For most gamers, the conflict has always been between PC and console gaming, but mobile gaming is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. According to a study released by NewZoo, mobile gaming makes up 18 percent of the global games market—nearly double the global market share of traditional PC gaming. Mobile games are taking a cue from early consoles, combining simple game design with clean graphics, and taking on the giants of PC gaming and Console gaming on their own terms. But can mobile gaming ever take over the PC and console markets?
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While handheld gaming sales are currently flagging, gaming apps are on a constant rise. A recent Portable Gaming Report released by App Annie found that Google Play revenues exceeded those of gaming-optimized handhelds for the first time ever in the second quarter of 2013, and that the combined revenue of the iOS store and Google Play is nearly four times that of gaming handhelds. The iPhone and Android have successfully pushed portable devices like Sony’s PSP and Nintendos DS line out of the spotlight by combining easily accessible content, powerful software and constant internet connectivity.
While the console industry is still currently capable of asking gamers for 60 dollars for the newest blockbuster title, the record-breaking “Candy Crush Saga” has reached hundreds of millions of gamers with the irresistibly sweet price tag of “free-to-play.” While PC gamers have access to great free games, such as the popular “JewelQuest” title, console gamers are hard-pressed to find entertaining titles supported by ads or optional microtransactions. Mobile games have embraced ad-based revenue and microtransactions in a way that console games will never be able to, and this has created a powerful cycle in mobile game development. Games are cheap and quick to produce, generate massive returns, and require little support from the company after launch.
Console and PC Advantages
Despite the availability and success of mobile games, PC and Console games currently have several advantages that mobile games simply can’t compare with. The mobile nature of smartphones lends itself primarily to simplistic games and puzzle titles, as well as turn-based games such as “Words with Friends.” In contrast, hardcore gamers are attracted to console games and PC games because they are often richly complex, massive in scale, and utilize the most powerful graphics technology on the market. Of course, “Candy Crush” doesn’t compare to “Grand Theft Auto” in terms of complexity.
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Additionally, while the mobile game business is thriving, it has a long way to go to reach the level of the Console and PC gaming industry. The economics of PC and Console gaming are well-established. A game development studio such as Rockstar can spend years developing a title like “Grand Theft Auto V,” and invest capital comparable to the cost of a blockbuster film because the return on their investment is there. In fact, VG24/7 reports that in the six weeks following the release of “Grand Theft Auto V,” the game sold more than 29 million copies and generated more than a billion dollars in revenue for Take-Two. While mobile games are reaching millions, they aren’t yet capable of the massive income and cultural penetration that franchises like “The Elder Scrolls” and “Grand Theft Auto” are. Mobile gaming may currently dominate the handheld market, but consoles and PC games aren’t going anywhere for a long time.