I was stuck again in one of those boring work meetings at 9 in the morning and thankfully, we were given a 20-minute break before I hit my face on the table falling asleep.
As usual, some of my colleagues would go grab something to drink while others went for a smoke or paid a visit to the restroom. But mobile game developers have created a new break-time-habit for some of my friends.
Huddled over one corner of the meeting room there were four men laughing together while they held their phones horizontally and had both hands on opposite ends of the screen. Another PUBG Mobile session was about to start.
Why Game On The Go?
Mobile gaming has evolved extremely quickly in the past few years and consequently, it’s also changing gaming as a whole. The overall affordability and accessibility of game-capable smartphones have outdone what Facebook managed to do with social games like Farmville: introducing games to an audience that weren’t interested in playing video games. This coupled with mobile data plans that are priced more and more competitively as each day goes by has created a powerful catalyst for the growth and success of mobile gaming.
If you’re interested in reading about contemporary facts and statistics on the popularity of mobile gaming, I recommend this. Here are a few of the interesting points:
- Mobile gaming contributes to more than 50% of global revenues in the gaming industry.
- More than 2 billion mobile gamers worldwide.
- In 2017, Worldwide box office generated $40 billion in revenue. In the same year, mobile gaming generated $50.4 billion.
Wherever the money goes, people follow. Console and PC video game developers who want to survive and thrive will look out for and pounce on opportunities to profit from this gigantic shift in demography and purchasing trend.
Making Mobile Magic
The decisions to create a mobile version of major titles such as Diablo and Command & Conquer aren’t simply because the developers believe they can “tell more stories” on a different platform. Both of these upcoming games have been met with very negative response from most fans of the original games. To me, this disappointment is completely warranted.
Developing video games is a labour of creativity. People enjoy new video games because they challenge and reward us in new ways when compared to older video games. There’s a constant need to evolve and provide fresh ideas to make people want to play.
It’s worth remembering that game developers are human beings like you and me who also need to pay the bills and then still have enough money to buy video games. Mobile gaming introduces a conundrum in this need to balance creativity and profit.
Almost all of the financially successful mobile games are completely free. Developers and publishers either use ads or microtransactions to generate profits. This means that anyone can own the games and they would only need to pay if they wanted something extra in-game. Thus, the games are usually judged based on how much pressure is put onto the players to purchase those in-game extras.
In other words, it’s really about how fair the game is on a scale ranging from aesthetics-only to pay-to-win. If a mobile game is very popular, it’s probably because the developers found a very good balance on that scale.
The Flip Side
Going back to my point of games being a labour of creativity, this is where things can go bad. The aforementioned methods of money-making in mobile games are more dependent on how good you are at designing a business model rather than designing a video game structure. If people would pay up simply to have an edge in a singular core gameplay mechanic, then there’s really no need to write well-written stories or create intricate combat systems.
Hell, one of the most successful mobile games in the world is Candy Crush Saga and I’m not saying Candy Crush has no plot. I’m saying it has bypassed the need to write GTA levels of script-writing while making much much more money.
There’s a bright side to all this and it actually goes back to my own point of games needing creativity. As more and more mobile games are developed, there will be creative and ambitious developers who will want to introduce better ideas and make mobile gaming just as interesting and enjoyable as console and PC gaming without having to sacrifice fairness and resort to lootbox gambling tactics.
As the hardware of smartphones gets more powerful each year, the limits as to what can be played on a smartphone will keep on being pushed and thus, there will be more room for concepts still unique to mobile gaming.
In The Thick Of It
For now, it’s too early to say that games like Diablo Immortal and C&C Rivals are horrible mistakes that were the results of greed and complacency. Perhaps those games will succeed and further enhance the notion of mobile gaming being the true leader of the game industry.
And even if those games don’t succeed, they’ll remind other big developers to think of better ways to delve into the mobile gaming market. I’m convinced that most studios are already formulating their mobile game business plans because the numbers are there: Mobile gaming is making the most money and it will continue to make even more money than the other platforms.