Should we be worried? Mobile games are crushing the console and PC market

For a few years now, we have been witnessing the rise of mobile gaming. It is almost obvious to say so. Today, we all have a device in our pocket that allows developers to offer their games directly to us, rather than going through more expensive and difficult-to-access PCs and consoles. But could this growth in mobile gaming combined with increasing accessibility jeopardize the traditional video game market?

No-nonsense figures on the 2023 mobile gaming market

If mobile gaming is often considered to offer simpler, less blockbuster-like games than consoles and PCs, it is undeniable that the general public enjoys and indulges in it. In 2023, mobile gaming on Android and iOS accounted for 49% of the global gaming market revenue, compared to the total of PC, console, and browser titles. $92.6 billion… In this context, it’s hard to downplay the importance of mobile games, at least in financial terms, and its influence on the gaming industry, which is directly related to the design of these games.

(More infographics can be found on Statista)

A flourishing market, but with a relative influence on the traditional PC and console gaming segment

While mobile gaming is growing rapidly, it does not seem to greatly influence the market for console and PC gaming. In reality, it is almost like two different worlds that evolve in parallel and only occasionally intersect.

To simplify, we could define the difference between mobile gaming and traditional video gaming by expressing that, on one hand, mobile gaming is often more accessible and immediate, appealing to the casual public, with minimalist level design and simple gameplay; whereas traditional video games on consoles and PC tend to offer more sophisticated concepts for a knowledgeable audience with more budget, and sometimes even approaching cinema, as seen with studios like Naughty Dog and Santa Monica with games like The Last of Us and God of War, which increasingly integrate gameplay that interacts directly with storytelling. For this reason, the publishers do not necessarily have an interest in blending these two approaches, as they are not aimed at the same audience.

… Yet, let’s not forget that cross-platform games bridge the gap between these two worlds

We should not forget that, with the rise of cross-platform, more and more games are being offered on both consoles and PC, as well as smartphones! Currently, it is more often console/PC games that make the transition to smartphones than the other way around: for example, Fortnite, PUBG, or Call of Duty: Warzone, all very popular Battle Royale titles. They also fit the definition of mobile games provided earlier, which are more accessible and appealing to the general public, which may explain why they are present on both PC, consoles, and smartphones.

It is during this transition between universes that we can observe what is potentially the most significant influence of mobile gaming on the console and PC market: microtransactions, and more broadly, the monetary system adopted by certain games. Indeed, mobile games heavily rely on subscription-based and microtransaction-based models, and in recent years, console and PC games have also adopted this approach, whether they are Free to Play or not. If there is one influence that the mobile gaming world has had on the video game world, it is this; which forces us to qualify our previous statement: publishers do not have an interest in blending the very different approaches of video games and mobile games in terms of gameplay, but they do in terms of finances, hence the abundance of skins in current games, where previously they would have been simply unlockable through gameplay.

But, what does the future hold for mobile gaming?

With the arrival of major historic licenses on our smartphones via cloud services, or even in native form with games like Resident Evil 4 Remake and Resident Evil Village on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, we can expect more and more ventures from major publishers like Capcom on our mobile devices. This is an interesting approach because, taking the example of Resident Evil, it is a big-budget blockbuster franchise and not a simple game. So, are developers looking to target a more knowledgeable audience on smartphones in the future? This should reassure some, as opposed to offering console games that resemble mobile games, the opposite is happening. We should also mention the arrival of Ray Tracing on the Galaxy Series S24, indicating that smartphone designers are truly interested in mobile gaming and the technology it requires; and we should also note that very popular titles, like Palworld, could be natively ported to smartphones.

On the other hand, general public mobile gaming still has a bright future ahead of it, thanks to some advantages that set it apart from console and PC games, and it comes directly from their support: the smartphone. With the technology present on our smartphones, games can take very different approaches: for example, augmented reality, we all remember Pokémon Go! And why not imagine in the future that we could connect our Virtual Reality headsets directly to smartphones!

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