The games industry is undergoing a seismic change, according to Newzoo. In a new whitepaper titled "The Consumer as Producer: How Games & Video Converge to Drive Growth," the research firm argues that the fundamental relationship between the people who make games and the people who play them has been shifting.
"The capacity to not only stream video, but also comment and share opinions on social media platforms, means the pressure is now on to work with gamers in brand creation instead of solely advertising to them," the firm said. "The relationship has shifted from one of consumer and creator to mutual collaboration, with a growing emphasis on creating entertainment value together with the gamers. Publishers and brands are becoming facilitators of the consumer desire to create and produce."
While video content creation in games has been around a while (Newzoo identifies 1996's "Diary of a Camper" short film made in Quake as the first of its kind), streaming and social media sharing functionality has caused the field to take off in the decades since.
"Gamers now expect direct involvement when it comes to games and media and they prefer watching the content of their friends and peers above professional content," according to Newzoo.
That has created a new crop of creators who are well-compensated for their popularity. Newzoo estimates that there are 16 YouTube personalities making at least $1 million a year from their game content.
There's also still room for the field to grow. The company found that just 13 percent of US gamers stream to Twitch regularly, with 16 percent watching videos on the game-focused streaming site regularly. Of those who stream to Twitch, the majority (70 percent) are male, and the majority (56 percent) are in the 21-35 age range.
One area Newzoo has identified as showing particularly strong growth is mobile gaming. While streaming has established itself on the consoles and PC spaces, the firm said mobile will be the next big battleground for consumer-created video. Newzoo noted that the game-focused mobile streaming app Kamcord "reached" more than 1.3 million unique content creators last year, compared to 1 million for Twitch.
[UPDATE]: A Twitch representative has said that Newzoo has its stats wrong, pointing out that the video streaming service reported more than 1.5 million unique broadcasters per month in an end-of-2014 stat dump. [/UPDATE]
"Mobile game streaming is still in its infancy, but has the potential to overtake PC and console in the coming years as the number of mobile gamers continues to explode," the firm said.
The advent of consumer-created content in recent years has challenged Newzoo's expectations and caused the firm to reassess the way it looks at the industry, with every end user also now a potentially influential broadcaster and partner in building brands.
"There was a brief moment when we collectively thought the fast pace of change in our industry would slow down following the mobile games revolution," Newzoo CEO Peter Warman said. "However, the opposite has occurred as a unique alchemy of forces and trends continue to relentlessly drive innovative change. Games are now branching out in all directions, with consumers at the helm and the industry taking a facilitating role."