The world of mobile gaming is now a multi-million dollar industry, competing with dedicated consoles and PCs for popularity. Both the convenience and time-passing characteristics of these handheld device games mean they are excellent for those who want to pass the time waiting for the bus, train, or even while visiting the bathroom. From gaming’s very beginnings to today, the evolution of gaming apps has shown huge advancements, with nearly everyone having some form of a game in their pocket.
Today we’ll go through some of the history and background of mobile gaming and how it’s become the global phenomenon it is today.
The Beginnings of Mobile Gaming
The first smash hit mobile game was Nokia’s classic, Snake. From the moment it was released, it became a worldwide hit with its simple gameplay and addictive characteristics. Snake was the start of something much more significant, with over 900,000 available games available currently on the app store.
Snake returned in 2017 with the re-release of the Nokia 3310 and was just as popular as when it was released the first time, mainly due to the nostalgia that a lot of players felt about the game. Along with Tetris, Snake was one of the first handheld phone games that allowed short gaming sessions and simple gameplay. Known as a hyper-casual game, this genre of mobile apps is becoming more popular by the day.
A few other popular games followed in the years after that, with Space Invaders and Alien Fish Exchange releases. However, a milestone that’s sometimes overlooked in mobile gaming history was the release of the Nokia N-Gage phone.
This device had a combination of telephone and gaming features with a plethora of titles available, with new technological highs such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, one of the first 3D titles. This was the first phone to compete against gaming giants such as Nintendo but was finally discontinued in 2005.
Moving forward to the year 2007, the iPhone had been on the market for a year, and the App Store was introduced, changing the gaming industry for good! When it was initially released, only 500 apps were available on the App Store, such as Super Monkey Ball and Texas Hold’em.
The introduction of the iPhone meant that mobile game developers had a new way to play, with the use of multi-touch controls. The first smartphone gaming smash hit came in 2009 and grew to become massively popular in a very short amount of time. This game was Angry Birds and it set the tone of what was to come in mobile gaming.
Angry Birds continued to set the bar for mobile gaming in the 2010s. Many video game publishers started using apps as second screens for their games and companion apps for such titles as Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed.
The Future of Mobile Gaming
It was only a matter of time before Candy Crush and Clash of Clans became the top two mobile games in 2012. After that, the number of new mobile games released continued to rise. Some new technologies are being used to strive for differentiation, such as Pokemon Go and Wizards Unite, which use augmented reality to stand out.
The mobile gaming taxonomy involves many approaches today, with multiple genres of games available in app stores. In addition, mobile games enjoy a great deal of popularity among core gamers due to their innovative developments. The majority of mobile gamers today don’t consider themselves gamers, and are identifying with casual and hyper-casual genres instead.
There are more than 6 million apps available today. As of 2019, 2.07 million apps have been available on Google Play, followed by 1.84 million on the App Store, 669,000 on the Windows Store, and 489,000 on Amazon. As the market for mobile games rises worldwide, the growth of app stores testifies to the same phenomenon.
However, not all apps survive after their initial release because of the high number of releases. Many apps fail to master the art of monetization because finding the right strategy is a significant challenge. More than 94% of mobile games with free monetization units are ad-based, and the share of games integrating an advertising SDK keeps increasing. Among the top 1000 games on the App Store and Play Store, 89% of apps include an SDK, according to App Annie, who collected data between January and December 2019.
Mobile Gaming Revenue
The majority of mobile games found on the app store are free of charge, but developers are making money through in-game advertisements and in-app add-ons available for purchase. As a result, mobile advertising is advancing rapidly. In-app bidding is increasingly used to address problems such as high ad latencies and other monetization inefficiencies.
Publishers can offer their ad inventory to multiple exchanges simultaneously using in-app bidding, the mobile equivalent of desktop header bidding. Using this format, the bidding process is much more transparent for everyone involved and adds a better level of trust overall. However, many publishers are still finding it difficult to add this into their games due to the technical implications.
Hybrid solutions have been introduced to combat these issues to find a middle ground between old and new ways to gain revenue. In addition, open-source tools such as Prebid, a company that supports the integration of in-app and header bidding technologies with their apps, are also available.