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How Mobile Games Have Changed Gaming Forever

Video games have been around since the 1970s, though they didn’t become mainstream until the following decade. From the first games consoles and home computers up until the late 2000s, video games all worked in a similar way. They were mostly marketed using the same techniques, and were distributed through the same channels.

Then, after the launch of the iPhone in 2007, this all changed. Suddenly, we all had tiny computers in our pockets that could play fun and exciting games on the go. These early mobile games didn’t compare to AAA titles in terms of size, complexity, or graphics, but they carried their success using fun and catchy gameplay.

Many changes to the gaming industry have been brought on by smartphones. Here are just a few of them.

Targeting New Demographics

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, video games were almost exclusively targeted at men under 30. Many of the TV adverts for consoles like the Atari Jaguar and the Nintendo Entertainment System almost exclusively featured male actors.

Any games targeted at women were often coloured in pink and failed to recognise that women and men could enjoy the same content.

Mobile games broke away from this. Early games released on smartphones, such as Flappy Bird, Farmville, Angry Birds, and Fruit Ninja did not target one specific gender, or even one particular age group.

Today, video game players outside of the traditional demographic of males under 30 are significantly larger than they were just a decade ago.

Continual Monetization

For several decades, video game publishers made money from their content by charging an upfront fee in exchange for a disc, cartridge or digital download.

Major companies like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft weren’t content with this though, particularly because they didn’t make any money from the second-hand market.

When mobile games began to appear on app stores, they were often given away for free. Instead of an upfront charge, they’d serve ads to players and charge for additional in-game lives and items. Early pioneers of this were Angry Birds and Farmville.

Today, this revenue model of generating income from players over time instead of upfront can be seen in everything from online poker to first-person shooters.

Microtransactions have also worked their way into blockbuster console and PC games, including EA Sports FIFA and Madden titles and Grand Theft Auto Online. These have proven to be the monetization method most acceptable to the majority of players, while still providing regular income for publishers.

Focus On Fun

Console and PC hardware manufacturers traditionally focused on promoting the power of their devices. Both the Nintendo 64 and Atari Jaguar both featured their 64-bit architectures at the forefront of their marketing, without necessarily explaining how it would benefit the player.

Graphics have been one of the most important features discussed by video game journalists and publishers for decades. Undoubtedly, modern games are almost as realistic as real life, and that makes for an incredible gaming experience, but mobile games showed us that there are other important factors.

Mobile games run on lower-powered hardware and smaller screens, meaning they can’t compete with major game titles in terms of graphics. So instead, they focus just on being fun. Even simple concepts like Fruit Ninja’s fruit-chopping gameplay can lead to hours of enjoyment, yet it’s easy for even the most novice of players to understand.

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