Is the Rise of Mobile Gaming Unstoppable?

Mark Stephens

We have all heard the predictions that mobile gaming will continue to take the world by storm for the next few years. But there was a cautionary note earlier this week from PocketGamer – perhaps the rise of mobile gaming is not so inevitable or straightforward after all?


The rise of mobile games

BigFish Gaming reported in August of this year that the mobile gaming market will double in size by 2016, reaching $23.9 billion; and that the ‘projected industry growth rate is over 27% per year.’

Looking around us it’s not hard to believe these predictions, though how they arrive at such precise figures for two years ahead is beyond my comprehension.

Mobile games do seem to be taking over; the big social gaming companies have realised that and the major gaming platforms have realised it too.

So what’s the problem?

The question marks over mobile gaming

Carter Dodson writing in Pocketgamer earlier this week questions whether the upward spiral of mobile gaming is as inevitable as made out.
He makes some valid points which I will summarise below but the whole article can be read here.

The premise of his opinion is this:

“The rise of mobile gaming is the byproduct of dramatic shifts in technology usage that weren’t linked to gaming. Change will continue – and there’s no guarantee that those changes will lead to mobile gaming being more prosperous for those who make mobile games.”

Essentially Dodson identifies three main dangers that the mobile gaming industry needs to be aware of:

Growing conservativism – the Free-to-play community is conservative and generally keeps making the same games that make money. That could be dangerous when players’ tastes change and the industry is not able to react quickly enough.

Structural change – when the next big game arrives with all its imitators, the cycle will begin again, but it’s unlikely to be as lucrative as what we’ve seen before. Monetisation may need to be at a lower level and the cost of user acquisition increases – potentially contracting the market.

Core device functionality – mobile gaming is a secondary use of mobile phones, which are used primarily for communication and to keep up with social networks. They are not ultimately designed as gaming devices. If something comes along that does that job better – or becomes the preferred way of doing things – then gaming could be hurt as those players disappear.

Not alone?

This doesn’t appear to be a single voice in the wilderness. Other industry people are questioning the how long the mobile gaming boom will last.
Another article recently published in PocketGamer questioned how mobile games would make the crossover to some of the newer TV devices that could drive fresh impetus in the gaming industry:

“I think developers and publishers are making a mistake if they view platforms like Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and probably the next Apple TV as just another platform for their mobile game titles. As a user of the Fire TV, I find that most of the games are not well suited to the "sit back and play via a remote or game controller big screen experience. Games created for a multi-touch device held in your hand simply don’t port well to the big-screen format.”

Whether the extreme convenience factor of mobile gaming outweighs its limitations in the long run remains to be seen.

But with the sheer variety out there I don’t see too many people getting bored with playing games on the iPhone or iPad just yet.