When the iPhone hit the market in 2007, everything changed. While it’s true that RIM’s Blackberry beat Apple’s offering to the punch, and in some ways, the idea of a smartphone can find its roots in personal digital assistants (PDA), like the original Palm Pilot, the iPhone made touchscreen, all-in-one, connected devices mainstream – and cool. And in doing so, it opened up a whole new commercial space for music, movies, television shows, short-form media, and of course, games. There’s no two ways about it: tablets and smartphones have enabled people to play lots and lots of games!
Consoles and Computers Face a New Foe
In 2014, Americans spent $4.9 billion on mobile games, accounting for fully 35 percent of all digital game sales (its nearest competitor, computer games, only managed to make up 22 percent of the market). Clearly, mobile games are not only here to stay, they’re here to dominate. It’s hard to overstate just how pervasive mobile gaming has become. Traditional console games, as represented by such platforms as Nintendo Wii, Xbox One, and Playstation 4, make up less than 10 percent of the market by comparison.
In less than a decade, mobile gaming has gone from a non-player to king of the mountain. Such success is nearly unprecedented, and is only possible when a new technology completely disrupts the existing status quo. Smartphones (and tablets, to a lesser degree) were that technology. And though their capabilities were originally somewhat limited, developments like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon mobile processor soon made it clear that mobile could compete with computer and console games head-to-head. And it seems like developers of those games are finally starting to listen.
The Old Guard Goes Smaller and Simpler
Over the past couple of years, titles that had previously been limited to consoles and computers have begun making their way to tablets and smartphones. Games like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and Need for Speed were thought by many to be too robust, advanced, and comprehensive for a mobile gaming experience – and yet, you can play all of these on your Android device at home. This is partly due to advancements in mobile technology, as previously stated, but it’s also do to the popularity of these devices. Developers can simply no longer ignore the market that mobile gaming represents, even if this platform falls outside of their traditional wheelhouse. And now one of the biggest names ever in the industry is finally getting in on it as well – Nintendo.
There’s No Looking Back Now
Nintendo developing for smartphone platforms represents something of a coup for the mobile gaming industry. For as long as people have been buying smartphones and tablets, they have also been downloading Nintendo emulators so that they could play the company’s most popular titles. Titles such as Super Mario Brothers and Zelda. Now, hungry gamers will no longer have to jerry-rig their devices to play their favorite games. But why now? Why did Nintendo take so long to join the mobile fold, when sales of devices have continued to increase year over year? Well, the company’s nearly 80 percent drop in stock price over the last seven years certainly played a role, but at the end of the day, it’s because Nintendo can no longer ignore the demographics of mobile gaming. In a word, everyone plays mobile video games.
A Little Something for Everyone
When you look at the statistics for mobile gaming, it’s a bit staggering. Other than movies and television, there is no other medium that seems to reach so many people of such disparate backgrounds and interests (books and newspapers do too, of course, but that’s such a large industry it’s hard to categorize). As the population is split roughly evenly between men and women, so too are gamers. Fully 48 percent of all video game players in the United States are women. Boys under the age of 18, the “traditional” gaming demographic, account for just 17 percent. And women also spend more time playing a particular game, and spend more money on in-app purchases, than men do. Basically, take everything you thought you knew about video games and throw it out the window; it’s a whole new world out there.
The appeal of mobile gaming is universal. Initial investment is low, but the possibilities are nearly endless. People can play casually or dedicate their time and energy to a title for hours on end. Suffice to say, this boom is just getting started, and doesn’t look to go bust anytime soon!