It doesn’t take someone well-versed in the intricacies of gaming to know that the marketplace has been shaken inside-out since the launch of the iPhone in 2007. And that is because with the iPhone came the mobile game; it’s safe to say that the video game industry hasn’t been the same since. Though mobile still isn’t necessarily the largest presence in the marketplace (believe it or not, PC gaming still dominates when it comes to outright revenue, though mobile is catching up), it is undeniable that mobile games have had a transformational impact – one that affects not only the industry, but culture at large. Here is how mobile has shaken up the world of video gaming.
Perhaps most strikingly, mobile gaming has transformed who plays video games. The largest gaming demographic is not teenage boys or millennial males in their late 20s and early 30s. In fact, the largest gaming demographic is adult women. According to recent studies, when all demographics are accounted for, adult women make up 52 percent of the marketplace. And this is primarily a result of mobile gaming (though social gaming plays a role, too). With accessibility comes new gamers.
Mobile games are affordable, accessible, require little commitment, and are designed to please the masses, rather than individual market segments. So yes, while one can still play Call of Duty on his or her phone, titles like Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Words with Friends, and Fruit Ninja are far more likely to please your mother or grandmother. A renewed focus on simplistic gameplay, driven in part by the processing limitations of early smartphones, has resulted in a slew of games that are suitable for all demographics – men and women, boys and girls, and gamers of all ages.
New Revenue Models
One of the major factors contributing to the popularity of mobile games is the so-called “Freemium Model.” Rather than purchase games for their smartphones, most gamers simply download them for free from app stores like iTunes and Google Play. If the game is to their liking, great; if not, it cost them nothing and it can be quickly deleted. The game developer itself often doesn’t make its money on games sales. Rather, a title may feature up-sells within the game itself, which do cost money, or feature advertising. And the more people who play, the higher the ad rates go. Thus, why not give away the game for free?
This is a revolutionary way to approach the development and marketing of games. Anyone who grew up on Nintendo and Sega Genesis (this describes most millennials) can tell you that a game which can be played for free is as good as it gets (particularly when console games can cost upwards of $75). And it would seem that the general public agrees. Though critics feel that the Freemium model may come at a price (namely, the watering down of games in general and the marginalization of console and PC games), the numbers would seem to indicate that console, PC, and mobile games can in fact co-exist peacefully.
Mobile games, quite simply, are different from other types of video games. And this has had an impact on what people expect from their gaming experience. For one, mobile games are easily downloaded from app stores. This process, quickly adopted by smartphone and tablet users, has paved the way for the elimination of hardware from gaming – in other words, no more boxes and game discs. Increasingly, console and PC games are now being downloaded (legally, too). Eventually, video game discs could cease being produced altogether.
And then there are the games themselves. The touchscreen interface on smartphones and tablets opens up new possibilities for gameplay, resulting in games that are more intuitive and fun to play than ever before. And today’s mobile processors are packing more and more power. The fastest mobile processors, such as the Snapdragon 820, are capable of generating photorealistic graphics for console-quality gaming. Though many of the industry’s early mobile games were rather rudimentary, particularly when compared to their console counterparts, today’s mobile games can be surprisingly advanced and robust.
Is the Future of Gaming Mobile?
Well, if the resurgence in vinyl has taught us anything, it’s this: Don’t count out old technology. Just as audiophiles have found a renewed love for albums, there inevitably will continue to be a subset of the gaming community that loves console and PC gaming (and the two are still rather healthy industries, it must be said). But one thing is certain, and that is the impact that mobile gaming has had on the industry as a whole. In less than a decade, mobile video games have produced billions of dollars in revenue and inspired millions of new people to play video games. If mobile gaming was able to accomplish that in its childhood years, what will it accomplish in its teen years?