Is Mobile Starting to Compete with PC and Consoles as a Serious Gaming Platform?

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It is no secret that mobile phones have changed a large number of industries. Even if your job doesn’t depend on a smartphone, mobile technology will have changed some aspect of your life.

Do you have a website? It now needs to be mobile-optimised. Booking a doctor’s appointment? You could be directed to an online service. Lost? Go to your maps app and find your way. The smartphone has revolutionized life today and the gaming industry is no exception.

Gaming on mobile devices is nothing new since the Nokia 3310 was available these boredom-busters kept the public entertained through countless waiting room visits, long train journeys and lonesome coffee breaks.

But, gone are the days where people are satisfied chasing a pixel around the screen, remember snake? The good old days. Mobile gaming has developed enormously over the past decade and now developers are releasing games to try and attract gamers who prefer traditional gaming platforms such as consoles and PC.

What Do Gamers Want From Mobile Games?

PC and console gaming has become a culture. Rather than a simple pastime, gamers are now hooked up to headsets and microphones playing with other gamers across the world. There are international championships for certain game franchises and professional gaming influencers being paid to live stream their games. But mobile isn’t currently part of this culture, why? How can game developers attract the more seasoned gamers?

A survey by Tappable, UK mobile app developers, asked gamers what they most wanted from mobile games to make them more appealing to PC and console enthusiasts. Just over 30% said they would like longer gameplay, such as campaigns and storylines.

Currently, the mobile games market pivots on ease, each level or round only lasts a few minutes, suited to the fast-paced lifestyles of mobile users. Games such as Candy Crush and Flappy Bird required simple taps of the smartphone screen to play, with short levels. They are designed to be very simplistic and playable in very short sessions. In fact, the same survey revealed that almost 39% of respondents believed people only play mobile games to fill idle time.

The gamer participants also said they would like better controls (29%). Most mobile games work on the premise of tapping through levels, a simple touchscreen action, however, as more complex games are being released controls are becoming more complicated which isn’t translating well onto smartphones.

A Finnish research team discovered the reason why touchscreen controls are more difficult to operate than traditional button controllers:  

  • Users cannot precisely control where they hold their finger, this isn’t the case with a physical button, something you maintain physical contact with. This introduces variability in timing.
  • The timing of the sensor event is uncertain. The player can’t reliably tell when the touchscreen will actually register a touch. Is it when the finger makes the slightest contact? Is it when it passes some other threshold? Further variability is introduced.
  • Latency is unpredictable within games and apps. Sometimes a registered touch will take effect quickly, sometimes not — depending on a number of factors, only some of which are under the control of the game designer.

Mobile is Already a Gaming Platform to be Reckoned With

Despite these necessary improvements, the same Tappable survey revealed that 84% of gamer respondents currently play mobile games, with 41% of them listing mobile as the platform they use to play games on the most, compared to PC (26%) and console (32%).

The UK mobile gaming market crossed the £1 billion revenue mark in 2017 and 47% of UK smartphone owners are using their phones to play games, showing that mobile is already a successful gaming platform.

Mobile Gaming Successes

Mobile gaming has stepped up over the last few years, Pokémon Go was a big success and global craze in 2016, with players all over the world leaving their consoles behind as they used the Augmented Reality (AR) game to catch imaginary beasts. At its peak, it broke five world records including:

  1. Most revenue grossed by a mobile game in its first month 
  2. Most downloaded mobile game in its first month
  3. Most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its first month (downloads)
  4. Most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its first month (revenue)
  5. Fastest time to gross $100 million by a mobile game

People were catching Pokémon on their lunch break, opting to go for walks in the evening to search and even informing strangers on social media where rare Pokémon could be found.

Another mobile success is PUBG (PlayerUnknown Battleground). This game is a Battle Royal format, this basically means that it is a large map with a large number of players, fighting until there is only one left standing.

The game reached number one in app stores across 100 countries and boasts mobile game downloads up to 2.4 billion on iOS and 7.23 billion on Android.

If we look at the highest selling video game of all time, Tetris, which was first released as a physical game on GameBoy in 1989, it has only sold 170 million copies to date,  which is not close to the numbers of downloads of mobile games.

Bright Future For Mobile Gaming

A big selling point for mobile gaming at the moment is the ability to offer AR games. These games use the device’s camera to give a real-world background to the games. The latest example is the Jurassic World Alive game which puts dinosaurs into the real world, making it seem as if they are walking among the public. This type of game is not possible on consoles or on PC, so becomes a USP of mobile gaming.

However, the major game developers are still working on bringing console-like games to mobile. At E3 2018, the world’s largest gaming convention, some of the biggest names in game development announced they are working on mobile apps. Bethesda announced Elder Scrolls: Blades for iOS and EA Games announced Command and Conquer: Rivals, both companies are renowned for their PC and console offering.

According to NewZoo by 2020, mobile gaming will represent more than half of the total global games market. So, it looks like mobile is already competing and is set to overtake PC and consoles in the near future.

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