At this point, it would be impossible to deny the significance of mobile gaming to the games industry as a whole.
Far removed from the sniffy dismissals of ten years ago, mobile gaming has progressed from being the extra novelty on a handset (think Snake) to one of the biggest entertainment markets in the world.
The popularity of gaming on smartphones and tablets has grown so much that even games consoles and PC titles are beginning to give way to the burgeoning sector.
Peter Roithmayr, business consultant at analyst DFC Intelligence, comments: “We expect the mobile game business to be the fastest growing segment over the next five years with revenue approaching that of consoles.”
DFC additionally forecasts that global mobile game revenue will rise from $10 billion (£5.86bn) in 2013 to $29 billion (£16.99bn) in 2018, comprising 30 per cent of total game software revenue.
But despite the segment’s rocketing growth, Roithmayr dispels the idea that mobile gaming will replace the console experience.
“Mobile satisfies a very different niche,” he explains. “In terms of screen size mobile can never compete with console – or PC, for that matter.
“It is really about consumers using multiple platforms with mobile as the secondary device.
"Mobile has the advantage of being cheap and widespread. The big challenge is the lack of a business model for high-end games that appeal to core consumers. The market is almost completely driven by giving away the product for free and hoping that consumers will then like it enough to spend.”
MARRIAGE OF MOBILE
Some devices are beginning to blur the boundary between mobile and console levels of gaming.
Nvidia’s family of Android- powered Shield devices allow gamers to play both Android apps optimised for the firm’s Tegra processors and PC titles streamed across from a fully-powered gaming rig.
Chris Daniel, senior product manager at Nvidia, tells MCV of the reason for the Shield’s Android foundation.
“Developers are definitely moving to Android. It’s growing at an extreme rate.
“90 per cent of the app revenue on Google Play is for games and there are one billion installations now of Android, so a lot of developers are focusing on building great Android content,” he explains. “Pair that with the processing power of the Tegra and developers are able to take a PC level of content and a console quality level of graphics and bring that for the first time to the mobile space. It’s really exciting.”
"Mobile has the advantage of being cheap and widespread. The
big challenge is the lack of a business model for high-end games
that appeal to core consumers. The market is almost completely driven
by giving away the product for free and hoping that consumers will
then like it enough to spend.”
Peter Roithmayr, DFC Intelligence
While Daniel is clearly optimistic about mobile gaming beginning to level the playing field in terms of quality and experience with consoles and PC, Roithmayr is doubtful.
“There is definitely an opportunity to merge the areas, but that being said it will be extremely difficult to do,” he states. “Mobile and console devices just seem to want to remain separate. It is definitely an area that needs pioneering but the fact that the big console guys such as Sony have struggled with products like the PlayStation Vita shows it won’t be an easy path.”
He adds that while living room boxes are safe for now, handheld consoles continue to lose ground to mobiles as young gamers are raised on smartphones: “The audience for mobile gaming has definitely changed: mainly it has become larger and more diverse,” he states. “Kids are getting into it a younger age, where previously they played with devices such as the Nintendo DS.”
While many have pitted console and mobile titles against one another, many publishers are now utilising mobile companion apps that tie into full-blown console and PC titles as a way of capturing both markets.
“We had almost 1.5m downloads of the mobile application for Watch Dogs [ctOS Mobile],” Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot tells MCV. “What I like most is that that that not all 1.5m are necessarily people who bought the game.
“That is something I want to do a lot more in the future: to make sure that you can get a game, and all of your friends can play with you or against you or create things for you via their mobile application. By doing so, they get more things out of their mobile game and you get more things for your console game.
”That is what we need to do in the industry: make sure we have more people playing these brands than just the people who own a console or a powerful PC.”
But while mobile is increasingly becoming a point of focus for these more traditional publishers, Roithmayr warns that due to the saturation of the market, simply launching a mobile app is no longer a guaranteed shortcut to engaging with a new audience.
“The success of mobile titles can never really be predicted,” he says. “The biggest factor and change in what makes a title a hit has been the integration with social media and the social nature of games in general.
That seems to drive most of the success stories, but when everyone is doing it, it becomes hard to predict.”