Mobiles phones were changing since the first mobile came out, getting better engineering, better hardware and developing ways to get more battery. Of course, mobiles at first were only for making calls. We improved mobile phones with the pass of time until text messaging came as another way of communicating. With that improvement, we also developed another way of using mobile phones, with several games.
The first games might be a bit forgotten by some since they could probably not have experienced them, but for other people they are some nostalgic air, remembering while waiting for our friends, spending some time playing Snake or some mobiles came with even Tetris, and since the graphics and quality of games were so low, the battery of our mobile could be saved for even a week or more. Those games were played during 1997 since Snake was launched by Nokia mobiles.
Early year mobiles
Space Invaders was released for mobiles in 2002 using Java technology. That meant that mobiles had to adapt to use this new programming code, Siemens and Nokia were the first companies to do so with some devices.
In 2003, the N-Gage came out, being a PDA-like mobile, trying to compete with Game Boy Advance, offering a Symbian OS, it didn’t success in terms of marketing, but opened the gaming mobile market to games such as FIFA 2004, Call of Duty, Tomb Raider, etc. I’ll tell a story about this device. My brother bought it when we were young, since we really enjoyed gaming in PS One. We could spend hours playing the Call of Duty game and Tomb Raider one, it was such an improvement in games that we were really amazed.
It was such a success to play games in a mobile that we even had some problems at sharing this mobile since we both wanted to play. Even if the marketing for this mobile was not the best one, it really helped to open a window in gaming, a different one in which allowed the device that you used to call for playing games as well, so you didn’t have to bring the game boy in your pockets with your phone, making it feel really uncomfortable and clunky.
Big changes in terms of mobiles
After some time, better mobiles were developed, some even had a new function. The camera, which was not really good, but it was really innovative in the field of mobile phones technology. With the camera, some apks that let some photo edit came out in pair with little games about the photos you made.
It wasn’t until Infrared came with mobiles that some changes were made into the mobile gaming. You could interact with your friends. But there weren’t so many apks that supported this technology, since it was really limited and only used to share some files.
The big change came with Bluetooth, once it was released in new mobile devices, games adapted, since they had improved connectivity and better quality to interact with your friends. This meant that mobile games could be played in a kind of multiplayer, the first ones could only share some game info with your friends, but later was used thanks to the developing of better mobile games into the first real multiplayer/co-op mode.
Mobile gaming actual situation
Those were the first steps of mobile gaming, and in general mobiles. What was valued there was “what could I do in my mobile”. Right now that’s not a problem, since you can almost do everything in a mobile, and that’s extrapolated to a mobile game as well. So right now, how mobile games are valued is really different from these days. We are demanding quality and good gameplay now, we valuate that the game doesn’t have any bug. It must be also easy to play, with an easy gameplay and if possible, with a good quality in graphics too.
Right now, we are sitting with a huge variety in mobile gaming. All the games that we have played in consoles are being translated more or less into our mobile devices. That has broadened the mobile gaming genres available to play.
At first, we only had Tetris, Snake and other games that were pretty much basic to play, right now we are sitting with a variety of games almost similar in genres to the ones offered in consoles or computer.
Analysis of actual games
For this purpose, I’ll be analysing the most developed videogames genres since 2015 until now so we can analyse together what genre has evolved and been produced more.
The releases here can indicate that most popular games in these times were the Arcade ones, since companies at first didn’t want to risk developing high quality games, so they stayed with the most common ones in this year, being arcade, followed by puzzle/trivia, and action/adventure or strategy.
In 2016, Nintendo itself jumped into mobile gaming with Super Mario Run. Being one of the most popular games in the time. They also adapted some games from gaming devices like Apollo Justice from the Nintendo DS, Bully from PC gaming, a mobile version of Rome: Total War (adapted from PC) and also the big competitor here was the famous Pokémon GO, which need no more explanation, since I think everyone who’s reading this article know about this mobile game. Other big games came this year being Clash Royale, Hearthstone adaptation from PC and much more.
2017 was a great year for more quality games. Since a PUBG mobile version was developed into mobile devices along with PES 2018 and a Titanfall version (Titanfall Assault). Also, Nintendo with their first approach to mobile games, could see a good platform to benefit even more. They released Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. We could see a more variety genre this year. Having titles shooter/Action like PUBG, a strategy game like Fire Emblem Heroes or a simulation game like Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. Little by little companies were taking the risk of developing different kind of games, and not just sticking to the classic Arcade genre.
In 2018, we could see a puzzle visual game like “The Room” with a really high quality to solve puzzles and enjoy for little price. A strategy game “Command & Conquer”, Vainglory being a MOBA game, and one of the first one to be developed, being followed by much more. Dragalia Lost was also introduced by Nintendo and Cygames this year. So, to sum up this year, also a huge variety of different games was introduced here. We are also hearing from this year and last one a new genre coming, “Gacha Games”, I’ll talk about this genre a bit later, here came in these early years of 2017-2019 but in Japan came a bit earlier.
2019 was a complete year of different games, lots of companies are investing in this platform to develop their games. We are seeing a new genre called “Autochess” which is becoming more and more popular thanks to Dota Underlords and Team fight Tactics. Those two games come from their respective MOBA game, Dota 2 (Valve) and League of Legends (Riot Games). Dota Underlords is currently playable in mobile devices and Team fight Tactics will be able to be played in 2020. We can see how more and more companies are taking the risk. We could say that one of the pioneers was Nintendo, taking the risk with Pokémon Go, Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes. All other companies saw the really big profit of this gaming market and started to develop their own games or port a version of their PC/Console game.
Definition of some genres
Now I’ll speak a bit of the two genres that I said before in this article, being “Gacha Game” and “Autochess”. The known as “Gacha Games” are based from a Japanese toy, called “Gachapon” which contained a random figure. You would just use a coin to pull an egg from the machine out. When you crack it a figure is inside. They had different rarities to make them more valuable between a limited pool. This concept was translated into videogames. I’ll put the example of Fire Emblem Heroes, since is one of the games that I play the most.
In Fire Emblem Heroes you get base heroes to play different maps using strategies. There is a large pool of heroes you can play with, but for doing so, you have to use “orbs” to summon your heroes. There are different rates for the rarity of the stars they have. So, this is a comparison to the “Gachapon” I talked before. The similarity are coins being the orbs, that can be obtained by playing the game doing quests or purchasing them. This being their main way to obtain money. This kind of games are pretty popular these years. Including Dragalia Lost, Fire Emblem Heroes, Fate Grand Order and much more games that have a really huge income in terms of annual gain.
The other popular genre is “Autochess” which can be explained as a manage economy game. In which each round you gain gold by playing with heroes, these heroes can be raised up to 3 stars. If you are able to merge 3 heroes of the same rarity, they raise 1 star. So, the chess part comes from the battlefield. Depending on where you put your heroes, they will move straightforward and will auto battle the opponent. This genre is a mix of strategy and managing resources. It’s becoming more and more popular in 2019. Being Dota Underlords as the pioneer followed by Team fight Tactics. Now Hearthstone released a game mode with a similar kind of gameplay.
To finish this article, I would like to review how much gaming in mobile have changed. Firstly mobile games were with low-quality development and with just a few varieties to be played on our mobiles. Currently is one of the most exploited markets in terms of videogames. The first years of the development, they were hugely stigmatized of being still with low quality. After the risk of some gaming companies, it has raised to being one of the best gaming markets.
Marketing is important
However, even being one of the best gaming markets. It can produce lots of polemics between gamers. Since they don’t want a mobile game as the successor of a renowned saga. Let’s take the example of Diablo Immortal. The last Diablo game was the Reaper of Souls expansion for Diablo III in 2014. The developers almost abandoned this game last year, releasing almost no content for it. The community was expecting a new diablo game to be developed in next years. The problem was that they wanted to release a mobile game of Diablo. With no announcement of Diablo IV development in the 2018 blizzcon, being only the annoucement if Diablo Immortal.
This is a bad way to make your steps into the mobile gaming market. Mobile games are not successors of PC or console games. They can be adapted, or be a different kind of game. But if you try to make a successor of a game that was already on a different platform, you won’t be able to market your game without facing the wrath of your audience.
So even though mobile games are prospering right now , companies have to take careful steps. Since not everything that is announced as a mobile game will be a success.