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Mobile gaming – the Goliath of the industry

David Cullinane 11 October 2018

Remember Snake? A staple of Nokia phones in the 90s, it might be the earliest example of mobile gaming; certainly the most popular. The mobile gaming scene today couldn’t be more different. It’s a behemoth that exploded thanks to the iPhone and other smart devices. It eclipses traditional console and PC gaming in both player base and revenue.

It’s a market that refuses to slow down, and given some people’s predictions it isn’t going to any time soon. But where else can it go? Is there a ceiling it will eventually hit? And has it changed the games industry for good?

Titans of the industry

By the end of 2018, the mobile games industry is expected to make $70.3 billion, more than double what consoles will ($34.6 billion). It accounts for 51% of sales within the gaming industry. By 2021, it could reach a revenue of over $100 billion.

Its fatal flaw though is its high levels of saturation. There are well over 800,000 games available on Apple’s App Store as of now. The majority of the revenue goes towards the prestige titles; everybody knows them, even your mum, your dad, and your dog.

The biggest earner at the moment is tween favourite Fortnite, which makes over $2 million a day for Epic Games. This is followed by the king of the market, King’s Candy Crush Saga, a six-year-old game that still manages to pull in over $1 million a day. It would be impossible for mobile games to not influence the wider gaming market, although it’s debatable who has the bigger impact on the other.

The name of the game

The top 50 highest grossing mobile games are all free-to-play (F2P). The majority of them make their money through in-app purchases that manifest in various ways. It’s a divisive tactic, with some lamenting it as the death of gaming or refusing to even touch such a game.

Others though prefer the low level of entry and are more than happy with playing their allotted time. Most people will only play for an average of 23 minutes a day. With no upfront cost commitment, more people are encouraged to download, which is why they remain the most popular games on the market.

Eyes on me

So how does one game separate itself from the pack? With something like Fortnite, it already has an established fandom, but other games, like Candy Crush Saga or Clash of Clans, built theirs up from seemingly nothing. As we mentioned, with 800,000 games on the market, and with an audience with limited time, breaking your way into even the top 1% is a challenge.

It’s no surprise then that those that dominate the charts are the same ones who release trailers to build up interest. And it rarely stops at just one; an ongoing series of trailers keeps audiences engaged over a longer period of time, keeping them in the game’s ‘ecosystem’ if you will. Despite being one of the most popular games in the world, Fortnite still sees the value in using trailers.

Since their gameplay isn’t the most scintillating, many mobile games have taken to creating pre-rendered trailers. Candy Crush Saga’s TV advert has 1.5 million views on YouTube. Clash of Clans? Their most popular trailer has 99 million views.

It begs the question of whether it works or not, but given the ongoing success of the games (Clash of Clans is currently the sixth highest-grossing mobile game) and the sheer number of viewers their trailers pull in, you’d struggle to argue that they don’t. They sometimes even star celebrities like Liam Neeson, Kate Upton and Ryan Reynolds.

It could be said that trailers are a ‘reward’ for being a long-term, loyal fan, with Clash of Clans in particular having a sense of internal continuity across its trailers that turns the concept of a simple mobile game into one with character and lore.

In-app advertisements for other games are becoming more prevalent, as many developers turn to trailers to differentiate themselves amongst their competitors. Though their grasp of what makes a truly engaging trailer might not always hit the mark.

It’s hard to imagine a future where mobile games don’t exist. Their continuation is probably tied to smartphones, so as long as they’re around, so are the games. 47% of smartphone owners in the UK use them to play games, and that number will no doubt continue to rise.

It can be challenging to stand out amongst the crowd in the mobile gaming market, but an effective trailer goes a long way in increasing your chances of hitting the mark. Here at RealtimeUK, we create cinematics that enchant an audience. If you would like to talk about your upcoming game with us, get in touch with me on [email protected] or call +44 (0)161 711 0260