While it may lack the old-school charm of emptying all your quarters into a Pac Man machine at the corner arcade, mobile gaming has grown immensely popular over the years, becoming a burgeoning industry of it’s own (and requiring less trips to the change machine). Of course, the nature of mobile hardware has also presented challenges for developers in the forms of less powerful hardware and greater diversity in software environments when compared to PCs and consoles. At the same time, mobile has developed a unique presence as a gaming platform, meaning that there is significant opportunity to target non-traditional gaming demographics and innovate in terms of overall user experience.

Can mobile gaming retain the casual gamer and woo the hardcore fan?

Mobile gaming has become a distinct form of entertainment, but its separation from the rest of the gaming community likely exists due to a set of common elements found in smartphone and tablet applications. Features such as social media integration, unique pricing models (typically free or low intro pricing) and intuitive controls are common elements for smartphone and tablet games. While console and PC gaming still benefit from widespread participation, the more that mobile devices can bridge the graphics and performance gaps, the more consumers will likely turn to their smartphones and tablets for entertainment. In addition, mobile games benefit from intuitive interface features such as touchscreens, which make it easier for consumers to learn to play a new game.

According to Mintel’s Mobile Gaming US 2013 report, nearly half of U.S. American gamers play on a mobile device, and only 13% of gamers view their mobile gaming as an extension of their overall gaming activity, meaning that the majority recognize mobile as a distinct platform. In addition, 73% of mobile gamers said they had downloaded a free app, compared with 33% that said they had downloaded one with upfront costs.

What it means

While ease of use and casual gameplay are common among mobile games, the success of games like Flappy Bird shows that notoriously difficult games can still be big hits. Part of its popularity can be attributed to users boasting their scores on social media sites, highlighting the value of social integration in enabling competitiveness. At its peak, that game generated $50,000 daily through in-app advertising. Developers do not need to reinvent the wheel.

Mobile’s distinction from other forms of gaming offers developers an opportunity to reimagine older games for the mobile platform, which may attract more serious gamers who are already familiar with those titles. However, new versions of old games should offer additional value when compared to their originals. For instance, remade versions of older games may introduce new characters or story arcs and bring in a whole new generation of fans. In video game terms, mobile games have been a boon to the industry equivalent to stumbling upon a whole host of 1-ups.

Bryant brings almost a decade of experience working in the tech arena, most recently as a Senior Technology Writer with Brafton News, where he oversaw the editorial team, wrote as a trade journalist and prepared a range of industry white papers.

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