From Pong to Virtual Reality – The Rise of Mobile Gaming

PUBG logo and player.

Gone are the days we plugged in a keyboard and floppy disk to play lemmings on our Atari. Actually, they are now retro gaming collectables, and maybe somewhere out there right now someone is digging a little lemming hole in a bid for freedom. Then came the rise of the consoles, spending hours playing with your siblings or friends. Suddenly the graphics were better and online gaming was an option and what was once an activity for up to 4 people, suddenly became a way to connect to the world. Gaming got as big as it ever would – it is now global and connecting millions of people around the world. Then it got smaller and smaller again. Into the palms of our hands.

We now carry our much-loved games around in our pockets. Amazingly the mobile gaming market holds about 40% of the £800 million gaming market, and experts think that will go up by 2020. One of the most notable games to arrive on the mobile scene was Angry Birds; it swept the globe with it’s simple to play style and its ease for all ages. In 2017 Rovio, the company that made Angry Birds managed an incredible 3.7 billion downloads across all of its games.

Pokémon changed the game (so to speak) when it comes to how people interacted with their mobile games. Combining real-life activity with something that millions of people dreamed about when they were little – catching and keeping Pokémon. A cool fact is that in December 2016 players had walked over 8.7 billion kilometres, which is enough to circle the earth 200,000 times! Imagine what that figure would be now.

In 2017 the most downloaded app type was gaming apps, meaning that even the people who say they don’t play games, are probably playing on their phones.

The pick-up-and-play design of most of these games has allowed people, who commute and have busy lives to so play when they can rather than be wired to a console for hours is ideal. The rise of the casual gamer has meant the rise of a different way to market and sell games. Whereas you buy a disc or download for a console, for a mobile app you likely have in-game purchases but it’s a free-to-play setup, it feels almost like something for nothing to begin with.

There is an underlying perk here, it means that where once upon a time you had to be outstanding in your field to get a chance to land a job with the big game makers like Naughty Dog, and Insomniac Games, the indie developer can join the ranks of game releases on a mobile platform. The mobile first giants like Supercell and Rovio have paved the way for not only bigger companies but the smaller developers. Who is currently sitting at home, learning new coding skills and working with artists to design something enjoyable and basic. Any mobile device has access to over 800,000 games at any one time, and there is no reason why an indie game can’t get a number 1 hit.  

The issues with the in-game purchases are simply that some games come with a pay-wall and to progress you need to pay up. If you have been investing a lot of commuting time into a game, only to then realise that something you had been enjoying so much forces you to pay to continue you have only two option – pay or delete. For example, you need more lives, gems, or a weapon of some type – you can’t move forward without it. It’s lame, but it works because we consider the time investment worth something. Another option is, there are ads every turn in the game, to rid yourself forever of these annoying pop-ups you can pay $3.99 but you decide you can live with them. Those adds make up 53% of most gaming revenue, working on the basis that you would rather click the X button than pay a one-off fee. You are an ad cash cow. Clever. The other option is just a straight up paid game. It has a one-time payment, and that is all there is to it. However, the latter only makes up 4% of the total mobile gaming revenue so is far from the most popular.

The next few years will be particularly interesting regarding where mobile gaming will go next. We already have virtual reality headsets that we can use with our mobiles to travel the world, we can catch Pikachu or a T-rex (the new Jurassic Park VR game), we can play quick fire slots, and we can save the world – all in the palm of our hands. And that is something that the children playing Pong all those years ago wouldn’t have ever imagined.

Just a regular computer user. I write for regular users like me. When we grow up we are taught basic security tips like how to cross the street. But we are not taught how to take care of ourselves online.