While the Covid-19 pandemic brought many activities to a standstill, mobile gaming was not one of them. Lockdowns and quarantines sent many looking for new means of social interaction and new ways to pass time- all from the confines of their homes. And for many, mobile gaming became a lifeline, keeping them entertained and connected to friends and family.
To put things into perspective, GameAnalytics reported that the number of mobile gamers saw an increase of 46% in Q1 2021, from 1.2 billion to 1.75 billion people per month. Newzoo, another of the most quoted sources for game market analytics, reported that the number of mobile gamers in 2021 peaked at 2.6 billion. Besides, their Global Games Market Report shows that 2.8 billion gamers worldwide will generate revenues of $189.3 billion in the global games market in 2023.
As seen from these figures, the mobile app development industry is indeed gaining momentum and is unlikely to ease back down in the future. Here are our predictions as to the trends that we’ll see in the mobile game development arena for 2023.
The 5G effect
The 5G is the 5th generation mobile network, also known as the latest global wireless standard. The 5G network is able to connect practically everyone and everything. But what’s best about it is that it can deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds and has ultra low latency.
In fact, the 5G offers a raw speed of up to 10Gbps, which is ten times of what even the 4G LTE Advanced can offer. Gamers can look forward to faster downloads and streaming, and way smoother gameplay with little to no lag.
Such high speed internet and tremendously improved latency will pave way for many new developments in the gaming industry. For starters, 5G internet has the potential to revolutionise cloud gaming- processing power doesn’t necessarily have to be on your phone, but can be on a server somewhere.
Besides, this super-fast 5G internet will boost the potential of extended reality (XR) technology as it is fast enough to stream XR data from the cloud. Viewing devices no longer have to be wired up to powerful PCs or hardware. We will be exploring these trends in greater detail in the sections below.
Augmented Reality Gaming Will Continue to Grow
Augmented reality (AR) is a branch of extended reality (XR). An AR game typically involves a pre-created game environment superimposed onto the user’s actual environment.
With AR, game visuals and audio content are integrated into the user’s environment in real time, creating an immersive experience where the user’s environment is transformed into a playing field.
A good example of an AR game would be the popular game Pokemon Go. Remember that time when you came across a whole group of gamers crowded around a particular tree in the park? Or perhaps you yourself went on a trip around your neighbourhood in an attempt to catch all the Pokemons around you. Pokemon Go is an AR game where Pokemon characters are superimposed onto your surroundings for you to catch.
Infoholic Research reported that the value of AR gaming is expected to reach almost $285 billion by 2024. And if that is achieved, it would represent a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 152%. One of the reasons behind this is growth is the increased data speeds brought on by the new 5G internet.
Nonetheless, there are also other reasons related to the appeal of AR gaming.
For instance, AR gaming creates an immersive experience for users, who will feel as though they are literally interacting with their environment. This integration of real and virtual environments will make users’ gaming experience a unique and personalised one.
Besides, environment creation is one of the most tedious, time-consuming tasks in game making. There is a constant demand for new game environments because users will want to explore new ones after some time. And AR gaming helps with this issue – it takes advantage of the diversity of the real world environment to constantly create fresh experiences for users, keeping games interesting.
Virtual Reality: Mobile VR Headsets
In addition to AR, virtual reality (VR) is also gaining momentum in the gaming industry. VR is a simulated experience that is either similar to or completely different from the real world environment. Users put on a VR headset and become fully immersed in that computer-generated environment. It provides users with an enthralling, interactive experience where they feel as though they are right there, in the middle of the game.
In 2019, VR gaming was valued at USD 7.7 billion. This value is projected to reach USD 42.50 billion by 2025, registering a CAGR of 32.75% from 2020 to 2025. This extensive adoption of VR is made possible with the new 5G internet, as well as increasingly advanced technology.
Headsets will become more mobile and will be able to generate more realistic environments for users to explore. An example of such high-end technology is Apple’s new 8K combined VR/AR glasses. And new gadgets like this are likely to bring VR gaming to greater heights, thus fuelling the VR gaming trend.
Mobile Cloud Gaming: A Wave of the Future
Mobile cloud gaming is also on the rise, as seen from how its value of USD 1.15 billion in 2020 is expected to reach USD 2.70 billion by 2026. Cloud gaming is where games are processed on remote servers instead of devices, allowing consumers to play streamed games across multiple devices. All players need for cloud gaming is a device with 5G connection.
With cloud gaming, players are no longer bound to specific hardware. They will be able to enter the same game from anywhere and everywhere, allowing for greater collaboration, interaction and competition in games.
Besides, cloud gaming will break the limitations of specialised consoles; players no longer have to pay for consoles or high end gaming PCs as even the largest, most complex games can be accessed from mobile phones. This could also allow game companies to develop games that support far more players than they currently do.
Cloud gaming also means that players no longer have to download or update their games, as updates will take place automatically in the background. This creates a more seamless gaming experience for gamers who are oftentimes frustrated with downloads and updates- after all, these take up a whole lot of time and may even interrupt games!
With these benefits, it is unsurprising that cloud gaming is on the rise, even more so in 2023.
Cross-Platform Play Is Becoming More Popular Among Gamers
Remember the days of console wars, when Xbox and Playstation were constantly pitted against each other?
Back then, you had to choose just one console and could only purchase games released on that particular console (unless you had the means to purchase both). And when the latest game all your friends were playing was released on the other console, you had no choice but to miss out on all the fun.
Fortunately, we have moved on from the days of console wars, and game developers are now working on releasing content that can be streamed on all consoles. This is great news, as gamers are now able to play all games, no matter their console!
Cross-platform gaming is a new gaming trend where gamers can play games whenever, wherever, with whoever they want and on any device they want. Gaming is now less about which platform you play on, and more about what game you play and who you play with.
Playing with friends is an integral part of gaming for many, yet this used to be difficult due to the disparities in games released on different consoles. But now, many games support cross-platform play between all the major gaming platforms. This way, gamers can collaborate and compete regardless of the gaming platforms they use.
An analysis by Epic Games found that more than 60% of Fortnite players teamed up with someone from another gaming platform to cross-play. And these cross-players played Fortnite 570% more on average than non cross-players.
These figures show just how much influence cross-platform play wields on the gaming industry.
Hyper-casual Mobile Games Are Becoming Their Own Genre
Hyper-casual mobile games refer to mobile games that are easy-to-play, free-to-play and feature minimal user interfaces.
With their intuitive mechanics that remain consistent throughout the game, these games are really easy to pick up and more importantly, extremely addictive. They’re the kind of games that require very little time and attention; the kind you play when you’re waiting for the bus or when you just need a short 5 minute break.
Why are hyper-casual games so popular?
Hardcore games such as Fortnite or PUBG are more complex and require much time to learn and play. And it takes an even longer time to get used to these games and get to the higher levels of the game.
This could alienate players who do not have the time or passion to pick up these games. As such, these players may gravitate towards easy, addictive hyper-casual games.
That being said, hyper-casual games are able to sustain interest in players as gameplay becomes increasingly challenging as the game progresses. Besides, a good hyper-casual game has mechanics that make it difficult to master.
For instance, the game Flappy Bird (it was all the rage in 2013) adopts swerve mechanics, where players have to swerve to prevent the bird from hitting dangerous obstacles.
These addictive games have gone viral, and are becoming a genre of their own. They have gone from recreational projects to accumulating revenues of more than $100 billion per year. And this figure is estimated to double by 2023.
Besides the fact that these games are addictive and popular, another reason for the boom in hyper-casual game business is the adoption of monetisation strategies.
Examples include in-app purchases and advertisements. In fact, according to VentureBeat, hyper-casual gamers watch 2 times more advertisements than other gamers!
Mobile Game Monetization is More Important Than Ever
Mobile game monetization is a crucial element for game developers and publishers.
After all, for most, the ultimate aim of creating a game is to earn money from it. And there are many ways to go about monetizing your game.
For instance, in-game ads are one of the most common and most effective monetization methods, as developers, players and advertisers all benefit. Developers earn ad revenue from these advertisements, players enjoy the game for free and advertisers are able to reach a wider audience.
However, developers need to strike a good balance between the number and quality of the advertisements- gamers will not want to see irrelevant ads, and are likely to be annoyed if bombarded with too many ads.
The last thing a game developer would want is for users to be overwhelmed by ads and leave the game entirely.
Another common way to monetise your game is in-game monetization. For indie developers without a large fanbase and without established games, it wouldn’t be wise to make users pay for the game. After all, who would pay for an unknown game? However, you can still make money from your game through in-app purchases, where players have to pay for additional content and features.
There are many ways to monetize your games, and the two listed here are not exhaustive. And we expect to see an increasing trend of mobile games being heavily monetized in 2023.
eSports, short for electronic sports, is a form of sport competition through video games.
It involves organizers coming together to host a gaming competition, where professional players compete in multiplayer video games individually, or in teams.
Newzoo predicted that global eSports revenues will grow up to $1.1 billion in 2020, a growth of 15.7% up from $950.6 million in 2019.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, restrictions saw many sports and physical eSports events being cancelled. And yet, virtual eSports tournaments still grew in prominence as a result of Covid-19. Sports leagues across the globe looked to the eSports sector for new ways of engaging fans.
For instance, NASCAR replaced its cancelled events with its iRacing Series. It was so successful that one event attracted a grand total of 1.3 million viewers!
In this pandemic, eSports was popularised and legitimised as sports leagues saw it as an alternative means to engage fans. This could be the beginning of a new era for eSports, as many fans flock to the eSports sector.
Besides, other mobile game trends such as the 5G effect and XR trends could also enhance the eSports sector. With these new and improved elements, eSports becomes multidimensional and a lot more interesting.
Wearables, also known as wearable technology, are electronic devices that can be worn. They have sensors that detect, analyse and transmit information.
Common examples include smart watches, wristbands and rings. While wearables are often associated with health and fitness, they are also becoming increasingly popular in the gaming industry.
For instance, there are data-tracking wearables that track gamers’ gaming sessions. This data is then used and analysed to enhance the gamer’s gaming experience. There are also wearables that are meant to help keep players on track and improve their performance.
Wearables could also hold discrete microphones to improve streaming quality. These wearables improve the overall gaming experience for gamers, making them increasingly sought after, especially for competitive gamers.
There are also wearables that transform your gaming experience from a mere virtual one to a real-life, physical game.
For instance, MadRat Games adopted this technology and launched the SuperSuit– the world’s first wearable gaming platform. Players put on the suit, go out into a large, open space and start playing! The suit modernises laser tag, using cutting-edge sci-fi technology to communicate from suit to suit.
Such new technology is gaining momentum as well, as it reduces screen time, increases social interaction and promotes physical activity of children.
Collaborative game development
Game development is becoming an increasingly collaborative process. Game developers create open-source projects, where other developers including indie developers can make collaborative modifications.
This is made possible through Software Development Kits, or SDKs, a set of software tools and programmes used by developers to create applications. SDKs support collaborative game development- developers just need to share files through the SDK, and others can help develop the game further. SDKs make collaborative game development easier and have thorough explanations explaining how your code works. This allows for more efficient game development.
With the rise of collaborative game development, the industry will no longer be dominated by AAA game developers and will see a shift towards games developed by indie developers. This is also fuelled by the growing trend of indie startup game studios in 2023.