Gamers: 750m new live music fans?
Live music professionals who fail to capitalise on the lockdown-era boom in videogaming will miss out on a confirmed audience of more than three quarters of a billion potential fans, new analysis of player numbers for some of the biggest online games reveals.
A total of 758.5 million people – more than live in Europe, and some 2.5 times the population of the US – regularly play one or more of the 20 most popular online multiplayer video games for which there is recent, reliable data on active users, according to IQ analysis.
Gaming is thriving during the Covid-19 crisis, with firms such as Epic Games, the company behind the Fortnite phenomenon, and Tencent, the Chinese publisher of hit multiplayer titles League of Legends and Honor of Kings, seeing sales soaring while consumers worldwide remain stuck at home.
Especially interesting for the concert industry is how successfully the virtual worlds of Fortnite, Minecraft and other online games lend themselves to live performance, as well as the apparent receptiveness of those games’ existing audiences to live music content. For comparison, One World: Together at Home – aka the star-studded, Taylor Swift-headlined virtual Live Aid – was watched by 20.7m people in the US; the figure for Travis Scott’s 20-minute ‘Astronomical’ event in Fortnite Battle Royale (albeit globally) was 27.7m.
Estimates of the number of videogamers worldwide range from 877m to 2.7bn
Before we continue, a note on IQ’s numbers: the 758.5m figure includes only active users. so while EA’s Apex Legends, for example, has been played by at least 70m people on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the only available data on monthly active users (MAU) shows just shy of 7m playing regularly on console, which is the figure IQ has used. Similarly, Epic Games does not share data on active Fortnite users, so IQ has used the 27.7m who turned out for Travis Scott, even though the real number is far higher.
This, combined with the choice to limit the research to 20 games, means the aforementioned three quarters of a billion is a conservative estimate – with the actual total likely far higher. (Estimates of the number of videogamers worldwide range from around 877m for online gamers only to 2.7bn in total, including those who play single-player titles, casual mobile games and others).
Videogame concerts, it should be noted, are nothing new: Second Life, the forerunner of event-focused video game-cum-virtual hangout Sansar, hosted what was billed as the world’s first virtual gig in 2007, with Duran Duran, Suzanne Vega and, most famously, U2, also performing as virtual avatars during the game’s late-2000s heyday.
However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the push towards digital forms of ‘live’ entertainment, with Travis Scott’s spectacular (albeit prerecorded) show in Fortnite in April and upcoming Diplo-headlined festival Electric Blockaloo in Minecraft among recent high-profile virtual events capitalising on the influx of new gamers.
A number of other multiplayer titles are nipping at Minecraft’s heels
Mojang Studios’ Minecraft, which launched in 2011, is both the best-selling video game of all time, with 200m copies shipped, and the most popular online game, with 126m monthly active users as of 18 May. It hosted its first music festival in 2016, and has held several more in the years since, including Fire Festival in January 2019 and the recent Block by Blockwest, with Pussy Riot, Idles and Sports Team.
However, Minecraft’s status as top dog of the notoriously fickle online gaming world is by no means secure, with a number of other multiplayer titles – such as tween-friendly create-your-own-game platform Roblox (115m MAU), esports favourite League of Legends (100m MAU) and two Chinese games, Fortnite-style mobile battle royale Free Fire (80m daily users) and blatant Minecraft knock-off Mini World: Block Art (80m MAU) – already nipping at its heels.
To date, none of those games have hosted a large-scale, artist-backed live music experience akin to Travis Scott or Marshmello in Fortnite – and the same is true of Fortnite’s battle-royale arch-rival, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), which has 55m active daily users excluding China according to developer PUBG Corporation.
Other as-yet untapped videogame phenomena include another free-to-play battle royale, Call of Duty: Warzone, which has been played by 60m people since its launch in March; mobile strategy game Teamfight Tactics, spun off from League of Legends by developer Riot Games, which had 33m active users as of September; and first-person shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, another game played as a competitive esport, which recorded over 26m players in April.
“Going forward, there will be more partnerships with the wider entertainment industry”
Given Fortnite’s success, it seems likely the next major in-game musical performance will be in a similar battle royale-type title; DJ Deadmau5, who recently performed in Fortnite’s new combat-free Party Royale mode, is known to be a PUBG player, while Taylor Kurosaki of developer Infinity Ward has suggested live events could be held in Call of Duty: Warzone in future.
What the future has in store for digital live performance – whether consumers will ever flock en masse to concerts in video games or virtual-reality worlds, or if ‘simple’ livestreamed video will suffice – only time will tell. What is certain, however, is that music and other traditional entertainment businesses, keen to claim their slice of the US$160bn global videogame market, will seek increasingly to partner with gaming companies in the years ahead, according to Stefan Hall of the World Economic Forum.
“Going forward, there will be more partnerships with the wider entertainment industry, as media companies seek to take advantage of the momentum gaming has produced,” says Hall, who also highlights recent reports linking Japanese tech giant Sony with efforts to improve the VR content, including concerts, available for its upcoming PlayStation 5 console as proof of the growing power of virtual experiences.
The latest IQ Focus session, The Innovators, will discuss the growth of videogaming, virtual worlds, 3D venues, livestreaming and more. Featuring Sheri Bryant, president of Sansar, alongside other technological innovators, the panel takes place tomorrow (27 May) at 4pm UK time on Facebook and YouTube:
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