The world's first mobile game—Tetris—launched way back in 1994. It dominated the world for three years before Nokia launched Snake Game in 1997. Today, Snake is the most-played mobile game in the world.
The success of mobile gaming didn’t happen overnight. The industry took nearly three decades to become a multi-billion industry that dominates 60% of the entire gaming industry.
How did mobile gaming win over the world? It all boils down to technology, affordability, and convenience.
A Game for Every Player
Today’s mobile games come in different forms and shapes. Action is the most popular genre according to a recent study. Hypercasual comes in second while Tabletop and Strategy take up third and fourth positions respectively.
Interestingly, some genres like casino and simulation are drawing more numbers than racing and AR. The explanation is that young players are increasingly trying newer genres.
Additionally, gambling is now legal in a lot of jurisdictions. This has prompted lots of people to try out free-to-play mobile slots and poker on their smartphones. Of course, you can also play casino games for real money on your iPhone. But look for the best options, good gambling sites that provide fast banking, sweet bonuses, and a full range of casino games.
For more than a decade, mobile gaming fans had two major options—Tetris and Snake. Any other choice really depended on your device. If you owned a Nokia or Blackberry phone, you had a variety of gaming choices.
Things truly changed in 2007, though, when Apple introduced the iPhone. The iPhone was special in that owners were not limited to apps made by Apple alone.
Anyone with programming knowledge was allowed to create an app and publish it on the Apple Store. Within a few years of the iPhone’s release, the Apple Store was jam-packed with amazing games created by third-party developers.
We're talking about the likes of Candy Crush, Fortnite, Angry Birds, PUBG, Pokémon GO, and Call of Duty. These games wouldn't have existed without sharper graphics processing technologies, machine learning, improved coding technology, and better mobile hardware.
Accessibility and Affordability
The story of mobile gaming's success starts with increased access to cheap smartphones and ends with the availability of convenient games. Hundreds of smartphone brands sell their devices for less than $200.
You can actually buy a smartphone capable of running mobile games for less than $100 in certain parts of the world. The device might not play PUBG or Fortnite smoothly, but it can play simple match three games.
Compared to consoles and desktops, mobile devices are way cheaper for the average person. You need at least $500 to access a modern console and over $100 to spend on a desktop.
With mobile gaming, all you need is your regular smartphone. It doesn’t need to be a dedicated device. If it can make calls, run apps and take pictures; you can use it to appreciate mobile games.
It’s a Goldmine for Developers
With 60% of gamers playing mobile games, there’s a lot of money to be made in this industry. Where money is involved, you can expect investors and top-tier developers.
That's the case with mobile games. When the demand for mobile gaming skyrocketed a decade ago, top-level developers like Konami went all-in. Some companies that historically created games for PC and consoles—EA Sports—also invested heavily in mobile gaming.
The presence of established developers in mobile gaming was a boon. These developers brought beautiful, entertaining, and interactive games. For once, players didn't have to play simple match three games.
They could relish graphically superior titles like Fortnite and PUBG—the same games people with expensive desktop computers play. Of course, developers didn’t spend millions of dollars on creating games without expecting profits.
Mobile games are huge moneymakers for developers. The world's largest mobile game developer, Tencent, generates more than $24 billion from the industry per year. Fellow Chinese developer, NetEase, makes more than $10 billion while Singapore-based Garena makes more than $4 billion from its mobile games.
To be fair, some of these companies also create PC and console games. Still, they make a lot of money from their mobile games. Take Activision as an example. It makes roughly $3 billion per year. However, it has made over $1.5 billion since 2018 thanks to its Call of Duty Mobile game.
The world’s most popular smartphone game, Candy Crush Saga, has nearly 4 billion downloads and has earned developer King over $8 billion since its launch in 2012.
The Freemium Model
The freemium model is pretty prevalent in the mobile gaming space. For the uninitiated, it involves providing a game to the public for free. But you make money through such methods as placing adverts or selling in-game items.
The freemium model has helped lots of games earn millions of downloads. You see, the average mobile gamer doesn’t spend a lot of money on games. In fact, they prefer free games.
When a developer puts a paywall behind a game, he or she loses a lot of customers. Selling games might work in the PC and console world. But in the mobile gaming scene, games need to be free to have a chance at success.
Luckily, offering games for free benefits both the developers and players. To the developer, their game gets plenty of exposure and downloads. As a player, you get to experience a new game free of charge.
Competition almost always favors consumers. That's also true for mobile gaming. The industry is incredibly competitive. And as a result, developers must stand out by creating unique, advanced, and entertaining games to attract players.
People do not spend much time on a game they don't like. With so many games on Apple and Google Play Stores, a game must be truly enjoyable to maintain a loyal fanbase.
This explains why most of the popular mobile games these days belong to established studios. Indie developers without resources to create powerful games struggle to retain customers. In fact, more than 90% of mobile games on app stores have less than 1000 downloads.
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