Mobile technologies, specifically the smartphone and tablet, have turned gaming into something for all ages to take part in, no matter where they are. While mobile gaming is not new – we had the Game Boy, Game Gear, Tiger Electronics, PSP, and more – mobile technologies have given us the ability to download new games on the go, and for extremely affordable prices. Prior to the smartphone and tablet development, people had to invest fairly large amounts of money into their game consoles, accessories, and games. Now, mobile games, or applications, are so easy to download that you can try many games for under $0.99, and if you do not like it you can simply delete it and try another. “The process is incredibly easy and has quickly promoted a disposable concept of software. Small games – crucially not just ‘casual’ games, but more accurately, ‘small games’ – are sold for as little as US$0.99 or even free, under a wide range of ‘free-to-play’, or ‘freemium’ models (McCrea 2011, pg. 394). Many games in the mobile app stores are free or will cost you $0.99. Some of the games, called ‘freemiums’, will start out as free, but then will allow you to make ‘in-game’ purchases.
What separates these new mobile games from the old mobile games is that you now have the capabilities of having a handful of games on one device, rather than having to carry around disks or cartridges, along with your portable system. Depending on your smartphone or tablet’s memory capacity you can have a full game library in your pocket at all times. Due to the growing library of games that are available for download, people of all ages are hopping on the bandwagon. In a 2006 survey, Pew Internet and American Life found that “of individuals with game-enabled mobiles, 47 percent of those under 30 play games, 21 percent of those 30-49, 17 percent of those 50-65, and only 8 percent of those over 65” (Katz 2008, pg. 405). Now while the statistic about games in the 50+ group might not have stood out to you, the numbers have gone up. In a 2014 article from Big Fish Games, 29% of gamers are now over the age of 50 (Galarneu, 2014). On top of that, another way the gaming industry is shifting is that families are starting to play games together. In that same article, Galarneu states that over one-third of parents play games with their kids regularly, at least once a week, and over one half play at least once a month.
The popularity of mobile gaming can also be attributed to most, if not all, smartphones utilizing touchscreens. In fact, according to an article from the Electronic Engineering Times, smartphones with touchscreens will account for 97% of all smartphone volume by 2016 (McGrath, 2011). The multi-touch gestures that can be performed by touching, swiping, and tapping the touchscreens on our mobile devices have taken the gaming industry by storm. In a 2012 article written by Mia Cosalvo, she states that, “Several years later, millions of iPhone users across the globe now use their expensive, advanced technological devices to slice flying fruit (Fruit Ninja), match multicolored jewels (Bejeweled 2), cut rope to release… One of the most popular activities on the iPhone involves flinging cartoon birds through the air in order to crash through obstacles and destroy helmeted pigs” (Consalvo 2012, Pg. 184-185). All of these highly addictive mobile games utilize the touchscreen capabilities of smartphones and tablets. Swiping, tapping, scrolling, flicking, pinching, and all of the other multi-touch gestures are what makes touchscreen devices so much fun.
While stand-alone video game consoles, such as Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation, and Nintendo Wii do not appear to be going anywhere, mobile gaming is coming, and understandably so. They are cheaper to buy (sometimes even free), portable, and the app stores have a seemingly endless amount of games to try. However, there are still many reasons to splurge on an Xbox, Playstation , or Wii, most notably for their system-exclusive games and lifelike graphics. And while smartphones and tablets are increasing in processing and graphical power, they cannot compete with the incredible graphics with the stand-alone consoles, yet. With a seemingly endless game library, with good and bad games, a growing fan base, extreme portability, and the ability to download games with ease, mobile gaming has quickly become a major player in the video game industry. If the games continue to get better, both in gameplay and presentation, with prices staying as low as they are now, mobile gaming appears to be in position to remain a powerhouse within the industry for years to come.
Consalvo, M. (n.d.). Moving Data. Retrieved April 5, 2015, from https://mobmedsp15.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/consalvo-mia-slingshot-to-victory.pdf
Galarneu, L. (2014, January 16). 2014 Global Gaming Stats: Who’s Playing What, and Why? | Big Fish Blog. Retrieved April 5, 2015, from http://www.bigfishgames.com/blog/2014-global-gaming-stats-whos-playing-what-and-why/
Katz, J., & Acord, S. (n.d.). Mobile Games and Entertainment. Retrieved April 5, 2015, from https://mobmedsp15.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/katz-and-acord-mobile-games-and-entertainment.pdf
McCrea, C. (2011, November 9). We play in public: The nature and context or portable gaming systems. Retrieved April 5, 2015, from https://mobmedsp15.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/mccrea-we-play-in-public.pdf
McGrath, D. (2011, August 29). ABI: 97% of smartphones to have touchscreens | EE Times. Retrieved April 5, 2015, from http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1260131