We are now at an age where gaming is getting more and more portable. Although, while we do enjoy gaming on the go with handheld consoles like the DS, 3DS, PSP, and now Nintendo Switch, these bad boys are still a little hard to lug around. This is why most now turn to mobile phone gaming for a truly “portable” experience. After all, we always have our phones with us.
Add that to the fact that Mobile gaming is becoming even more viable thanks to its continuous rise. In fact, it’s now the No.1 platform for games, easing out PCs and Consoles. So, Why has Mobile now become the No.1 platform for games? Let’s find out.
Author’s note: We looked at the overall revenue in the gaming market, where mobile gaming is now the no.1 top earner, as data for the article. The article doesn’t include the overall quality of the games for each platform or their market satisfaction. In the case of the article, we’ll be referring to “mobile games” and “mobile gaming” as games and gaming on mobile phones as opposed to mobile meaning portable.
Table of Contents
How did Mobile Gaming start
Mobile games aren’t technically new. In fact, mobile phones may have been one of the earliest adaptors of portable gaming. Of course, the very first ones to truly be portable gaming devices are handheld consoles, the pioneer being Milton Bradley’s Microvision. If we look at it closely, mobile games actually have very close ties with the history of cell phones. Let’s go for a bit of a history lesson first.
The very first mobile device surfaced on April 3, 1973, when a senior engineer at Motorola, Martin Cooper, contacted a rival telecom company to inform them he was communicating via a mobile phone.
That very device is far from the mobile phones we have now as it weighed a hefty 1.1kg and was 44.4mm thick. About a decade later, Motorola released their first commercial mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. Although this one wasn’t for the masses as it costs a staggering $3995 (~Php 213,333).
The first mobile games
The first true portable mobile devices became available to the public around the late and early 90’s. Along with them are some of the first commercially available mobile games which such as Tetris and Snake. One of which will become an icon and was included in almost every classic Nokia phone — Snake.
Then slowly and steadily as mobile phones advanced in technology, so did mobile gaming. We started seeing more games with color like Bounce and Fast and the Furious. We even saw the first attempt at a gaming phone with Nokia’s cult classic N-Gage.
Then by 2008, we were introduced to the Apple App Store and the Android Market (now called Google Play Store), this was when mobile gaming really started. We saw games with better art, controls, sound, and high definition graphics.
At the beginning though, mobile games were only viewed as casual entertainment. With games like Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies, Fruit Ninja, and Temple Run being only quick time killers. They never were played intensively, not unlike PC or Console games at that time.
Mobile Gaming’s meteoric rise
It will take a few years before mobile games become more than just time killers. In fact, mobile-only truly became the No.1 gaming platform just this 2018 but it enjoyed a steady growth through the years. Both in revenue and in fame. We could safely say though that mobile gaming became a norm at around 2013 or 2014, the era of Clash of Clans and the rise of heavy games like the Dungeon Hunter and Asphalt series.
So when did Mobile gaming truly became a strong platform on its own? When components started becoming more powerful and more affordable. Partly the reason why the first adaptations of mobile games were just time killers is because the hardware at that time can’t handle heavy graphics.
Even flagships struggle to provide enough oomph for intensive mobile gaming. Although slowly but surely the technology caught up and with it the true rise of mobile gaming.
As powerful components like Qualcomm’s midrange powerhouse Snapdragon 600 chips and MediaTek’s Helio processors reach affordable price tags, more and more consumers got to enjoy a better mobile gaming experience. Even more so today, where flagship components are making their way into the midrange segment, thanks to phones like the Honor Play and POCO F1.
A more affordable entry to gaming
The no.1 reason why Mobile gaming quickly rose to stardom was because of how easy it is to enter its market. Not because mobile games are easy to play but because the costs are a lot lesser than with PCs or Consoles. It’s even possible now for entry-level and budget devices priced at under Php 5k and 10k to do a little bit of heavy gaming.
Although, like with low-end PCs, don’t expect that these devices can handle every game you throw at it. Still, this is way less than what you’ll have to shell out to enjoy a good gaming experience on a PC. Consoles too are a different story, while the units themselves aren’t as expensive as PCs, the added cost of controllers, accessories, cartridges, and CDs will easily drain your wallet.
Another plus for mobile gaming is that most mobile titles, even the most famous ones, come at no cost at all. What’s even crazier is that when developers port their PC or Console games on mobile, it becomes free. The prime example to this is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, its a paid game on PC but became a free game when it entered the mobile scene. The low cost of getting a capable phone to game and the free nature of well-known titles, made gaming on mobile very enticing.
A chance to revisit golden ages in gaming
The strong rise of mobile gaming didn’t only catch the eyes of aspiring gamers, it also got the attention of game developers. Particularly, those with a long-running collection of well-loved and treasured titles. Through the years we’ve seen a resurgence of ports of old classic titles make their way to the mobile market. Titles like the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series.
Before, these were only accessible via emulators, ROMs, ports to new consoles and PCs, or by surviving old-school consoles. The mobile ports gave the older generation of gamers a chance to relive some of the golden ages in gaming. It’s also a way to walk down memory lane and remember the good old times, in just the palm of your hand.
Entry into the E-sports scene
E-sports is now huge and widely recognized, even in the mobile landscape. Of course, MOBAs (Massively Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) are the top contributors to the E-sports scene, with Dota 2 and League of Legends leading the way for PC. Mobile has just the titles that mimic the success of the aforementioned titles — Mobile Legends and Honor of Kings (Arena of Valor).
Mobile Legends is now one of the most played games both internationally and locally, they’ve even started hosting tournaments both here and abroad. Honor of Kings, on the other hand, has about 200 million monthly active users, that’s in China alone. This is also the case with battle royale games like PUBG Mobile, Rules of Survival, and Fortnite. Their presence is slowly getting stronger in the mobile scene. Add that to the fact that these games are easier and more accessible on mobile.
Taking the No.1 spot
The road to the top wasn’t easy for mobile gaming, especially with the stigma that it cannot offer a true gaming experience akin to what PCs and consoles give. Yet, with steady improvements in both hardware and offerings, it was able to close and eventually eliminate the gap. Not just by fame but also by earnings. For the longest time, PC and consoles shared the majority of the earnings of the gaming market, with only small portions going to mobile. Although today, that’s now a different story.
Part of why PCs and consoles have large earnings is because most of their games are bought, whether digitally or physically. For mobile, like we said earlier, most of their titles are free. So, how does it earn? By microtransactions. Yes, you heard that right, the bane of every gamer, the reason why the “pay to win” concept was born.
Ease and affordability of microtransactions
Microtransactions are basically a way to get paid added content to your games. These contents can range from cosmetics, exp boosters, faster timers, and even some gear. Although, microtransactions are still available on PC and console games, so what’s different on mobile? The ease of buying credits for it and its relatively low cost. Usually, on PCs and consoles, you’ll have to either pay via credit card or buy a specific prepaid game card.
While mobile phones will also require prepaid cards, for those on prepaid, they’re more readily available than specific game cards. It’s even easier for postpaid users as all they have to do is charge the additional expenses to their accounts, much like a credit card. As for the cost, microtransactions on PC and consoles often also come in the form of expansions and the ever notorious loot boxes. Some of these expansions even cost as much as the original.
For mobile, there are still a few packages close to loot boxes but the starting costs of these are much lower than on the other platforms. Starting as low as Php 50, which is really enticing to consider. Plus they have monthly and weekly packages. Granted, PC MMORPGs also have these but again, the process of buying them is much harder since most games from foreign publishers require credit cards.
Although how did Mobile achieve their market dominance when there are also microtransactions on other platforms? Simple, there are just more mobile gamers now than on PC or console.
Becoming the lead platform in earnings
Thanks to the number of gamers chipping in on the whole microtransaction market of Mobile it is now regarded as the top-earning platform for games. Base on the Global Games Market Report by Newzoo, the games market is projected to reach a $137.9 billion revenue this year. 51% of that projected market revenue is expected to go to mobile gaming, which is about $70.3 billion. This is the first time that mobile will take such a huge chunk of the market, even beating both the earnings of PC and console combined.
Will it be able to keep the No.1 spot?
It won’t even be a surprise if Mobile continues to grow and dominate the market, thanks to the continued advancement and affordability of powerful components. Let’s also not forget the rise of gaming smartphones, devices with hardware and software dedicated purely for gaming. While these are much more expensive, they do offer a different kind of gaming experience that we’ve yet to see in the mobile market.
Perhaps they may even be the factor that will change the perspective of some that don’t believe Mobile can deliver a good gaming experience. Although the simple answer to this question is yes, Mobile can definitely keep the No.1 spot especially now that it has shown immense potential as a gaming platform.