Any eight-year-old will tell you that the Xbox is rubbish and that smartphone games are the exclusive domain of the unwashed “casual” player but that kind of award-winning rhetoric skips over the fact that gaming is a nearly universal hobby, and what’s good for a twenty-year-old college student won’t go down so well with a middle-aged single mother. Put another way, gaming is the embodiment of the phrase “each to their own”.
So, why can’t we all just get along?
According to research company Newzoo, the smartphone and tablet gaming market will continue to grow through to 2020 at the expense of all other platforms, with the total size of the gaming population expected to swell by almost 7% over the next three years. That’s an extra $27.8bn added to the industry by the turn of the next decade. It’s good news for gaming as a hobby but bad news for platform elitists.
From the established figures for 2015 to the forecasted ones in 2020, handheld gaming will lose 2% of its audience, while console, web games, and MMOs will drop 4%, 2%, and 3% of their players respectively. In contrast, 10% more people will be firing up gaming apps on their smartphones, with much of that growth coming from emerging markets like Asia, which expanded its gaming market by 58% in 2016.
While unrelated to conventional video gaming, mobile casino is driving growth in smartphone use as well. For example, terms like “mobile casino” attracted around 10,000 searches a month in Google back in 2015. Search volume like that is a huge incentive to push a mobile-first approach as standard, a development that has characterized the growth of brands like mFortune, a British iGaming website.
With a unique payment method aimed at the handheld user, mobile slots pay by phone bill, and apps for each of its slot machine games, mFortune is hedging its bets on the continued growth of the smartphone market. It’s a bold move but one that seems to be paying off; the company won the London Stock Exchange’s “1000 Companies to Inspire Britain” award back in 2015 for its dedication to innovative content.
As mentioned, the problem with debating the virtues of one gaming device over another is that each platform has a different reason for existing and a different audience as a consequence. For example, of all possible devices, PC is the only one that attracts hobbyists, people who build their own machines and even compete in “overclocking” contests to see who can squeeze the most juice out of a processor before it inevitably bursts into flames.
Consoles are living room entertainment devices with no real competition other than Valve’s Steam Machines while mobile gaming has the monopoly on portability and accessibility. It’s perhaps true then that the popularity of mobile gaming is driven by the fact that it doesn’t require much of a commitment (nobody has to own a PS4 but phones are almost an essential purchase) rather than any superiority of form, function, or features.
So, to answer the question in the title, as specialized devices, each fulfilling a particular role, there’s no fight to be had between mobile, PC, and consoles. The forecasted downsizing in the audience of console and PC is likely fueled by an exodus of occasional gamers to a device that better suits a more spontaneous style of play, a trend that will continue as long as the smartphone is in its ascendancy in young markets like Asia and Latin America.