If we were able to commandeer the DeLorean from Doc Brown and travel back in time to the late 80s, things would be a lot different than they are today.
The ways in which we played games and kept ourselves entertained would look markedly different to the virtual playgrounds we frolic in today. In fact, such is the difference between gaming back then and gaming today, that it would have almost been impossible to imagine the advances we’d see in the space of 25 years.
One area of the gaming community that few in the 80s would have thought could undergo such a transformation was the casino industry. Although simple board games were slowly being transformed into arcade-style games back then, there was simply no indication that by the time the year 2015 rolled around, the casino industry would be dominated by virtual platforms.
From Live Casinos to Desktops and Beyond
Of course, today the online casino world seems perfectly natural and one that seems obvious; however, it’s important to remember that this wasn’t always the case. Moreover, it’s therefore important to now consider that desktop gaming may not be the dominant medium in the next few years. Just like the blinkered gamers of the eighties, some of us may be unaware of the pending shift in the iGaming industry.
The very first mobile casino games (slots specifically) have been around since 2000; however, this part of industry really started to take shape in 2008. At this time it was thought that mobile casinos wouldn’t be able to top their desktop counterparts in terms of participation given the technical limitations imposed upon them by Smartphones. However, today, with new technology helping to make Smartphones the go-to device for Internet browsing (and everything else in between such as testing yourself for HIV), people are now predicting that mobile gaming apps will be the dominant force by the end of the decade.
As unlikely as it may have seemed (or as it may still seem), there’s a strong chance that casino gamers will soon ditch their desktops and ante-up exclusively via their mobile devices. One of the main reasons for this projected shift is the number of Smartphones now in circulation. Once seen as a luxury, devices capable of exploring all sides of the Internet are now standard for virtually everyone.
Smartphone Usage on the Rise
According to the latest stats, the number of Smartphone users around the world is set to top 2 billion by 2016. Looking at the African market specifically, reports in 2014 suggested that within four years the continent will be flooded with Smartphone users. At the start of 2014 the number of Smartphone users on the continent was 18%. However, according to Informa Telecoms & Media, the number of users is set to increase to 334 million by 2017; a rise which would take African Smartphone coverage to 30%.
This increase in usage will naturally increase the amount of people accessing services via their portable device. One of the main beneficiaries of this growth will be the online gaming industry in all its forms. The other consequence of the increased usage of Smartphones is the willingness of iGaming operators to embrace new markets. Instead of operators staying confined in their traditional boxes, the mobile gaming revolution has allowed them to branch out and move into new arenas.
One of the leading operators in the iGaming space that recently embraced change is PokerStars. Despite building a global brand through its desktop poker platform, the company is now becoming a leader in the mobile market with the PokerStars Mobile Casino Version. Spurred on by early success in the desktop arena, PokerStars then augmented it’s already successful poker app with a range of casino games, including its innovative live gaming tables. Giving players the chance to compete against real dealers through live mobile video links, these games have not only proved immensely popular with players, but shown that anything is possible in the gaming world.
Console Gaming Always Embracing the Mobile Revolution
Although the casino gaming sector has been one of the pioneers of the desktop to mobile revolution, it’s not the only player in the market. The console (arcade) gaming industry has always begun to embrace the mobile medium like never before. Today, it’s possible to play many arcade classics, such as Sonic, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, using nothing more than a Smartphone.
Just as iGaming operators such as PokerStars have been able to integrate new casino offerings into their mobile apps, traditional gaming companies have also found ways to harness the full power of modern mobile technology. One of the main areas of innovation at the moment is cross-platform experiences. Based on the notion of an “Internet of things“, this new technology aims to use Smartphones as lynchpins designed to connect a range of online devices.
At the heart of this revolution is London-based mobile software developer, Improbable. Aiming to take gaming away from desktops and into the mobile realm, this company has been working on ways to bring first-person shooters, such as Call of Duty, compatible for mobile use. Until now issues with latency and connecting up with thousands of players around the world has prevent games such as COD from being mobile hits (it’s also made them a staple for console gamers). However, by improving the way gaming software connects to cell towers while on the move, Improbable has solved half the problem.
New Code, New Direction
To address the other half of the equation, Improbable has written its software in Scala code, which means it can plug directly into existing mass multiplayer game engines such as Unity and CryEngine. Having this capability means that mobile players can now easily connect with and compete against players from around the world in the same way they would with their console or desktop.
The movement from desktop gaming, be it casino or console gaming, to mobile platforms now seems inevitable. In 2014 mobile Internet usage topped 500,000 minutes per month in the US which meant it surpassed the time sent via desktops for the first time. In addition to this trend, mobile technology is continuing to improve and it’s now possible to access a range of features that were once confined to the desktop world. Indeed, from live video links to integrated game server technology, Smartphones are now able to do everything a desktop device can do.
Desktops Set to Ride behind Mobiles
If this is the case, then it’s only natural that society will gravitate towards the device that’s more efficient and ergonomically tailored to our needs. As humans we enjoy instant access and gratification and that’s what Smartphones afford us more than desktops. Of course, this doesn’t mean desktops will become obsolete; indeed, we still visit arcades or live casinos to get a gaming fix. However, what it does mean is that the medium will have to take a backseat as mobile gaming becomes the dominant player in the industry.