Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is industry transforming—accelerating the momentum toward global subscription gaming across all devices and becoming an entertainment IP powerhouse.

Activision’s ‘toxic culture’ distress was acute and couldn’t be solved—Microsoft will (and should) clean up a tarnished organisation. The troubles had hammered Activision’s share price, allowing Microsoft to pick up world-class IP at a bargain relative to year-ago prices.

Sony faces a harsh reckoning on its long-term strategy for PlayStation, while EA and Ubisoft have become desirable acquisition targets.

Ongoing supply difficulties for PlayStation and Xbox through 2022 and beyond will result in the install base for the generation being permanently impacted. It raises the question: if you can’t buy a console are they even relevant?

VR will stage a comeback this year, as Quest 2 has its highest sales ever, the category will find new appeal from game (and metaverse) developers. If a rumoured Apple VR/AR headset eventuates, expect white-hot interest

Netflix will make strides in its games service―but mostly behind the scenes to deliver a once in a decade transformation of the industry. Don’t rule out a critical and exclusive mobile hit

Facebook has been caught unawares by the significant impacts of privacy changes to its advertising revenue, posting an uncharacteristic quarterly decline as its costs are set to spiral

Facebook’s ageing user demographics are a long-standing and growing issue, as competitor platforms erode Facebook’s attraction to the young. Recent negative PR only compounds a brewing problem of relevance as social media shifts towards being content, rather than network-driven

By pinning its name to the metaverse, Facebook hopes to redefine its narrative and claim the benefits of managing the platform of the future, but significant challenges in the entertainment, enterprise, and tech spheres stand in its way

As private sector employers faced an unprecedented degree of uncertainty, the volume of vacancies fell 60% from 2019 to 2020, driven by the arts & entertainment, food & hospitality and retail sectors, leading expenditure on recruitment advertising to fall by 32%.

In 2021, vacancies for temporary placements are surging as society proceeds to unlock, with the near-term labour market tight, boosting expenditure on recruitment. Our concern is the masked unemployment in B2C sectors that will emerge should furlough end on 30 September. 

Judging by global revenue trends in FY2020, professionally-oriented networking platform LinkedIn gained from demand for hiring served by paid-for listings, also filling demand for events. Indeed, which serves the high-volume but lower-value end of labour markets, with a less fruitful budget and cost-per-click model, suffered mild revenue decline.

Advertising income has been the lifeblood of commercial TV for decades, but declining linear audiences—combined with digital video alternatives—mean the TV advertising model must evolve to ensure it remains as potent a medium for brands as ever.

Lack of effective audience measurement and somewhat opaque advertiser/agency/sales house relationships are hampering linear TV advertising revenues. Both issues need resolving to underpin a healthier ecosystem overall.

Flexibility is key to this evolution. A move to audience buys across most linear and BVOD inventory would provide greater flexibility and targeting for advertisers, and would sit alongside some premium context buys. A greater onus on volume deals would give broadcasters more certainty to invest in content and their advertising propositions.

The pandemic has caused an unprecedented demand boom and revenue windfall for the games industry, allowing developers to ease production bottlenecks, assist remote working, and spend more cash on games that matter.

Producing quality game experiences remotely—from greenlight through to release—has driven innovation and flexibility, and much needed change for game studios.

Most large game developers expect a return to in-studio development late in Q3 2021. Many workers hope a return will not also bring back toxic game production environments.

The games industry enjoyed a robust 2020, with the pandemic creating high demand across titles and platforms. Now a core part of the mainstream media and entertainment ecosystem, games share of entertainment spend and audience viewing time will maintain momentum and increase in 2021.

The demand for, and value of, premium content has migrated to game IP, with top franchises driving increased M&A activity and tighter integration with film and TV output, and providing an important advertising channel.

The pandemic has provided breathing space for the industry on regulatory scrutiny of revenue models, and overall consumer safety. Regulators need to increase their speed in 2021, and act decisively on predatory ‘free-to-play’ game mechanisms.

The launch of new games consoles this week showcases broadly divergent strategies for Sony and Microsoft, with market leader PlayStation focused solely on defending its model against the rising tide of cheaper subscription games services.

Xbox's consumer offer is the best value proposition for these difficult economic times, attracting new customers and positioning for growth, and stopping slavish devotion to 'core gamers' in the process.

Amazon's Luna lands, providing big competition in game streaming services for Google's Stadia. But nobody is taking any notice, as neither provide a real breakthrough for the industry or great value for gamers. Stadia’s lifespan could be limited.

Online reviews are a vital input for consumer decision-making. However, reviews are easy to manipulate, and widespread fraud is undermining credibility and raising the issue of consumer protection.

Facebook, Google, and Amazon utilise reviews to improve the consumer experience, but also to sell advertising to businesses and to address fraud. These companies leverage their data superiority to better utilise reviews on their platforms, and possess a competitive advantage, versus sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and eBay.

Demand for expert opinion remains strong, yet is supplied only by publishers and Which?, a small segment in terms of share of traffic relative to platforms.

Consumer demand for games and consoles has surged during lockdown. Sales are on track for the best year ever, while games production has been resilient, with studios and platforms adapting quickly to distancing and working from home.

New consoles will still launch in 2020, but Sony and Microsoft will need to replace tradition with creativity and smarts for this launch cycle.

Hollywood’s home entertainment offer is crucially missing games. It’s not too late for Disney to change course, and Warner Bros. to move quickly.