In 2023, mobile gaming pulled in over $92 billion in revenue. Globally. This massive figure signs that playing games on our smartphones and tablets was never a passing trend. This staggering number begs the question: Where is mobile gaming heading? Are we on the verge of console-quality experiences in our pockets? Will casual and competitive players alike find their niche? And how will this dynamic sector keep pushing boundaries at breakneck speed? Let’s dive in.

Cloud Gaming Could Become the Norm

Playing console-quality games on your phone is possible. No, we don’t mean clunky ports with awkward touchscreen controls. We’re talking about the real deal. Buttery-smooth graphics, complex gameplay, the whole shebang. This is what cloud gaming promises anyway. Instead of being limited by your phone’s hardware, cloud gaming services like Google Stadia and Xbox Game Pass stream games directly from powerful servers. All you need is a fast internet connection, and your phone transforms into a portal to AAA gaming experiences. Sure, there are still challenges regarding latency, but as 5G networks proliferate, expect cloud gaming to become a major force in the mobile landscape.

But then again, casual titles are still a staple of mobile gaming. Those bite-sized, easy-to-learn games you play to kill time won’t disappear anytime soon. Hyper-casual games retain a gigantic audience. Anyone with a smartphone can pick them up and instantly understand the core gameplay loop. This genre is ripe for innovation though. What we might see are clever uses of augmented reality layered over familiar hyper-casual formulas.

Mobile eSports Go Mainstream

Competitive gaming on smartphones is no longer a niche activity. Some battle royale games and mobile MOBA titles have robust professional scenes with international tournaments and massive prize pools. We might even see established esports titles transition to mobile platforms. This would open the scene to an even wider global audience, propelling mobile eSports into the same stratosphere as PC and console equivalents. The first steps toward this goal might already be happening thanks to certain initiatives that managed to replace Gamers8 with the Esports World Cup this year. Even though EWC 2024 will feature titles from PCs and consoles as well, the addition of mobile games is a major step for the world of mobile esports.

Blurring the Lines Further

We have already mentioned cloud gaming, but we also know mobile gaming goes beyond apps you would install on your phone. Many browser games use responsive design, which, in theory, makes them mobile games as well. And hey, don’t underestimate them – browser games can span from simple distractions to remarkably complex experiences. Because of their nature, browser games are extremely versatile. Casino games especially have found a thriving home in the “browser” game category. You probably wouldn’t think of casino games as mobile games, right? Well, they are. Top mobile casinos have huge game libraries that work based on HTML5 technology (for the most part), the same technology a lot of other mobile games share with them.

Augmented Reality and VR (Finally) Taking off

Yes, we know. AR and VR are still not a thing, despite continuous efforts from Samsung, Google, and the rest of the bunch. It’s weird when you think about it, because Pokémon GO for example was a big hit, proving the potential of AR in mobile gaming. However, not every AR experiment was a success. AR thrives on experiences closely tied to the real world. Scavenger hunts, location-based games, or overlays that provide additional information about your surroundings. Trying to force AR into every game concept is a recipe for gimmicky experiences that don’t truly capitalize on the technology’s strengths. Still, we’ll certainly see exciting new AR-powered games emerge as developers find clever ways to utilize the technology. Let’s hope AR and VR finally take off.

New Monetization Models

Ah, the word all gamers hate. Monetization. But like it or not, new monetization models will certainly happen. Free-to-play will undoubtedly remain the dominant way we get our mobile gaming fix. What’s shifting, however, are the ways developers monetize games. Expect less focus on intrusive ads and more on cosmetic items, season passes, and subscription models. It’s really hard to tell what’s worse – ads or microtransactions. Right?

Subscription services are an intriguing trend. Imagine a ‘Netflix for games’ model where you pay a monthly fee for access to a curated library of mobile titles. This could be a boon for gamers looking for quality experiences without the constant barrage of in-app purchases. Something to think about.

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Last Update: April 22, 2024