Mobile gaming plays a dominant role in the marketplace, and there are no signs of it slowing down. From almost no presence at all as recently as 2007 (coincidentally, when the first iPhone was launched), mobile gaming is expected to produce more than $35 billion in annual revenue by the year 2017, and will soon account for nearly 35 percent of total market share. Suffice to say, mobile gaming is a juggernaut that is enjoying unprecedented growth.
So why is this?
Sure, Fruit Ninja is fun, but is it $35 billion worth of fun? Well, the reasons are many of course. The prolific spread of mobile devices across the world doesn't hurt things one bit. But one of the biggest factors to the growth of mobile gaming is social media. In many ways, it set the template for mobile gaming, and it's responsible for much of its growth as well.
Mobile Video Games: Modeled after Social Gaming...
Think of all of the attributes that you associate with gaming on Facebook: the free-to-play model; the repetitive gameplay that results from there being no way to lose; the hop-in-and-out nature that enables people to play on the bus or during lunch; and the front-loaded features that are designed to hook the player immediately, with no learning curve. Now think of all of the attributes that you associate with mobile games like Cut the Rope, Angry Birds, and other titles. Pretty similar, right? That is because mobile and social games have been built around many of the same principles. And these principles work.
With few exceptions, mobile games share far more in common with social titles than they do console and PC titles. This isn't by accident. Whereas console and PC platforms encourage dedicated play time and adopt ardent followers, mobile devices appeal to everyone - men, women, boys, and girls. Because of this wider gaming demographic, and also because the screen is much smaller and the interface tends to be touch-screen, the games found on tablets and smartphones tend to veer one way while those on consoles veer the other. And social gaming, proving itself when many thought of it as nothing more than a gimmick, arguably led the way.
... and Tailor-made for Social Networking.
Of course, the other factor in mobile gaming growth is the social aspect of mobile video games. One of the big trends in mobile gaming is integrated social features. This includes live text and chat, easy sharing to social platforms, and multi-player compatibility. These social aspects of mobile games not only make them more engaging and rewarding for many players, but it also helps players promote the game to their friends and family in an organic way. And because it's far easier to download a free game from the app store than it is to go to a brick-and-mortar shop and buy a hard copy, this "social referral" program can lead to viral levels of growth. Just look at the phenomenon that was Flappy Bird. (If you had to actually purchase Flappy Bird, with money, from a store, you would have never tried it. Admit it.)
Mobile Gaming is Here to Stay
Social gaming and social networking have had an enormous impact on the mobile gaming industry. They have influenced everything from how games are designed to how players interact with them. But developers are betting big that mobile gaming can grow beyond that. The latest in advanced mobile technology, like Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor, has made it possible for game designers to take off the shackles. Today's titles are more robust, complex, and rich in gameplay than ever before. The notion that mobile games and console games are to be forever separate is already an outdated one. By appealing to the casual and hardcore gamer alike, can mobile games account for half of the market before the decade is over? How about ever? Only time will tell.