Mobile apps have served to catalyze a process that began over a decade ago when broadband internet became widely available to consumers. Over time, console game developers realized that they could eschew the cartridge and distribute their games digitally over the internet.
During this same period of time, the first smartphones arrived, and with them, a marketplace for mobile games. Soon after, multiple mobile game platforms emerged, and a new industry was born.
Unity – One of the first game development platforms
Unity was just one of the new platforms that allowed games to be developed without any knowledge of code. Games developed on such platforms often moved from concept to production in a very short time — from a few weeks to a couple of months at most.
Game console manufacturers quickly realized that, with the rise of mobile, the game had fundamentally changed. They responded by opening online stores to offer games developed by independent game developers.
Steam breaks open the PC game market
Soon after, Steam came along, opening the PC game market wide. The result: a gaming industry radically different from what it was just over ten years ago. Once a traditional market that changed slowly over time, today’s PC gaming market has evolved to adapt quickly to changing gamer needs.
Console manufacturers utilize high-performance architecture and components to drive multi-player games that span multiple continents, in an effort to deliver high-quality graphics to HD and 4k displays in real time while keeping game latency to a minimum.
The impact of mobile gaming
Perhaps the most observable result of the impact of mobile on gaming is that consoles have become very similar to smartphones. Console manufacturers have evolved to work with a two-year cycle console design/development cycle instead of the traditional seven year cycle.
This keeps legacy users onboard while providing the flexibility needed to adapt consoles to changes in technology and user trends.
Furthermore, “In an industry that finds itself on the cusp of huge changes every six to 12 months, adaptability is key,” says Ollie Clark, co-founder of Arch Creatives, a shared office space that houses game development teams.
Downloadable content and in-game purchases
Of particular interest to game developers, brands, and advertisers is the rise of downloadable content and in-game purchases. Some of the console games are built on a new business model that includes a major release with the option to purchase a so-called ‘season pass’ that buys the gamer all subsequent game packages and content. Most gamers aren’t biting, however — the initial purchase is often too high. Currently, the gaming industry is experimenting with other business models for games, such as limited versions with features and/or upgrades that can be purchased. Mobile game publishers may want to explore some of the new monetization models emerging in console games.
Publishers want direct access to gamers
But wait — there’s more! Game publishers want to directly access gamers rather than going through the console manufacturers, and they are working on making purchases available from within the games themselves.
Mobile games have been doing this for a while, but that’s not all. When Crossy Road (A Frogger clone) was published in 2014, it offered an opt-in ad model that gave players the option to watch an ad video so they could access additional game content. These opt-in ads have reshaped the perception of in-game ads for players.
Instead of being seen as a ‘necessary evil’, the ads are now seen as a means for getting something the player wants.
Brick-and-mortar game studios, a relic of pre-broadband history
Needless to say, traditional brick-and-mortar game studios are a relic of pre-broadband history, a business model still used only by the largest game developers. Today’s game development studio is usually virtual with a distributed staff of freelancers from all over the world.
Not all of the changes have been particularly beneficial for the gaming industry. Large, established game studios are finding it difficult to be discovered in app stores such as Google Play or the Apple Store. Each store represents an ocean teeming with countless games, making discoverability the most difficult challenge these legacy game studios face.