Over ten years ago I wrote a set of articles for Pocket Gamer on the History of Mobile Games. They charted the birth of game, the evolution of WAP and SMS and coming of download games in the form of J2ME and Brew. With the iPhone a recent launch I ended on the iPhone in 2008.
Many would look at this not as the end, but the start of mobile games, certainly mobile games as we would recognize it now. The iPhone and Android have dominated the market, becoming increasingly more powerful and combined with F2P, they have taken Mobile Games to a point where it exceeds Console Gaming in revenue.
The chip sets that drive mobile are now powerful enough to run console games, and full cross platform gaming is at least theoretically possible as Fortnight has demonstrated. But it’s not the visuals that have made mobile games so powerful, unlike the rest of the games industry where the drive for greater and greater realism drives each generation and the games that define them. Mobile Games are different, for the first time in the short history of video games, we have a market that is truly mass market.
For years the games industry has been trumpeting that it is bigger than Hollywood, but that is really missing the point. Hollywood and Cinema is not the driving force of films, it is the home releases that drive revenue and the cost point is 4-6x less than a typically AAA console game.
Games have been and with console still are a niche market aimed at the hardcore players that happily pay hundreds of pounds to buy a dedicated piece of gaming hardware and then £40-£60 for each game. The success of the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro shows that there is still a hunger for the most powerful gaming hardware available.
This is where mobile is different, the vast majority of the players have no idea of care about the number of terraflops their phone can drive or even the resolution of the display. They simply want a fun experience to get them through the wait for a bus. They want entertainment without the added geek tech.
Mobile has been a huge success for the exact reason that it has not chased technology.
It feels like ten years on this story should be finished, the first 8 years was interesting, but the story was only really half written.