Ever wondered why PC games cost 60$ in retail whereas mobile games cost practically nothing? Yet, most people who consider themselves as gamers, tend to favor AAA games to have full gaming experience rather than settling down to mobile games despite being free to play.
Obviously, there may be some casual gamers who would enjoy any kind of game on their smartphones, but having advertisements taking over the screen real estate could be distracting for some. And, buying your way out in the game with in-app purchases rather than playing the actual game makes it less enjoyable for others.
Such kind of implementation is widespread in free mobile games and apps. It could be pinned down to three reasons.
Free to play format
Majority of mobile games are mostly based on free to play format. Meaning, it forces game developers and publishers to rely on ad revenue for funding, so they cleverly implement a dedicated ad space and create unlockables which use in-app purchases. Placing ads and creating in-app purchases tend to remove a user from having authentic experience of enjoying a game to its full extent.
Scale of Android
The above scenario can be seen in both iOS and Android devices. But the games are not created equally for both platforms. Given that games on iOS devices are fully optimized due to its lower device count, the same cannot be said about Android. The range of devices running on Android OS are massive and the game developers can only have enough time to polish a game for all those compatible devices before they go past deadlines, giving way for lower quality games. (gamingscan)
One could argue that smartphones might not have enough processing power to handle graphically intense games which could not be further from the truth. In fact, current generation of smartphones are as powerful as computers and could even replace one easily for some(wired). That being said, mobile games never had graphically groundbreaking developments that could create a dent on PC or console gaming industry.
Retrospectively, Sony’s PlayStation Portable(PSP), a hand held gaming device launched in late 2000’s with much lower specifications than today’s smartphones, had excellent quality games despite having hardware limitations. However, the modern smartphones with top of the line specifications have only had handful of memorable mobile games(Androidpit) that have taken full advantage of a smartphone’s enormous processing power to deliver graphically intense games comparable to Sony’s PSP.
All that being said, these three reasons did not have negative effect on mobile gaming industry. If anything, smartphone gaming is on the verge of becoming the most popular gaming platform for many of them. According to mobvista, market share of smartphone games in 2019 was 36% and will overtake PC and console market share by 2022. Considering smartphone games are the current driving force for the entire gaming industry, any improvements made in this segment will be appreciated.
This is where Apple Arcade comes to the rescue. By providing definitive gaming platform on App Store and funding indie game developers to create high quality games for iOS on apple devices, it ensures that developers are supported for their work and they can continue to work without being distracted by revenue and other app publishers. On top of that, Apple Arcade has the potential to eliminate additional hardware requirements associated with PC games which can cost hundreds of dollars or more. It could literally be a game changer.
Google Play Pass
According to Cnet, Google Play Pass’ service is a bit different to what Apple is doing with Arcade. Google does not fund developers but provide a platform to host nearly 350+ already available games or applications on Google Play Store. This subscription service plan is announced in anticipation of having more people spending on collection of applications or games rather than individually buying each one of them.
This method ensures financial support for those limited number of app developers who have their games or applications listed on Google’s play pass and gives their apps higher recognition. This can lead to developers being able to clearly optimize their games and create overall higher quality games without sweating over funding.
Whether it is Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass, such kind of initiation will help game and app developers to stick to these platforms and continue to support their games for a very long time.
Moreover, Apple Arcade might even undo lackluster implementations of mobile games with its unique features such as offline playability, no in-app purchases, PS4 and Xbox One controller support, supports up to 6 devices for one account, and finally continuity on various apple devices for just 4.99$ monthly subscription while increasing competition among other game developers.
Google Play Pass is also very similar to Apple Arcade in terms of feature set and subscription price.
A rough estimation of Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass’s initial success rate of adoption depends on the genre of games they tend to host. One method of having such estimation is by assessing the current trends in Japan and South Korea as they are considered to be the countries with one of the highest amount of money spent per app in the world. According to venturebeat, South Korea spent 5.6 Billion$ in 2018 on smartphone games.
Therefore, having a look at top 3 games on both platforms in both countries, one could get a rough idea of what kind of games have been most popular since January 2019 and learn how Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass can stack up against the current competition in these two countries in order for them to be considered as mainstream gaming services/platforms.
Top 3 Games in terms of MAU on both Android and iOS platforms in Japan
Top 3 Games in terms of MAU on both Android and iOS platforms in South Korea
One interesting take-away from the above graphs is that according to pcgamesn and Polygon, top 2 out of 3 best selling games have appeared in the Android list of South Korea, namely Minecraft, and PUBG. These games were made on other platforms before porting to mobile devices. Moreover, Pokemon Go appeared in the Japan’s top 3 games ranking on both iOS and android. One of the reasons for Pokemon Go’s sudden popularity was its history and brand recognition as mentioned by Mobify.
All the above mentioned games have few things in common. They all have broad emphasis on the game’s background and story. They have been available on other platforms before switched to smartphones games. They have a proper campaign, as well as an immersive gameplay and they were made for the players to have maximum fun rather than having them to spend maximum money on customization or spend time on watching ads. They are all successful because they were made as games first and cash cows next.
Once again this trend thoroughly reiterates the main point of Apple Arcade and Google play pass that good quality games can be as successful as other casual mobile games in terms of popularity and revenue. In comparison, if the currently listed games on Apple Arcade are similar to any one of the genres of games shown in the above graphs, and if those games are console quality, then Apple Arcade could very well be irreversibly changing the mobile gaming market. On the other hand, Google Play Pass can bring significant optimizations to pre-existing apps or games for Android users.
Now that Apple and Google are taking mobile game development seriously, this development will further enhance the mobile gaming industry and soon people might carry only one device that does almost everything. Sooner than later, gaming on smartphones may eventually take over PC and consoles gaming market share, similar to how smartphone camera’s replaced digital cameras rather quickly.
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