Mobile gaming is a distinctly modern phenomenon – it’s only recently that we’ve had the technology to play ‘on the go’ – and the history of the platform doesn’t go back very far. The very first mobile title was a variant of Tetris released on Danish device Hagenuk MT-2000, in 1994, a good three years before Snake appeared on the Nokia 6110.
Snake, despite making its own debut in 1976 in an arcade game called Blockade, was nevertheless revolutionary at the second attempt, transforming mobile gaming from a kitsch feature to an essential part of every mobile device. Today, it’s much harder to find a phone that doesn’t run games that one that does.
Ironically enough, with its monochrome graphics, Snake dragged gaming back decades; let’s not forget that people were fawning over a snake made of a single dot when the original PlayStation was on the market. Fast forward two decades, and smartphones have hardware that can run games almost as well as mainstream consoles.
But in terms of time wasted and money spent, just how popular has mobile gaming become? There were 589,036 games available on the Play Store in 2015 (around 19% of the total number of apps) but it wouldn’t be unfair to say that most of them aren’t worth the investment; in fact, to borrow a statistic from the App Store, a good 60% of apps have never been downloaded.
That considered, global revenue on mobile games (both App Stores) last year was almost $12bn according to Statista, with forecasts expecting the figure to balloon to $18bn in 2019. It’s something of a running theme on mobile platforms; between 2016 and 2019, ad spend on mobiles will also climb from $100bn to $195bn. Everything about mobile trends upwards.
One of the more lucrative aspects of mobile gaming is the so-called iGaming apps, which include the kinds of games you can find on William Hill Bingo; namely, bingo, slots, poker and casino games. iGaming is growing by 11% a year, a rate it will sustain until 2020, and the online sector is already posting earnings figures of around $35-37bn.
The reasons behind the surge in the popularity of iGaming are twofold: much like conventional games, people play them when they’re commuting or simply to kill time. However, websites like William Hill also offer incentives for players to download and play their games, such as a £40 new player bonus.
But what about that other metric – time? It’s an entirely meaningless statistic but the world loses 1.15bn hours a month to mobile gaming. Figures from EA – this year’s reigning champion of overall downloads on mobile – are a little easier to digest; players spend an average of 9.7 hours per month playing their mobile games, at a rate of 18 minutes per session.
One final statistic – only 57% of mobile app users actually play mobile games, which means that the huge outlay in time and money listed above comes from just over half of the smartphone demographic. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why forecasts for the future of the mobile phone are almost uniformly positive, as there’s still a huge market left to exploit.