In the last few months alone, the gaming industry has seen the highly anticipated release of the next generation of consoles. Both the Xbox Series X/S and the PS5 were sold out worldwide as gaming enthusiasts scrambled for their piece of the next-gen pie. And as we’ve seen, there’s plenty on the horizon to look forward to.
But despite this fervor, the console market, along with the PC, is only half of the picture. No single platform alone can stand up to the might of the mobile gaming market. It should come as no surprise; everyone has access to a hefty library of games right in their pocket. We all know that elderly relative or have that technophobic parent who still manages to find time for a bit of mobile gaming.
So, as we continue into 2021, what does the current state of the mobile gaming market look like? And how will the wider gaming industry respond?
Despite the overwhelming popularity of mobile gaming right now, believe it or not, it can only continue going up. The global gaming market made approximately $159 billion in revenue in 2020. The mobile gaming market accounted for $77 billion of that – roughly 48%. This is estimated to reach over $100 billion by 2023, making it a very lucrative market.
There are currently around 950,000 games on the Apple App Store, roughly 33% of all apps available. Even though they aren’t the majority of apps available, they still manage to account for 74% of consumer spending.
And it’s easy to see why. They’re accessible to all. In fact, the mobile phone is the most popular device for gaming, beating out consoles, PCs, and tablets in 10 major markets across the world. It’s a market that can’t be ignored. The trend of major studios and publishers making their mark on the platform will only continue. Nintendo are one of many to release original content for mobile, including Mario Kart Tour and Super Mario Run. How long will it be until we see Sony and Microsoft mascots making their debut?
Moving to mobile
In a way, both of these parties are making their mobile move – they’re turning to cloud gaming. Microsoft has xCloud which currently allows you to stream to compatible mobile devices and Sony has Remote Play which allows you to seamlessly connect to Android and iOS devices.
This move comes as a recognition of the enduring popularity of mobile gaming, ensuring they can reach even more people. It could also be seen as a way to combat the encroachment of mobile gaming by giving avid gamers a way to play that’s most convenient to them. Most of all, it’s just the smart move. With 5G becoming widely available, cloud gaming on mobile might be about to see an explosion of its own.
Developers are also making the most of this popularity, with many of the most popular games right now having their own mobile version. Surprise hit Among Us is both a PC and mobile game, with players connecting with each other no matter which platform they choose. The free-to-play nature of the mobile version means even more people can jump into a game with their friends without having to make the financial commitment. Fortnite also has a sizable audience on mobile devices, and even League of Legends has made the jump with League of Legends: Wild Rift. PUBG, Minecraft, Stardew Valley – all these PC-level games available in the palm of your hands.
With so much money available, it only makes sense that it’s attracted the attention of those with deep pockets. Over the last two years, the gaming industry has seen over $9.6 billion dollars of investment. And a significant chunk of that is going to the mobile market.
Tencent in particular has been busy; they poured $90 million into Pocket Gems, creators of the Episode series, and $126 million into Glu Mobile, creators of Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Then you have larger publishers buying smaller mobile developers to add to their own repertoire. This includes the likes of Ubisoft who acquired Ketchapp, giving them access to a specialist developer and allowing them to expand massively in this arena.
But the huge money came from the usual Wall Street investors, with hyper-casual gaming studio Voodoo receiving a staggering $200 million investment from Goldman Sachs. Private equity firm KKR bought a minority stake – yes, minority – in mobile marketing platform AppLovin for $400 million. This huge investment from such big names is surely the signal that mobile gaming isn’t only lucrative now, but will continue to be well into the future.
As long as mobile phones exist as a platform, mobile gaming will continue to exist. With annual releases pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved, how long is it until we see console-level graphics running natively on our phones? That future must be imminent.
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