There once was a time when the most exciting thing that you could do on your phone was to make a call, send a text or play a game that was frankly quite underwhelming. For example, there was Snake, a simple game that just involved trying to prevent a multi-segmented snake from becoming long enough to take over the tiny black and white screen.
In those far off days, mobile games were simply seen as little add-ons to the phones themselves much in the same way that a new PC might come with a very basic driving game as part of its software bundle. But how times have changed, and it’s been driven by a number of factors. Here are a few figures from Mintel to put into context just how big the mobile gaming industry in the UK has become in less than 20 years.
In 2018 around £933 million was spent on mobile gaming in all of its forms and in 2019 this is projected to rise to well over £1 billion. By 2023, it’s thought that this figure could well rise as high as £1.59 billion.
Currently, mobile gaming apps account for over 65% of the total number downloaded and an estimated 27 million mobile phone and tablet users play games on their devices. Of these, 46% play daily with 73% playing at least once a week. So, by any reckoning, it’s a huge and very lucrative market.
With so much money involved, and with the potential for much more in the future, it’s no wonder that it’s a very competitive world out there for developers of mobile games, thousands of which appear for the first time in the apps stores every year. But for every Pokemon Go which found almost immediate global success, there are many, many more that simply don’t do as well.
A question of demand
The success of a mobile game is undoubtedly predicated by the demand there is for it. So developers need to recognise what makes one great. This can mean a number of things from the type of game that it is to how easy it is to play. In terms of the genre the traditional favourites are still proving to be very popular with 44% of players claiming to like puzzle games best and 43% opting for the more action-based arcade-style games. These figures have remained fairly constant over the last few years and there are few signs of this changing in the future.
But with so many different games clamouring for players’ attention it does pose the major issue of how to achieve effective cut through. It is more than possible that some great mobile games simply haven’t had the chance to succeed because they’ve not been brought to enough people’s attention. One suggestion that has been made in the past to help games raise their profile has been to adopt a technique that has been perfected by another very competitive sector, online bingo.
Time for bingo bonuses?
In this, there are a huge number of sites all trying to get a slice of the estimated 3.5 million people in the UK who like to play at online bingo sites. One of the most success techniques they use is sometimes known as bingo no deposit. In this, players are given a bonus to play on a bingo site and don’t have to pay a penny themselves, initially at least. This is in contrast to other sites in which they need to deposit some money before they can start to play.
So it’s easy to imagine that if mobile games developers started to offer a number of free in-app purchases at the outset then it could well start to attract more players for their particular game. They could then follow it up with more offers and bonuses of this kind to cement loyalty.
In fact, as technology advances they could find more and more opportunities opening up to them providing newer and more sophisticated ways to gain an advantage over the competition. This would mean that it would be more than the sheer quality of the mobile games that they produce that would lead to their success.
The technological arms race
Technological developments also mean that the competition to create the best and most immersive games promises to become even more intense as we move forward. The increasing processing power of devices and ever-longer battery-life means that the games are becoming more complex with many of the latest generation genuinely pushing forward the frontiers of what is possible. While this is great news for players who are able to experience ever-better gaming experiences, it’s the sort of arms race that could see many of the smaller, under resourced developers finding themselves being unable to compete in any meaningful and profitable way.
Another cloud on the horizon which could well spell major issues and increase competition for developers is a recent Government report which made a number of recommendations. One of the key ones was that the sale of loot boxes should be limited. As these are one to the key ways for “free” games to make money in the longer run, this could have a major impact on profitability. Similarly, questions have been asked about what games developers do to keep players playing and whether this demands closer scrutiny. Together, these create pressures that the studios could probably well do without at this moment in time.
So competition has always been fierce, and is set to become fiercer still. There are some drivers that the industry can influence and other that are beyond its control. But at the heart of it all is a rapidly advancing technological world that could well be set to leave the stragglers behind. This means that there’s a heavy burden on all those involved in the industry to make sure that they’re leaders, not stragglers. Only by doing this will they survive and thrive into the future.