Smartphones have impacted virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives, and gaming is no exception. Below we’re going to be taking a look at three essential ways that smartphones have revolutionized the $300 billion dollar global video games industry.
The smartphone market is the largest games market in the world, due to the fact that these devices are incredibly commonplace. This means that demographics outside of the core gaming market are increasingly accessing gaming experiences. This has led to the growth of so-called hyper-casual titles, designed to appeal to people who have minimal time or interest to invest in getting to grips with a game’s mechanics.
Furthermore, looking beyond the limitations of the app store, one can see that some of the most popular games played today on mobile make use of these devices’ in-built web browsers to access a huge range of content that simply can’t be found on other platforms. One key sector that accounts for a sizable percentage of gaming on smartphones is that of mobile gambling, which occupies a demographic distinct from Triple A console games, and that was hitherto previously limited to desktop PCs and laptops. By being able to provide gaming experiences to people that the conventional industry struggles to capture, smartphones have contributed to its enormous expansion over the past 10 years.
Smartphones have served as ground-zero for a range of game monetization experiments. The most famous of these being the freemium model. Freemium games permit players limited access to their titles, while holding out the offer of purchasing the full title to unlock its full features. However many people never buy a freemium game, preferring instead to put up with the imposed time and content limitations of the free version. Irrespective of this, it has proven to be exceptionally successful.
Another related model, known as Free-2-Play, instead offers gamers full access to the core features of a game, with the option to purchase digital items via microtransactions in order to customize and curate their experience. These have proven to be popular and well regarded, both on smartphones and on home systems. Now, titles such as Fortnite and PUBG, while available on all platforms, are increasingly finding the majority of their users are choosing to play on smartphones, favoring the ease of access and convenience of the platform.
Organizations working within the games industry, as in all money-making ventures, prize the exclusive use of intellectual properties as a core means to compete with their rivals. This trend is apparent across all major game platforms, though in the past it was much more pronounced. Nowadays, the vast majority of Triple A titles get a simultaneous release on both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, as this gives a game maximum exposure, and thus maximum potential return on the developers’ investment. One key factor influencing this is that game hardware has converged over time, meaning it’s relatively simple to port a game between these consoles. Much more so than it would have been to optimize an original Xbox game for the PS2, or vice versa.
This cross-platform trend has also been massively impacted by the growth of smartphone gaming. As smartphone hardware has become more powerful, it has become viable to port console and PC titles over to both iOS and Android. What’s more, as this represents the single largest, and fastest-growing gaming market, the onus is on developers to build games from the ground up with compatibility for these platforms whenever viable. In building games capable of being ported to mobile platforms, broad-cross platform compatibility across PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android has become increasingly commonplace in the industry. In addition to this, many games also feature cross-play – meaning people playing the same game on different platforms are capable of playing with, or against, one another.
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