With Apple’s gaming revenues reaching double those of Nintendo in 2015, it is safe to say that the mobile gaming industry is starting to overtake consoles. Players spent a massive $30billion on gaming apps in 2015 and are projected to spend $101 billion by 2020, as mobile technology improves and adapts to new demands. So, what does this tell us about the progression of the gaming industry?
It’s clear that the games industry is starting to take the medium of mobile much more seriously, which is great news for app developers and gaming experts as creating an app is tricky but more accessible than the development of a console game. The old model of buy and play has been cast aside for freemium options, which allow casual players to play the game for free with the choice of making in-app purchases later. While this is not a great concept for serious gamers, the accessibility of the casual approach is not possible with console games which require a sometimes-hefty payment upfront, putting off anyone who isn’t interested in making a commitment to it.
This means that the target demographic of the casual gamer is changing. 27% of mobile gamers are between the ages of 35-50, while 74% of North American moms claim to play mobile gaming apps. This opens the playing field hugely for marketers to target their advertising campaigns, and will ultimately shape the design and structure of future games. The accessibility of apps also means that players do not have to carry bulky consoles around with them, instead easily accessing battles against friends on the ride home from work.
Touch screens, GPS, proximity sensors and audio input are altering fundamental interactions with games, creating multi-player augmented reality experiences which fully utilize the environment around the device. Players no longer have to choose between speed and graphics, with apps such as Need for Speed and Dead Trigger 2 ranking amongst some of the best games to take on the feel of consoles. Console manufacturers Sony and Nintendo have both reported that the knock-on effect of mobile apps has led to poor sales of their most recent consoles, the Vita and the 3DS, which can only mean a push for more improved, innovative games which can compete with the mobile gaming industry.
The notable surge in popularity of gaming apps such as Pokémon Go and PokerStars demonstrates the unpredictability of the gaming app industry, with Pokémon Go users surpassing the numbers of daily users of Twitter and Snapchat on its release. Casino apps are one of the fastest growing genres, with gamers using the PokerStars app to play a traditionally drawn-out game at a fast-paced speed, perfect for lunchbreaks and commutes.
Businesses are also realizing the potential of using gaming apps for bringing their customers together and improving customer experiences. Increasing numbers of companies and small businesses are using apps to draw people to their stores, either by way of geotargeting users or through the development of chat apps to encourage the community to get to know each other. Ad sales on apps are also big business.
With the introduction of Apple Watch and Android Wear, gamers can only expect to see more app-style games in increasingly better qualities. Given the nature of most die-hard console fans, however, it is highly unlikely that this signals the end of the console era. To help combat this issue, new console games now come with companion apps to allow gamers to continue their experience while on the go. The Fifa 15 app shows how this is possible; gamers can build teams on their phones and then play matches from their consoles when they get home. It will be interesting to see where a hybrid approach takes the industry next…