With the arrival of a new year, it’s natural to look ahead and try to guess what the future might hold. But if there’s an industry more difficult to do this for than mobile gaming, we’d be surprised.
While 2015 may have featured a few things we expected, such as the arrival of the smart watch, there was plenty we didn’t expect. From Angry Birds sequels to unexpected entries into the mobile game market, the only predictable thing about the mobile gaming industry is…well, you know.
So in that spirit, we thought we’d make a few predictions about what the future might hold for mobile gaming over the next year. Here are five thoughts to chew on (and chew us up with if we get it wrong) — and to really know what’s happening in the coming year, be sure to attend the Mobile Games Forum in London with over 40 CEOs and Founders on the roster (see more info below).
1. Make or break for mobile Triple A entrants
2016 will be a make-or-break year for some of the biggest companies who are making their first moves into the mobile gaming sector.
Nintendo and Konami will both be making major mobile plays this year, helping to define the future of both these traditional gaming behemoths. And there will be plenty of people watching to see whether Activision Blizzard’s multi billion-dollar purchase of King proves to be a sound purchase.
Whatever happens in the coming year, the maturity of the mobile games market means that all of these moves will prove costly in financial terms. It is up to each company to make sure it isn’t also costly in terms of their industry standing.
2. Slow and steady for mobile VR
Virtual reality is likely to be a big deal in the games industry. The huge sums of money invested into the likes of Oculus and into VR companies like nDreams suggests that, like banks in the late 2000s, it’ll be too big to fail.
That doesn’t mean VR will be huge overnight. The combination of expensive headsets at launch, differing experiences from headset to headset and the need to convince consumers of its worth suggests VR will face a slow start to life as the gaming technology of the future.
And that means a similar knock on for VR on mobile. Though Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Cardboard headsets are both impressive for different reasons, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see a steady, if unspectacular, growth for VR this year instead of spectacular lift-off.
3. Mobile game video streaming to take off
YouTubers and streamers have become a big part of the game economy, but difficulties streaming footage directly from mobile devices has stunted the growth of mobile game streaming.
The emergence of services like MobCrush, which allow you to stream directly from a mobile device, are poised to change that. As it becomes easier for players to share what they’re doing on their phone, it will likely lead to a significant increase in the amount of mobile gaming content that players view — from funny videos through, potentially, to the emergence of mobile-first eSports.
Therefore, game developers working on mobile will need to think up ways to make sure their games are as engaging to watch as they are to play.
4. Brands to dominate the market
For a number of years now, acquiring brands, IPs, or celebrity backing for a game has been seen as the preserve of the biggest companies only.
That, however, is poised to change in 2016. The success of Hipster Whale’s Pac Man 256, approved by Bandai Namco, and the opening up of licensing opportunities to developers from companies as diverse as Disney and British TV company Channel 4, suggests brands won’t be confined to the top of the market.
Though there will still be room for original IPs, expect companies who work with brands or who have constructed their own to boss the mobile gaming market.
5. All games to go mobile
Finally, the definition of what is considered a mobile game will change as console and PC companies adapt to consumers seeking content on the go.
In 2015, both Microsoft and Sony announced that console players would be able to use their PCs or laptops to play both Xbox One and PS4 games on. As for PC games, the arrival of the low cost Steam Link TV dongle will allow players to stream their Steam library to a TV of their choice — untethering games and allowing them to very practically „move.”
And with market research firm Newzoo demonstrating the role mobile video plays in the streaming of PC and console gaming content across devices, it’s fair to say that gaming, and the culture around it, is increasingly likely to be mobile — whatever context it is initially developed for.