It’s been coming for a while, but this year is being predicted as a watershed moment for mobile gaming. For the first time ever it is expected that the revenue generated by games played on hand-held devices will outstrip those played on PCs and traditional consoles. In research by NewZoo it has been estimated that worldwide mobile games will generate $36.9 billion in revenues compared with $31.9 billion for PC games and $29 billion for consoles.
There are also very optimistic predictions for mobile games revenue which may be as much as $52.5 billion as early as 2019. So, while no-one is predicting the demise of the PC and console game, the focus of game developers is likely to be very much on mobile in the future.
There are a number of reasons that have been put forward to explain just why mobile has taken off so dramatically and the first of these is because of the technology itself. Now a mobile phone that is only a few millimetres thick has the capability of displaying motion and graphics, accompanied by incredible sound quality, that would have been inconceivable only a few years ago.
The profile of game players has also seen something of a transformation with far more women taking part in what was once, stereotypically, a mainly male activity. As a result games developers have reacted by creating more games designed to appeal to the female market from the Candy Crush Saga to online slots games like Starburst.
The fact that you can play mobile games virtually anywhere, and at any time, has also obviously made a huge impact on their success as has the introduction of one in particular that has taken them to a whole new level.
When Pokémon Go was launched in July of this year a game that started out as an April Fools’ Day joke on Google became an instant global phenomenon. Within days the share price of its creators, Nintendo, rose by 50% and, although the game was initially only available in the US, Australia and New Zealand the number of players had reached 65 million within a week.
Its irresistible combination of fun game play and augmented reality has proved to be such a runaway success that many other games designers are said to be developing their own AR games – but the challenge will be to take them in new directions and not simply copy Pokémon Go.
Of course, the other great appeal of mobile gaming is that the games themselves tend to be free downloads so another challenge for the creators is how to make money from them. In an ever-more fragmented media landscape, many are seeing advertising as a real growth area. So maybe we can expect to see “ad breaks” or even sections of the games sponsored by particular advertisers starting to appear in many of the most successful titles.
On a technological level, virtual reality is also certain to play a big part in the mobile gaming and many phone manufacturers are already geared up for this by producing their own low-cost VR headsets.
Plus, with social media connecting more people in more ways than ever before, multi-player mobile gaming is set to become even more popular, especially if there is a crossover with console or PC play.
So maybe even the projected global gaming revenue of $52.5 million by 2019 is starting to look a little conservative.