Smartphones, Games & Mobile Gaming

A quiet revolution has been unfolding right under our noses. To be precise, this upheaval of the old order has been happening in our pockets. You may have heard that mobile gaming is poised to overtake the console industry in the worldwide market. More interesting still is that it’s actually set to become gaming’s biggest market segment overall, taking the lion’s share of today’s 90 billion dollar gaming industry by the end of 2015.

The obvious question is “Why?” Consumer spending on screen-based amusements is divided roughly equally between smartphones and tablets, computers and TVs, so mobile is clearly not the only game in town. It’s undeniably up and coming, however, and there are three main reasons behind the emerging dominance of mobile gaming.

First, nearly everyone has everything they need to play. If you have a smartphone you can choose from among hundreds of thousands of games – many of which are free. Second, the launch of the Apple App Store in 2008 changed the development landscape. Suddenly there was an open and democratic market for small, independent game designers to distribute new titles. And third, the technology caught up.

That’s important because as popular as the Apple App Store was (and the Google Play Store in its wake), the phones and tablets on the market even  a couple of years ago were not up to the task of supporting complex, graphics-heavy games. Developers had to sacrifice looks to focus on fun. It wasn’t until devices started shipping with more advanced graphics thanks to Snapdragon and other high-powered mobile GPUs that mobile gaming could reach a new pinnacle. Leaps in the tech have made it possible for developers to create titles comparable to sixth gen console games in not only looks but also playability.

Which may explain why one obvious unifying feature in so-called gaming phones is the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Samsung’s Galaxy S6, the LG G Flex 2, and the HTC One M8 all boast impressive visuals, souped-up speed, and the potential to deliver immersive game play powered by Qualcomm’s processors. To the uninitiated it can all sound very niche but consider that nowadays, serious and casual gamers alike need up-to-date technology to get the most out of graphics-intensive games like Asphalt 8, Monument Valley or The Room Two.

As to who is gaming, that may surprise you. The very word gamer may call to mind certain unflattering stereotypes but the fact is that adult women now represent now the largest video game playing demographic in the U.S., and gamers of all ages have contributed to mobile screen time increasing from 80 minutes to two hours a day over the past two years. The most gaming is happening among players ages six to forty-four!

And with technological and demographic shifts come the inevitable shifts in marketing. Developers are finding new ways to implement advertising and digital sales in mobile games. They’re also beginning to treat games not as products, but rather as a service. The development cycle has become continuous thanks to the big data industry’s ability to analyze and report who is playing, when they’re playing and what in-game benchmarks those players are meeting. The measure of success in the mobile game development world is no longer downloads but player retention and loyalty.

Which makes sense. Even gamers taken as a group can’t possibly buy and then play through those hundreds of thousands of available titles. If the mobile segment of the gaming industry wants to stay in the top spot, it will have to continue to meet player needs across playability, price and expectations of hardware and software quality. The happy end result for players is innovation hitting the market at an ever speedier pace. There really has never been a better time to be a gamer!

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