How Technology Has Transformed Online Entertainment

Older readers will remember the battle between Netflix and Blockbusters. Netflix started as a mail-based movie DVD rental business, while Blockbusters was your local video rental store where you could browse and rent the latest movie. For younger readers, Blockbusters went out of business, while Netflix moved to become the huge streaming service millions use today.

The secret of Netflix’s success and Blockbuster’s downfall? Netflix moved its business online, and Blockbusters did not.

This article looks at how technology has transformed other forms of online entertainment.

Online Gaming

Decades ago, gaming was limited to gaming arcades located in town. As technology developed, home-based consoles became the norm. Nowadays, you can play games online against people across the world.

The early days of online gaming

In the early 1990s, Sega released the Meganet online gaming service. This was a short-lived project that lasted for just one year and was never launched in the US. However, online gaming did quickly start to gain in popularity. The ’90s also saw the rise of the “LAN Party”, a gathering of people networking computers that allowed multiplayer games.

In 2003, Steam, a digital storefront, was launched and is still going today. It allows people to buy and review games online. This was quickly followed by the launch of World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game that attracted over 10 million active subscribers.

Online gaming goes mainstream

Since the launch of mobile devices, nearly everyone has a pocket computer in the form of a cell phone. This has created a new audience for online gaming. Many mobile games offer players a free game to play with in-game purchases. This model attracts casual gamers to try a game, and if they enjoy the free version, they can purchase upgrades to progress more quickly.

It’s not only mobile games that are played online. The latest consoles allow users to online purchase and download the latest games. Today’s games come with a playable story mode and an online multiplayer option.

Online gambling

Gambling has been a popular form of entertainment throughout human history. From ancient cave drawings through to the modern slot machines and casinos, gambling has been with us for as long as we have been a society. In recent years, online gambling has become more popular than ever before. This may be due to the ease of access to online casinos in all time zones.

Microgaming claims that it launched the first real-money online gaming casino in 1994. However, this claim is still challenged to this day. Regardless of which company was first, the online gambling industry was worth $230.86 billion in 2020.

Online streaming services

Already mentioned is Netflix, the grandaddy of steaming services, which was the first company to take the fee-based movie rental industry online. It created a way for people to watch movies and TV shows at home. Other online streaming companies have followed suit, and household names such as Disney, HBO, and Amazon have their own dedicated online streaming services. Other titles include:

– Hulu

– Sling TV

– Peacock

– Fubo TV

– Crackle

There will likely be other streaming services and then a period of consolidation as viewers vote with their wallets on which service to subscribe to.

Streaming user-created content

Unlike gaming, gambling, and movie rentals, user-created content is relatively new. The first site that allowed users to upload content they had created and allowed others to view it was YouTube which was launched in 2005 and now has over 300 hours of video uploaded every minute!

The rise of user-created content sites is accelerated by the advancement of 4G & 5G mobile internet. Today’s smartphones are all capable of streaming video, a feature that has become a necessity for many entertainment services. Just as the movie rental market has seen a host of services launched, the video hosting/streaming market has also seen the rise of competitors enter the marketplace. Services offered include:

– TikTok

– Vimeo

– Twitch

– Rumble

Market and industry disruption

The rise of these new industries has disrupted and displaced other forms of entertainment. As mentioned, the once-popular Blockbusters closed due to the rise of online streaming. This trend is likely to continue as the new, disruptive services offer a better experience than existing businesses. It will be interesting to see how long the big companies hold out and whether they can adapt and move with the times or if they stay firmly behind their old ways and suffer a similar fate as Blockbusters.

Employment opportunities

There is no doubt that some have lost their jobs as entertainment has moved online. However, as the saying goes, “As one door closes, another door opens”. The increased demand for online entertainment has driven the demand for qualified computer engineers and software developers. Ironically, studying for a computer science qualification has resulted in the creation of courses in online computer science masters. Those with the correct qualifications have a range of employment opportunities that continue to increase in demand.

Software developers

Software developers and engineers write the software that runs these online services. They are paid handsomely to create the software that consumers use daily.

Online content developers

Content developers create content that promotes a business online and is shared across the major social media platforms and video-sharing sites. They are responsible for maintaining a company’s existing content and creating new content as required.

Database scientists

Everything that happens online can be tracked, recorded, and analyzed. This data can be used to inform a business on how a service is being used and whether it has been well received. For example, Netflix monitors its subscribers’ activities including searches, ratings, location, device, and viewing habits down to the fine detail such as when you pause, fast-forward or ditch a show.

Database scientists are employed to help interpret the data gathered.


The internet has revolutionized entertainment and created entirely new industries. It has provided the opportunity for the small to compete with the big and to innovate, creating niche products and services that are more efficient and cheaper. This has created a diverse online marketplace where consumers have plenty of options.

Although there is some uncertainty about the future of entertainment, it is likely that these new industries will remain prominent and continue to grow in popularity. It may be that they start to merge. For example, video streaming services may include gaming features in their platforms, making them a one-stop-shop for all entertainment needs – which could even come in an app on your phone!