The Future of Mobile Gaming – From Someone Who Should Know

Mark Stephens

There is, quite frankly, a lot of rubbish written about the future of social gaming, especially at this time of year when everybody is looking ahead to the New Year. The VentureBeat website, however, recently featured an excellent interview with Rick Thompson, who has invested heavily in mobile gaming over the years. He is clearly somebody in the know and his insight into where mobile and social gaming is heading is refreshing. Some of his most interesting responses are summarised below…


Over the past few years Rick Thompson has invested in a variety of Chinese, Japanese, and US social gaming companies, including FunPlus, Funzio, and Playdom. More recently he has put money into Midverse, a casino platform maker and Super Evil Megacorp, which made the tablet-based multiplayer online battle arena game Vainglory.

Quite apart from his hefty investments and being one of the best poker players in Silicon Valley, his full interview with VentureBeat which can be read here has some interesting observations.

Firstly, Thompson believes that mobile games will get increasingly more sophisticated with more core gaming hitting mobile devices:

‘We’re going all-in on core games. We believe that’s going to be a major growth area for mobile.’

He also questions the common belief that short gaming sessions represent the future of mobile gaming, with people essentially playing casual games to kill time. He believes the gaming experience even on mobile can be immersive – so short sessions are not a prerequisite:

‘Playing those games, you lose track of time. It becomes totally immersive. The touch screen experience lends itself very well to long hardcore sessions of synchronous play.’

And he believes the bandwidth and devices will soon be able to support this fully immersive experience better:

‘People are playing games more often from home than on the road, where there’s wi-fi available. Over the next couple of years we’ll see better bandwidth. We’ll see a new generation of screens.’

His main piece of advice for game developers is to think globally and act locally:

‘They need to make sure that their gameplay has universal appeal, that the art goes east as well as west, and that the experience has legs. At the same time you have to act locally, making sure that content is relevant to local audiences, that the community is developed where people feel like they’re playing with other people in their neighborhood.’

As far as user acquisition strategies go, Cost per Install (CPI) schemes are a no-go for Thompson:

“‘CPI is the last thing a company should look at for customer acquisition. How do you get leverage? How do you find your market, rather than going to the unfiltered masses through a CPI campaign? ‘”

On whether the smaller developers are being ‘muscled out’ of the game by the huge players like Amazon and Google, he has this to say:

‘You have to separate the platforms from the large developers and publishers. Apple, Google, and Amazon are there. They’re unavoidable. You have to trust them. You rely on them for promotion, payment, authentication, anti-fraud. What I think developers should be cognizant of is making sure that they don’t become overly dependent on the avoidable third parties that aren’t necessarily aligned with their business.’

About the particular areas of the world that will lead the way in game development, he says:

‘Talented teams are building great games and thinking about the business in the long term. They can revolutionize a genre, and it doesn’t take more than a dozen or two dozen people to get to the top of the charts. I hope we have some from San Francisco. I’m sure Finland will show us some more. Obviously China and South Korea will be there.’

And finally, how far away is virtual reality in gaming?

‘It’ll be great fun to play with and it’s fun to imagine, but it’ll probably be a few years before devs invest too much.’

No huge predictions for the year ahead. Just careful analysis of what he’s seen happening in the mobile gaming market. That’s refreshing insight at this time of year which is, after all, ‘silly season’!

All the best for the rest of the silly season and for 2015 everyone! Happy gaming!