The earliest video games were developed to be played on televisions. Back then, if we wanted to play Mario, we had to sit in front of the TV with a controller in our hands. This tradition still persists today, but mobile gaming has really taken off over the past few years. But why now? What has changed to create such a surge in a marketplace that was absent 10 years ago?
Certainly, the advances in mobile technology have unlocked gaming potential on our phones. The hardware in our smartphones—devices that can fit in the palm of our hands — is more powerful than that of a majority of desktop computers in the ’90s. Game developers today have an opportunity that the developers of yesterday could only dream about. Even considering the early mobile gaming platforms such as the Gameboy (or the… *sigh* Atari Lynx), the power in the technology yields games of grander vision and capabilities.
A number of game developers and distributors have recognized the growing importance and desire for mobile games.
With the dawn of mobile gaming, new game styles have emerged. It is not uncommon to see mobile markets filled with free games. Most feature advertisements and/or a purchasable version. Many of these games are simple with highly repetitive mechanics. The game will introduce some tweaks to the core mechanic, but it typically stays static throughout the game. These games generally have a story arc, but some are rather barebones—focusing on gameplay as opposed to storytelling.
When I first saw the outbreak of these mobile games, I (personally) wasn’t in awe because they reminded me of the flash games I’ve been playing since middle school. Flash games are made with Adobe’s Flash program and are lightweight, which allows them to be run from the browser. Both Flash games and mobile games share similar qualities in their design because they are quick to master, noncommittal, and help fill time in a fun way. I find myself playing online Flash games when I need to kill time, only have time for a quick game, or I’m not around my computer or consoles.
Basically, they make great time fillers that I don’t find myself committed to for long periods of time. They are also very fun, even if for only a short period of time. A perfect fit for mobile games, if you ask me. When you play a mobile game, you are likely are on the go, and don’t have time to sit down and play for hours.
I’ll explain using the popular Angry Birds game for iPhone/iPad as an example. The game has an abundance of stages that can be completed within a minute (or at least attempted). The mechanic is simple: fling a bird at some pigs. Your goal is simple: destroy all the pigs. You get more points for using fewer birds. The game rates your performance based on the number of points that you have, as well, which gives you the motive to replay levels and beat your last score. If you feel so inclined, you can even show your score off to your friends and make it a friendly competition to outdo one another. Very easy to pick up, play a level or two, and put back down to return to your previous activity.
The Angry Birds example also shows the popular social aspect of mobile gaming. Social media is becoming a part of our everyday lives, and games are helping bridge that gap. People share their scores, achievements, and progress with each other all the time. Sony’s upcoming Playstation 5 is riddled with social media integration and even included a dedicated “share” button on the controller! Our mobile devices are connected 24/7, so our games are, too. As you can see, a game like Angry Birds really hits the nail on the head for what mobile games do best… and manages to look pretty while doing it!
While the advancement of mobile technology has certainly helped generate interest in mobile gaming, I can’t help but feel that the increase in gaming diversity has also played a large part. In the gaming industry’s infancy, a stereotype existed that games were for young kids. The world has done some changes over time and today, that perception is not nearly as strong. People of all genders and ages play video games, and they use mobile devices. It creates a large market for game developers to cater to —not to mention business potential. Mobile games are certainly here to stay, and they will continue to keep growing.
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