When the internet became common around the turn of the new millennium, the games on mobile phones were hilariously simple. The best players could usually expect was a Tetris rip-off, or Snake if you were lucky. This only really changed when smartphones hit the market in the latter half of the decade, after which mobile gaming exploded in popularity.
The most curious development here was that what happened in mobiles didn’t stay in mobiles. Rather, the ideas and potential that smartphones represented revealed a market for gaming that had otherwise started to decline. With mobiles, this market saw a resurgence, and in doing so affected many other aspects of the gaming world.
The Smartphone’s Impact on the Gaming Market
Before smartphones became popular, there was a trend in video games to continually push for longer titles. Over time, technology had advanced to a point that the necessarily smaller games of older generations had started to die out, as progress ostensibly demanded broader and longer-lasting experiences. Like many developments in the gaming industry, the idea that this constituted progress was not entirely based on reality.
When smartphones became popularized by the iPhone, the systems revealed a gap in the market that existing game experiences couldn’t fill. Mobiles needed smaller games, those which could be played in short bursts, while at the same time not eliminating the possibility of longer play sessions.
All of a sudden, the classic styles of games from early console generations saw a resurgence, and new names arrived to take advantage of the untapped market. Games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga hit record highs, in many cases even surpassing titles in the traditional console and PC space.
Changing an Industry
When mobile gaming turned out to be reliably successful, other forms of interactive entertainment took notice. The fastest of these to respond was the online casino industry, with games like the Fluffy Favourites slot. As they moved onto mobile devices, games like these were met with enormous popularity, to the point where the mobile market now constitutes a significant part of the online casino industry. Of course, other developments like deposit bonuses, high RTPs, and streamlined controls helped, but the connection was there.
Back in traditional video games, the most immediate response was the arrival of ports. All of a sudden, the mobile market was flooded with ports of games like the Final Fantasy series. This was only the start, however, as existing companies strove to adapt their properties to better fit into the mobile space. Some of these, like Blizzard’s Hearthstone, would go on to see universal acclaim. Others, like Titanfall: Assault, would flounder and ultimately fail. This pattern continued for some time until mobiles began to approach a level of power that vastly exceeded traditional handheld devices.
When this occurred after 2015, a few major developers with games that relied on smaller sessions would set off a new level of ports. Best illustrated by PUBG, these high-level ports of demanding games would set new standards, finally painting mobiles as a platform accepted by both developers and the public as on par with existing systems.
Today, mobile gaming is worth more than either PC or console gaming, and as One Earth Rising notes, this popularity is only growing. While this is a positive development in terms of accessibility, it’s also important to remember that mobiles are more than just one arm, they’re an influential force on gaming as a whole. Whether you’re a mobile player or not, anything that fights stagnation is a good thing, even if our hands get a little cramped along the way.