North East Connected

Is Mobile Gaming Still Worthwhile in the Current Gaming Climate?

The console wars have always been a thing, ever since the first SEGA Saturn was threatened by the presence of the Nintendo 64. We as consumers are so busy looking at PlayStation versus Xbox that we haven’t even noticed someone step into the gaming ring. No, not the Switch. Phones.

It makes sense. Everyone has a phone, far more than in comparison to consoles, but they’re full of snakes and solitaire, right? Mobile games can’t compete with consoles.

Mobile gaming accounts for more than a quarter of global gaming revenue. Worth $98 billion in 2020, the mobile gaming market is expected to grow to $272 billion by 2030. Mobile games account for a third of all app downloads and 74% of consumer spend. Unlike console and PC gaming, it spans demographics and doesn’t take (a lot of) expensive tech. It slips right into a piece of tech everyone’s using anyway. Technically, if they play a game, everyone from your grandma playing checkers to your toddler brother popping bubbles, they’re a gamer.

Console and PC gaming is already stealing money-making tips from mobile gaming, namely microtransactions. For example, the very public and ruinous backlash of Star Wars: Battlefront in 2015 caused the industry as a whole to take a cautious step back from microtransactions. They didn’t retreat entirely but learned that an overly aggressive campaign of loot boxes and paid-for upgrades will put console gamers off from buying the game at all. This is of course the big difference in mobile and console games: its price. It’s understandable to open a cheap or free game and be hit with an offer to upgrade for some cash, and to feel cheated if a £50 AAA game asks you the same thing.

But that gap might be closing. Browse the Apple Store or Google Store’s gaming department and amongst the Diner Dash and GGPoker games you will see more and more games that hit the middle ground between “free” and “AAA prices”, with formerly made-for-console games making an appearance on the app, such as Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto. Traditionally console and PC game publishers like Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts are focusing on mobile gaming, Activision’s Call of Duty which has a well-respected mobile equivalent to its console elder.

And console creators are well aware of this, with the release of mobile phone controllers, including for the PlayStation and Xbox being an indicator. There’s even talk of adding mobile games to esports due to a new generation of players and fans.

Even Netflix is getting in on the gig, taking the mixed success of its Black Mirror Bandersnatch experiment and its IP adapted console game Stranger Things 3: The Game and running with it. But it’s significant they said they were starting with mobile gaming: unless they take it seriously, they could release games with the least effort for the most profit and expect you to play while you watch the latest Netflix Original.

The only real hurdle mobile gaming has is the casual nature of its users. It will be hard to coax console and PC gamers away from the AAA games that they’ve poured so much money, time, effort, and their limited interest in. They’ve been to the very center of space, they’ve fought in World Wars, they’ve run from zombies: they are not going to be impressed by Candy Crush 2.0. On the other hand, those who are only playing in front of the TV until the rush runs out might be less pressed to pay to play.

Despite that, casual gamers are doing something, or we wouldn’t be here discussing how mobile games are making too much money to go away.

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