From the humble roots of Pong and Pac-Man to the enormous AAA productions of Grand Theft Auto, Cyberpunk, and Call Of Duty, it’s safe to say the video game industry has come a long way in just a few short decades.
Amazingly, one recent report revealed that the global video game industry is estimated to be valued at a staggering $178 billion as of 2021, meaning that it is almost twice that size as the global film industry, which was valued at $100 billion in 2019.
However, when most people think of video games, they tend to overlook the significance of the mobile gaming sector and the mighty impact it has had on the industry, especially in recent years.
In fact, mobile is the largest and most lucrative gaming segment in the world, accounting for roughly 50% of video gaming revenue worldwide.
All it takes is one look at the top-grossing apps chart and it’s clear to see just how fond we have become of our new smartphone pastimes. On the Google Play Store, seven out of the top ten grossing apps are gaming applications, with popular names such as Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, and Pokémon GO dominating the charts. As for iOS, it’s more of the same story, with 27 of the top 50 falling under the gaming category.
So, what is driving this huge demand, and why are games continuing to rank amongst the most successful mobile apps?
The mobile gaming phenomenon
Believe it or not, games account for 43% of all smartphone use. So the next time you see a well-dressed businessman on the subway who seems to be furiously swiping at his phone, there’s more of a chance he’s actually attempting level 143 of Angry Birds than responding to an important email.
On that note, let’s take a look at some of the primary factors that have enabled mobile gaming to flourish as much as it has:
Technological advancements and rapid innovation
Technology has come a long way since the invention of the first smartphones. As a result, rapid advancements in new tech are one of the main reasons why we are seeing more and more users prefer mobile games over consoles and PCs.
For example, the development of more powerful GPUs allows the phone to process both 2D and 3D graphics, while faster graphics processing translates into a higher frame rate for games, improving the user experience.
Furthermore, the arrival of virtual reality and augmented technology has opened up a plethora of options for app developers, which gives players something brand new and exciting that they can enjoy through their smartphones.
Just look at the meteoric success of Pokémon GO since its launch in 2016. For the first time, AR allowed digital elements to be brought into players’ real-world environments. Through this technology, the mobile device’s relatively small screen could be used to incorporate our entire environments as a part of the gameplay, which has proved wildly popular with mobile gamers.
Low cost for players
For the most part, mobile games are considerably cheaper than their console and PC counterparts. For example, the average Playstation 5 game will set you back around $70, where most mobile games are free to play, like so many of the most popular apps.
The typical trade-off is that users typically have to sit through advertisements at predetermined periods throughout the gaming experience. If you want to remove the ads, you can do so for a fee.
Once again, this was revolutionary to the gaming world, which brought about an entirely new category referred to as “freemium.” Instead of paying for the game on the app store, players download it for free, but if they want to access extra features and unique in-game content, they can usually purchase tokens or items in the store. This makes the games accessible to anybody with a mobile phone – another significant factor in their widespread popularity.
Social gaming has finally made its way to the mobile gaming sector, which has seen several popular apps soar on the download charts as people attempt to beat their friends, post top scores, and interact with other players online.
Today, massive titles such as Fortnite, PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds, and Call of Duty: Mobile allow large lobbies of players to play against each other in real-time, which adds an added element of camaraderie and competition alongside the games core features. In addition to this, almost every game is now integrated with major social media platforms, which allows for the easy addition of leaderboards, rewards, and other public stats that can be shared directly with friends.
In light of this, developers are now beginning to prioritize social features within mobile games, bringing daily and weekly missions for players to complete together with their team members, co-op gameplay, and cross-platform functionality so mobile users can play along with their friends on consoles or PCs.
Among Us was one of the standout performers in the cross-platform realm, after being downloaded more than 324 million times on mobile devices, generating $86 million within the first three years of its release. Not bad for a relatively cheap to produce indie game.
Mobile has quickly risen to become the most popular and widely played gaming segment in the world. Yet, when you consider the added portability and convenience of gaming from your smartphone, plus the low cost of purchasing the biggest titles, it’s no wonder mobile games have proved to be a smash hit on the app stores.
As technology continues to improve through faster GPUs, better screen technology, and exciting new features such as virtual and augmented reality, we will likely continue to see mobile gaming apps capture even more of a market share over consoles and PCs.