The market for video gaming has experienced exponential growth during the past decade or so. It is also one that seems to be immune to wider economic trends, instead of continuing to grow even as other areas struggle.
Part of the reason for that is that the games continue to get better, with the cutting-edge creators producing titles that look sharper and are more exciting to play. The top game providers are locked in a battle to win dominance in what is a fast-growing market, and that is leading to bigger and better games.
They claim to hate this battle, but they still fight it. The question of which provider is currently leading is not so simple to answer though.
An intense gaming battle
The war between game providers is almost as intense as the actual games. The big battle is between Sony – the creators of the PlayStation gaming console – and Microsoft, which came up with the Xbox.
The two have been competing to produce the most state-of-the-art console and the best games to market exclusively to customers who use that console. This can possibly be traced back to the PlayStation 4 versus Xbox One era, but it has only become hotter since then.
Of course, that can give the impression that the Xbox and PlayStation series consoles are the only big options available, but that is not true. Nintendo is also a major player but has largely chosen to stay out of the fray and focus on building and retaining an audience quietly through high-quality franchises and consistent console improvements.
The contest between Sony and Microsoft is similar to that which exists in other areas of the market. For example, online casinos and casino game developers seeking to outdo each other amid a burgeoning gambling market. Different online slot providers compete to win players to play at their sites. The battle sees online casinos offer a range of games including slots, poker, blackjack and roulette to offer a game suitable for everyone. Competitive bonuses and promotions also stand out to players and is a technique also used by Sony and Microsoft when offering promotions on their consoles.
Both Sony and Microsoft now have their own studios where developers produce titles exclusive to their respective consoles. Sony set up its base in San Diego recently to allow it to compete more equally with the Xbox Games Studio owned by Microsoft.
That means the battle is more about creating the best gaming hardware, with the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 being the current examples.
So, is it all about Sony and Microsoft? How do the different games providers stack up against each other at the moment?
Sony – PlayStation
There can be little dispute that Sony leads the market right now with its PlayStation console and games. It may have lagged behind Microsoft in constructing its own studio, but it has been buying highly rated independent developers like Insomniac Games and Naughty Dog. That has guaranteed a steady stream of top-grade titles exclusive to the PlayStation, including Spider-Man and Last of Us.
The PlayStation 5 console also features an innovative enhanced controller and the best graphics display, making it the top console just now. All of that contributed to gaming revenue of $24.9 billion for Sony in 2021.
Microsoft – Xbox
Microsoft is a bit behind Sony at this current moment, which is reflected in its 2021 gaming profits of $16.3 billion. In terms of games, it is largely maintaining the pace with its biggest rival, thanks to the continued popularity of the Halo series and the purchase of developers Activision Blizzard and Mojang – the latter the creators of the legendary Minecraft.
Its Xbox X console is also selling well but is viewed as slightly below the PlayStation 5 in terms of overall quality and innovation.
Nintendo – Nintendo Switch
Nintendo made a total of $15.3 billion in games and console sales last year and the company seems largely happy to do its own thing. It is enjoying ongoing success with its exclusive Pokemon Legends: Arceus game as well as its Switch console.
It has spent a lot of time developing long running franchise games like Super Smash Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon and Super Mario, building a loyal and long-term customer base in the process.
Some claim that this provider based in China is now the largest global player but that is untrue – at the moment at least. 2021 revenues of $13.9 billion put it well behind Sony and Microsoft, but it is growing.
Tencent has focused on the mobile gaming sector, rather than consoles, and has produced highly profitable titles like Honor of Kings for smartphones. It is starting to move into the wider games market now though through the acquisition of US developer Riot Games, which created League of Legends.
Building its market share in this way rather than by developing its own games and consoles seems to be the strategy.
The creators of top titles Mass Effect, Need for Speed and the many NHL, NFL and EFL sports games must be included on this list. It made $5.5 billion from sales of these last year, but it could become a target for purchase by one of the bigger providers.
Sony is currently the games company that is on top, but rivals from Microsoft to Tencent are snapping at its heels.