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A closer look at mobile gaming: Where is it heading?

The games and platforms shaping the future of mobile gaming

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A closer look at mobile gaming: Where is it heading?© 2023 Shutterstock

Gaming is a multibillion-dollar industry and has been for decades. In the past it was arcade games, which then became available on computers and gaming consoles, resulting in the industry taking off into the stratosphere. In recent years, another platform has emerged to give even greater scope to this already gargantuan industry, and in a short period of time has risen to the top of the pile as the most popular way for gamers to get their interactive fix. Mobile is now a way of life for most people, and with smartphones making their ways into most pockets, gaming is now more accessible to people than ever before. While we know that mobile gaming has been growing as a force over the years, there is definitely still room for it to expand further. So, with this in mind, what can we expect from mobile gaming in the future?

The current mobile statistics

In 2019, devices are in serious competition for screen time. Television has always maintained a lead in this department, as back in 2013 the average amount of television screen time per day came in at 270 minutes. This compared to the 135 minutes per day that mobile was attracting. Fast-forward to 2019 and mobile and television are expected to have the exact same amount of average screen time at just over 200 minutes per day. This isn’t just down to people scrolling through social media and websites on their phones, but also gaming. Mobile gaming is now thought to occupy 47% of gaming on all platforms, beating out console gaming at 28% and PC gaming at 25%. This statistic is mind-blowing when you think back at least 5 years. Of course, there are reasons for this, most of all the app market. Apps such as Pokémon GO have been successful in creating a whole new way for people to enjoy interactive gaming experiences. They also are not games that people play every now and then but rather spend hours exploring at a time. On a top 10 list of top grossing iPhone apps, Pokémon GO comes first with approximately $1,5 million being generated per day.

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Pokémon GO

To put into context just how popular mobile gaming is it is estimated that 73% of all app revenue comes from mobile gaming. This is quite staggering when one takes into account just how many apps are being released on a daily basis, many of which are e-commerce apps. The numbers definitely seem to support this, as Newzoo predicted that in 2019 2.4 billion people were set to play at least one mobile game. This suggests that just under one-third of the world’s population will be playing mobile games this year alone.

Which are the most popular types of games?

Gaming can be defined as more than just the popular console games we see advertised almost daily. While Pokémon GO is joined atop the highest earning app list with games like Candy Crush, Fortnite and Toon Blast, there are many other ways to game on your mobile. An industry that has embraced the digital age is the casino industry. Having always been synonymous with huge Las Vegas buildings and glitzy exotic locations like Monaco and Macau, online casinos started popping up in the mid-90s. By 2010 online casinos had become just as, if not more, popular than their brick and mortar counterparts. Most of the reason for this was the convenience factor that online offered, allowing gamers to gamble without leaving their houses.

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Once mobile started reaching the point where gaming became possible, it was only a matter of time before the heightened convenience of mobile gaming saw it overtake desktop as the preferred device. Today, casinos are appearing in the top 10 list of highest grossing apps, signaling that mobile gaming is coming in all shapes and sizes. Hence the reason for the growing success of brands such as mFortune which focus heavily on mobile for both their casino and bingo products.

While many are under the impression that casino apps are all played for real money, there is also a massive market for free-to-play casino apps. Gamers are split up into 3 different categories: casual gamers, strategy gamers, and fantasy gamers. It is estimated that 60% of gamers fall into the casual gamer category, and as the name suggests these people enjoy gaming as a way to pass time and prefer easy games. Free-to-play casino games fall into this category due to their ease of play. They are entertaining and can be played on the go, during the daily commute for example.

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There are industries that, just like the casino industry, are beginning to embrace the digital age. Scrabble, cards and treasure hunts are now all more common via mobile than via the traditional social interactions they were always known for.

How does the future look like

Having looked over all these amazing statistics, it would seem natural to predict growth to continue skyrocketing into 2020. However, this might not be the case for the medium to short term. China is a major driving force in mobile and as a country has seen a boom in mobile use in recent years. The Far East country accounts for 25% of mobile games spending which, given its population size and enthusiasm for gaming, is probably unsurprising. However, in 2018 China introduced regulations to try and restrict the amount of time people were spending on mobile devices. The Chinese mobile games market was expected to grow at around 30% year on year, which for any industry is a mammoth amount. But with the restrictions aimed at limiting the number of apps released through licensing freezes, it is now expected that the industry is only expected to grow at 10% year on year.

Another factor stunting the growth of mobile gaming is the lack of revolutionary new releases being brought to the market. This is something that is made abundantly clear as both the West and East have seen growth slowing down, as both generally enjoy the same games. Console gaming also had a surprisingly great year in 2018 which chipped away at mobile’s market.

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While the short term future of mobile gaming doesn’t look as astronomical as would have been predicted in 2017, the future is still bright. It is likely that by 2021 the mobile gaming industry will stand at $91.2 billion. It appears that, as with all industries, the mobile gaming industry relies on game-changing titles such as Pokémon GO in order to give it the injection of rocket fuel it has been receiving in powerful increments through the years. Should one of these pop culture phenomenon’s hit the market in the following years, then expect the projected 10% year on year growth shoot up once again.

However, one thing remains certain: the mobile gaming industry is set to stay ahead of both console and PC. The accessibility of smartphones and increased access to internet, not to mention the introduction of 5G, is likely to have a positive impact on the growth of the mobile gaming industry.

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