The last two decades have seen a massive increase in the number of high-end mobile devices being disseminated into the general public.
In 2018, 69.6 percent of the U.S. population used a smartphone; while in 2017, 62.1% of the population of Western Europe owned and used a smartphone.
Alongside this massive increase in the number of smartphone users, there has been a considerable uptick in the number of game developers turning their attention to the mobile device space. According to a report by consumer market experts, IDC, who partnered with the mobile app analytics platform App Annie, the total spend on mobile games was nearly three times higher than spending on PC and Mac gaming combined.
The report also showed that 80% of all purchases made on both the Apple and Google Play stores were made on games.
While those numbers are still lagging behind the total purchases of console games, the mobile space has gone from games like Snake to a dominant arena for the gaming industry. So, what prompted this?
Smaller and Faster
As we mentioned, one of the key drivers for the explosion of the mobile gaming space is the rapid evolution of smartphone technology. While retro gaming has become more and more popular, most games still have a minimum standard for the graphical intensity of their games; and modern smartphones have increased in power and scope to the point where they more than rival the original PlayStation's graphics quality.
In fact, creating a mobile-friendly web presence has become a priority for most digital enterprises, as their customers increasingly become more mobile dependant.
Of course, the popularity of mobile gaming apps has seen a variety of businesses turn their attention to the format. Long gone are the days when only indie games were released as Android-only apps. These days, you can expect to find mobile versions of AAA titles rubbing shoulders with the premier providers of online poker games, all within easy reach on your mobile device.
Currently, the online casino genre is one of the major growth markets in the mobile space. A report from Superdata, a company specialising in data, insights, and guidance for the games and interactive media markets, indicates that 85 percent of social casino users play gaming apps on their smartphones.
A New Market and New Technologies
While new tech and the rise of online casinos are the more talked about reasons for the rising popularity of mobile gaming, one of the least acknowledged growth sectors is that of female-oriented games.
It is no secret that the videogames market has traditionally been male-dominated, especially the console market. However, according to data provided by Google Play, 49% of all mobile games are created for a female audience, and 64% of women prefer playing mobile games to console games.
Mobile gaming has done something that PC and console gaming has struggled to do for decades: accessing around 52 percent of U.S. women aged between 18 and 65, which represents a very large new demographic.
This rise in popularity of mobile gaming has also led to traditional gaming companies producing more mobile consoles, with great effect. Nintendo sold 4.8 million of its handheld Switch consoles last quarter, bringing lifetime sales to 41.67 million, and around 50% of those who purchased a Switch were female - significantly more than its direct competitors Xbox and Playstation, who only managed between 30 and 40%.
Mobile games also have an edge when it comes to incorporating gaming's hot new fad, Virtual Reality. While other games consoles - particularly the PC - have the functionality to enable VR, this generally involves the use of expensive equipment. Mobile VR platforms can be used with cardboard headsets that cost as little as $10.
This low barrier for entry means that more and more developers are looking to develop VR games on a mobile platform because, while mobile platforms lack the processing power of a gaming PC or console, VR technology is still new enough that customers are wary of purchasing a $250 VR headset for one console game.
The combination of tapping into a previously untapped market, developers excited to develop games for the platform, and the advancing abilities of smartphones has propelled mobile gaming from a curiosity into the forefront of games development.