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The Evolution of Mobile Gaming

The Evolution of Mobile Gaming
  • On May 16, 2018

There was a time, many years ago, when the only thing mobile phones could realistically be used for was to make phone calls, and they often weren’t even very good at that. Over the years, as technology continued to evolve, we moved on to the revelation of text messaging, and then further into the era of phones possessing enough power to play actual games. Today, this market’s worth exceeds $25 billion, and with each passing year, this industry continues to grow. So how did we get here, what did our first ugly steps look like, and what might we expect from this industry in the future? In this article, we aim to take a look.

From Humble Beginnings

When we say that early phones had limited processing power, we worry that might be underselling it. There are digital watches today that would put these early mobile phones to shame, and this limited power meant a predictably limited scope of the included games. Probably the most famous of these early releases, and the one which maintains a dedicated legacy, is a game simply known as Snake.

This early game had you as the eponymous snake, a big block which continually lengthened as it consumed an approximation of fruit. The game became naturally more difficult over time, as a longer snake meant less room to move and plan. One of the funny things about this game is that even though it was so simple, it still proved taxing on early systems. This meant that the highest scoring mode, which was set at the highest speed, had the real speed change depending on the individual device. This meant that the players with the highest scores tended to be those with the slowest phones, which we always found funny.

As colour screens became standard, and the memory of these devices expanded from hilariously lacking to merely limited, it became evident that this would open an entirely new avenue for mainstream gaming.

The Age of Competition

While not directly responsible or as revolutionary as their company would have you believe, it was the popularisation of Apple devices which in some ways led to the explosion of the mobile gaming market. It was Apple with the iPhone who showed that phones could be more than just a helpful tool, to become an important part of our daily lives on an almost sci-fi scale. It wasn’t just the devices themselves which helped push this popularisation either, as the surrounding infrastructure had a profound effect in opening up these devices to mainstream programmers, designers, publishers, and developers.

While it was the improving systems themselves which made better games possible, it was the provided storefronts which helped these games reach mass users. Services like the Google Play Store and iTunes not only allowed much easier discovery and sorting of games; they also allowed a much more controlled and cultivated marketplace which didn’t suffer from the magnitude of potential privacy and safety risks of the older non-centralised systems.

New Avenue, Serious Business

With each new generation of mobile device, their capabilities become closer to that of traditional computer and laptop devices. Over time, this potential expanded from simply offering low-quality port jobs, or reimaginings of old games, into a new and dedicated market which was properly suited to the device. While there are many forms this took over the years, the first steps are perhaps nowhere better illustrated than the mirrored evolution of the iGaming market. Here, many online casino businesses were quick to offer direct services, built ground up to offer something cohesive, understandable, and fun while still taking into account the control limitations and opportunities afforded by improving mobile hardware. These companies developed mobile-friendly slots and table games, mimicking popular games that were usually only available in a brick-and-mortar establishment or at a desktop. Since jumping on board, this has been a constant and surprising driving force of these games, the importance of which should not be underestimated.

Another area of mobile gaming which has shown incredible popularity is that of the virtual reality experience. Through the clever use of dedicated attachment devices, mobiles are now capable of offering VR games which are on a scale utterly astounding to many of us who were around for the early days of mobile game development. Even better, as technology continues to improve, these experiences are only going to get more immersive.

Into the Future

While there is no telling where unpredictable shifts in mobile gaming might come from, the current trajectory of the market paints it as one of continuous development and ingenuity. As mobile devices are now receiving major gaming releases, like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, the gap between traditional gaming and mobile gaming has never been smaller. With better controls through third-party devices, better graphics, and more processing power than ever before, the mobile gaming market is undoubtedly one of expansion and great future importance.

While these little devices will never replace our home consoles and computers, they have shown the staying power and importance to remain a permanent fixture in our pockets, and in our hearts. We don’t know for sure where this evolution will take us, but you can bet we will be watching closely.