Gaming headsets and accessories may not carry the glamor of a new title or console launch, but they’re just as vital to the modern gaming experience. As gaming rose to prominence and became a common hobby and a career, the number and complexity of accessories on the market deepened. Whether that’s a mechanical keyboard donned with LED lights or a high-quality headset to facilitate player tactics, the scope for accessories became plentiful. And within this industry is another slowly broadening segment: simulation accessories.
Simulation accessories serve the growing niche of simulation games. These games are designed to emulate real-world activities like flying an airplane or driving a vehicle. You can see the appeal: simulation games offer a way to closely experience situations we couldn’t otherwise access. Plus, companies can use them to train novice pilots before letting them loose inside a real aircraft. Pretty nifty.
“It’s not a particularly well-covered area,” says Arian Bassari, Lead Analyst at Futuresource Consulting. Bassari specialises in gaming, with the Gaming Headsets & Accessories report being the team’s latest output. “Simulation accessories is a new area for us. Despite being relatively niche, it’s also more widespread than you’d first assume.”
The report analyses the overall market’s temporary lull, with data showing a 1% dip in volumes across 2023. In the longer term, Futuresource expects the market to pick up, helped along by the simulation accessories segment, which is expected to grow at a rate of 6.3% between 2023-2027. “It’s a small but lucrative subsegment, and we’re seeing a lot more of it,” says Maxym Dmitryev, Gaming Analyst at Futuresource. “The market is valued relatively high, even if the volumes aren’t there. The average price of a product is greater than other segments, which generates a lot of revenue. As it’s a niche, there’s a clear opportunity for markup.”
Although it’s a relatively small corner of the expansive gaming universe, simulation games boast some impressive titles. Gran Turismo 7, released in March 2022, is the epitome of a racing simulation game, and quietly shifted between 5-6 million copies before the year was out. “A lot of manufacturers are actually looking toward simulation accessories to increase their margins,” says Dmytriyev. “It’s a big emerging trend, particularly as the overall market stalls.”
“Some of the big names like Microsoft are attempting to open up the market for simulation games by producing more casual and accessible titles. The new Microsoft Flight Simulation is due out next year, which has come sooner than expected. The software is picking up in popularity, and in a highly reactive, software-led market, this is only good news,” says Bassari.
Both analysts make a point to emphasise the up-and-down nature of the segment. While the release of a big title pushes up the market for simulation accessories, the landscape must also wrestle with quieter periods.
“When Gran Turismo 7 came out, brands were reporting strong years across the board. Simulation accessories differs to keyboards and mice, which are more evergreen categories. Companies will sell these products whether or not new titles are released. For simulation accessories, that’s not the case.”
Clearly, the simulation market is no stranger to change. But with brands attempting to broaden these games’ appeal, could we see the prices of accessories come down in the future?
“Generally, prices come down around launches with the goal to shift more volumes. Recently, we’ve been seeing brands looking to release products in the lower price tier, in a bid to appeal to semi-casual gamers. There’s certainly a market for those that may enjoy flight simulators but aren’t keen to spend hundreds on a simulation set-up. So that’s a trend to watch out for,” says Bassari.
A brief look at the new Microsoft Flight Simulator makes a strong case for simulation games’ broadening appeal. You can experience rare birds-eye views of far-flung places from the comfort of your living room, courtesy of the game’s high-res graphics. But it’s accessories like the joystick that help edge the game ever closer to simulating true aviation – making it a win for both enthusiasts and student pilots. The game’s release caused flight sticks to quickly sell out, demonstrating how brands can capitalise on the wider appeal of simulation games – as long as they have the stock.
“Funnily enough, brands are dealing with the opposite issue at the moment. Brands are backed up on stock leftover from the pandemic that they’re struggling to shift due to the cost-of-living crisis. Although, the issue is less relevant to the simulation accessories segment,” says Dmytriyev.
Generally, simulation accessories are a consolidated market, with the same names cropping up again and again. Gamers have a strong association with a select few brands like Thrustmaster, Logitech, and Fanatec, but that’s not to say there aren’t any opportunities to break in.
“As I mentioned, simulation accessories are a broad industry. Next to hyper-realistic games that can literally train pilots, are titles like Goat Simulator 3 that, you guessed it, allow you to play as a goat,” says Dmytriyev.
“Goat Simulator had a huge stall at Games Com,” adds Bassari, “although unfortunately there is no specific controller to play as a goat. That being said, there’s still plenty of scope for brands.”
Outside of simulation accessories, the gaming headsets and accessories market is optimistic – despite the ‘innovation roadblock’ rearing its head across audio. “Gaming headsets haven’t seen any noteworthy features come out. Although, the product category is benefiting from the recent advances in Bluetooth LE and Ultra-wideband, more so than lifestyle headphones. These kinds of technologies will have a higher penetration rate in gaming,” says Dmytriyev.
While Bluetooth LE does require a new connectivity standard, it also combats the contentious issue of latency – “and latency is the holy grail for gaming headsets,” he continues. “Qualcomm recently announced a Bluetooth LE dongle that will help bring lower-latency high-fidelity audio to a greater pool of gamers. We already forecasted that Bluetooth LE will go up; now, it appears the forecasts are coming true.”
For more information about Futuresource’s new Gaming Headsets and Accessories Market report, get in touch with Leon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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