services with subscribers in 50-plus countries already knew that. By adding video games and constantly refreshing them, they may find people are interested in sticking around longer. Viola! The ARPU goes up. Wall Street, stockholders are happier, and subscribers think they rock.