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How Mobile Gaming Changed and Where It's Going

To understand the future of modern mobile gaming you have to look backward. Specifically, you need to look at the simple black text on a green background that powered Nokia's now-iconic Snake. The simple yet addictive game came preloaded on all the company's phones after 1998 and would prove to be more than just a novelty. As low tech as Snake was, it was also a tiny taste of what was to come. Less than two decades have passed and yet the accessibility, portability and quality of mobile games available today make Snake look positively prehistoric. 

Perhaps that's because the path from Snake to Modern Combat 5: Blackout has been anything but linear. Would it surprise you to learn that the essential ecosystem that would eventually allow the kind of data transfer necessary for today's smartphones to exist was driven in part by the desire for multi-player mobile gaming? And that was back in 1999! The first downloadable content hit the airwaves in the year 2000 but it wasn't until the Apple App Store went live in 2008 that modern mobile gaming went mainstream. Prior to that, gaming on the go required a secondary device like the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP. Having a computing platform in your pocket plus a way to access mobile content changed everything – and fast.

The audience for mobile games and apps blew up almost overnight. Even more importantly, the App Store's launch meant there was suddenly an open and democratic market for third-party game designers and distribution channels. Gamers both serious and casual no longer had to wait around for the release of a limited batch of heavily curated titles because games were being released at a breakneck pace. More and more people willingly adopted the gamer sobriquet .

There was only one thing standing in the way of a full-scale mobile gaming revolution, and that was the games themselves. Graphics and playability were not improving as quickly as other amusements available on phones and then tablets. The idea that the mobile segment of today's 90 billion dollars gaming industry would overtake the console would have been laughable just a few years ago and yet chances are that will happen in just a few months. The credit goes to the advanced graphics and enhanced playability driven by new more powerful graphics processors like the Snapdragon Adreno GPU and other technological advancements in the mobile processing sphere.

Suddenly mobile games were comparable to sixth gen console titles in terms of look and feel. Stunning graphics, longer play times and a burst of speed had players treating their phones and tablets as their primary gaming devices. This new world of mobile gaming has attracted millions of players – with women making up one of the fastest-growing player demographics. The big data industry is analyzing emerging market segments, and gaming companies are evolving to cast a much wider net by blurring the line between social media and games and by making a point of releasing titles that appeal to a more diverse audience.

Ultimately the gaming industry is transitioning from a product to a service because download numbers are no longer as important as player retention and loyalty. The tech will certainly get better and better, expanding the realm of what's possible in mobile, from 3D to VR and beyond. Player saturation will eventually become a serious issue as an ever-increasing number of titles flood the market but the end result will be intense competition that drives developers to make games even better.

Will mobile gaming ever kill the console? Consumers in the US are still using all four screens and likely will for decades to come, but it could happen. Ultimately players have to make a choice as to how they spend their gaming dollars and as mobile gaming continues to grow in both quality and scope a shift could happen – maybe even overnight.  

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