Although it can be argued as to when exactly online gaming started, it is undeniable that it came of age in the 1990s with the advent of Java and Flash. Games like Populous and Diablo, although popular, would eventually be overtaken by blockbuster titles like Starcraft, World of Warcraft and Doom. Despite millions playing these games worldwide, it was still seen as niche, never really entering the consciousness of the wider public. Mobile gaming has, to some extent, begun to change all that. Part of the reason for this is that the great majority of us (in the Developed World) have smartphones and can download and play a game within seconds at little to no cost.
The age of the smartphone has only just begun
It is only since 2007 that smartphones have become truly ubiquitous, so they may still be playing catch up in terms of time, but they are doing so at an astonishing rate. For example, Pokémon Go is claimed by some sources to have been downloaded 500 million times (although there is a lot of debate as to the veracity of these figures); compare that to blockbuster PC games like Minecraft (24 million sales since 2009) and World of Warcraft (14 million sales since 2004), and you can see that the mobile gaming world has the advantage in terms of number of players.
There is a lot of buzz too about Sony – makers of the Playstation – which has begun to make its play to dominate the mobile game market. In 2016 it launched a mobile game, Fate/ Grand Order, in Japan that dwarfed the revenue of the mighty Pokémon Go. With a big hitter like Sony entering the market for mobile games, it can only lead to more growth in the industry, as well as better, more innovative games for players. Mobile gaming may not replace PC gaming altogether, but it seems like companies like Sony and Nintendo know they can reach a wider audience through this medium.
Online casinos also making the move to mobile
Similarly, there is evidence of online gambling going mainstream, with lots of people playing casino games online at UK provider William Hill with more and more regularity. Just like the makers of mobile games, online casino operators have raised the bar with the types of games they offer their customers. This is now a world away from the ‘fruit machine’ slots and 2D graphics games of the 1990s. The world of mobile casino is now dominated by ‘super’ slots that feature stunning graphics and gameplay, with casinos partnering with some of the biggest names in the software industry to develop the games. Online casino operators will also argue that they are leading, not following, the foray into next generation of gaming. The introduction of live casino play, featuring games like blackjack with real dealers in a streamed feed, has proved to be a big hit, and could arguably change the way we think about visiting land-based casinos.
What next for the mobile gaming industry?
Pokémon Go, and its incredible popularity, touched on something that may be the future of mobile gaming, and entertainment in general, namely interaction with our surroundings. There is a wide variety of technologies coming our way that are designed to augment our gaming experience; virtual and augmented reality technologies have already led to games like Zombie Abomination AR that mix fantasy and reality in ways that twentieth century gamers could never have imagined. As the technology improves around VR/AR, the possibilities for mobile gaming become more and more fascinating. The fact that we cannot be really sure what the future of gaming looks like makes it all the more exciting.