How E3 Showcased The Future of Mobile Gaming

How E3 Showcased The Future of Mobile Gaming
E3 event

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 for short, has shown once again that the love of gaming is as strong as ever. The big names and fancy stalls of Sony and Microsoft were showing off the latest Xbox and PS4 games for all to see, but mobile gaming has also become a big part of the event.

Out of the 200+ exhibitors flaunting their wares, 70 were purely focusing on the mobile market – the highest recorded number at any E3 event to date. But has this year’s expo helped prove that the future of gaming is pointing squarely at our mobile phones?

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What is E3?

For those not completely down with the rather busy technology calendar it’s a simple event to grasp. E3 is by far the biggest gaming event on the calendar; it’s a yearly event much like MWC, CES or IFA which focuses solely on letting developers exhibit their latest console, PC, handheld and now mobile games.

As you’d expect there’s a special focus on the likes of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One crowds, where fans join the hustle and bustle of the hundreds of media personnel to get a short 10 minute demo of upcoming classics. If you’re not lucky enough to play, then you needn’t fear as there are thousands of screens placed purely to check out trailers for similar efforts.

E3 event

The PC fans also get their own corner to curl up and absorb themselves within, often surrounded by hugely expensive computer rigs crafted purely for only the most powerful games – no Facebook browsing here. The never-ending rows of machines are littered with candy bars and energy drinks, all of which are a staple diet for any gamer worth his or her salt, whilst similar queues for screens measure up at well above 10 metres for only a snippet of gaming fun.

One area which hasn’t drawn quite as much attention of late is the handheld section. Once a powerhouse market buoyed by the likes of the Gameboy, Nintendo DS and PSP, there’s been a steady decline in the crowds within this area of the event – with one clear reason; the smartphone.

The growth of mobile gaming

Browsing the exhibitions, the growth of smartphone games has been notably strong. Beginning with the likes of the Nokia N-Gage, which despite failing dramatically, served as a warning shot to some of the mobile naysayers of the event.

In 2014, mobile gaming saw a growth of 40%, the biggest of any type that year. Now, in 2015, the mobile gaming market is worth a shocking $25bn (£15.9bn), this is expected to slingshot up to $40bn (£25bn) by 2017 – making it the second largest gaming market of all time behind consoles, eclipsing the PC market in the process.

The mobile gaming market has a value of £15.9bn, which is expected to grow to a whopping £25bn by 2017…

Mobile gaming

The dominance over the handheld gaming market is already apparent. When was the last time you saw someone rocking a PSP or Nintendo DS on the train? We bet you’ve seen numerous Candy Crushing mobile users since.

The ugly truth is that handheld consoles are getting swallowed up dramatically quickly by our phones and tablets. With releases sometimes coming on a six monthly basis, the latest technology is being crammed into our smartphones, and our handheld consoles are now paying the price. Beloved characters like Mario, Luigi and Sonic are looking to win their coins and rings behind our smartphone displays – leaving handheld gaming at serious risk of demise.

In fact, the only barrier which is limiting the complete destruction of handheld consoles right now is the battery problems currently dogging our smartphones. Whilst most handheld gaming devices last several days with regular use, our smartphones aren’t exactly energy friendly. With phone calls, texts, social media and app use all requiring a portion of battery, gaming is currently struggling to ply its trade for over 20 minutes before our handsets begin to wane.

Why move to mobile gaming?

Game developers have been quick to jump on the mobile bandwagon, but the reason behind this shift isn’t down to extra tech or convenience. Instead, like most business decisions, it comes down to cold hard cash.

Typically, a game developer will spend upwards of $20-$30m (£12.5-£18m) developing a top of the range console game. For handheld games, this number takes a dip to around the $1m+ (£600k) mark, making them a fairly expensive endeavour regardless of your economic standing.

This means that considering the average price of a standalone handheld game (£30), a developer will need to ship at least 20,000 units just to break even. This isn’t including other costs which might rear their heads. This isn’t unachievable, especially for big name games, but for independent developers this can be a major risk.

“The ugly truth is that handheld consoles are getting caught up dramatically quickly by our phones and tablets”.

Angry Birds

Compare this to the cost of mobile game development and there’s a humungous gulf. For example, Angry Birds reportedly cost just $140k (£90k) to make, and since made $177m (£112m) in 2013 alone – much more than many handheld games.

Whilst this is one of the most successful mobile games in recent history, it still shows the low-risk and high-reward vibe that currently surrounds mobile gaming.

Games like Flappy Bird (which was reportedly making $20k per day at its peak) and Kim Kardashian’s mobile game ($200m revenue just a few weeks after release) are further proof of this, with neither costing a substantial amount to build.

Plus, whilst games can be downloaded for a price, developers also have the opportunity to increase their revenue through in-game ads and purchases. This opens the scope to moneymaking through much more than sales, which is obviously enticing for developers and shareholders alike. This makes mobile gaming much more profitable for developers, something which is slowly strangling the life out of handheld consoles.

What kind of mobile games were at E3?

Many of the crowds in LA for E3 were drooling over the announcement of console games like Fallout 4, FIFA 16 and other big name trademarks. Mobile game developers have latched onto this – with many of their games focusing on offering a mobile companion linked directly to the console launch.

Fallout Shelter

The post-apocalyptic game Fallout 4 was announced for Xbox One, PS4 and PC at E3, but we won’t be playing it until November. So, Bethesda (the development company behind the game) has brought us a mobile version of the franchise to play until the launch.

Fallout 4

It doesn’t play anything like the game itself, instead being based as a strategic development app, but by linking it to one of the biggest names at E3 it quickly reached the number one spot on the iOS app rankings. This means that Bethesda is making money well ahead of the full console launch…

Elder Scrolls Legends

Made by the same developer as Fallout, Elder Scrolls Legends links to the recently unveiled online version of Elder Scrolls, but targets the card based gaming genre. By collecting cards you can battle with other users on your smartphone, helping you stay in touch with the medieval universe whilst away from your console.

Elder Scrolls Legends

Again, it plays completely differently to the console version, but keeps users interested on their travels. As you’d expect, it’s very unlikely to flop on the mobile market due to the massive following.

Minions Paradise

Aimed at the Despicable Me Minions movie which arrives this season, Minions Paradise has you build a beach paradise with the yellow critters as residents. It works similarly to the SimCity concept, but offers a ‘freemium’ feel, basically meaning that the game is free to play, but you can make in-game purchases to help progress faster.

This is an area of controversy, but it’s still a good money making tactic – and draws upon one of the year’s biggest movie releases to raise interest.

Minions Paradise

As you’ll notice, mobile gaming is quite clearly targeting the ‘companion’ market, essentially latching on to a current trend and developing a mobile version to keep fans happy. Whilst this isn’t likely to be the only type of game we see, it’s clear that it will be a solid undertone through the mobile market for the foreseeable future.

So, whilst console gaming will forever be a standard part of entertaining us at home, it appears that mobile gaming’s dominance will be nothing less than a simple link to our less-portable games.

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