Mobile gaming: The success story so far and where it goes next

mobile gaming consumer tech

Mobile gaming has undergone a meteoric rise in recent years. Gone are the days when users were subject to battling pixels; nowadays, it is a far more sophisticated and entertaining affair, comprising 40% of the total gaming market and a major player in consumer tech. Below we’ve noted key moments in its rise from the early days of Snake to the invasion of the Nintendo Switch, as well as a brief look ahead and why new tech such as Blockchain means it will continue to succeed.

Where it all began: Snake

Okay, we may have taken a swipe at pixels above, however there’s no doubting the enduring legacy of Snake. First appearing on mobile in 1997 on the Nokia 6610, it was the first two-player game on the later 6110, and in the process introduced the world to the potential of mobile gaming. It’s true that it can’t claim to be the first mobile game (that record belongs to the Tetris variant found on the Hagenuk MT-2000 device from 1994), though its influence and mass appeal is what makes it so revered. In 2016 it was announced that over 400 million copies had been shipped to date, and with the more recent launch of the Nokia 3310 and the resurrection of Snake, it doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon.

The App Store and the iPhone

As good as Snake was, it wasn’t until the launch of the App Store in 2008 that mobile gaming really made a name for itself. The launch of the iPhone the year before made mobile gaming far more intuitive due to its screen, though it was the App Store that delivered the content. A radical introduction to the market, the App Store benefited from tight integration with the iPhone and so encouraged users to try out the apps themselves, as well as allowing developers to upload directly to the store. This made the process far quicker, which in turn worked wonders for the library Apple could offer.

Dave Bradley, COO of Pocket Gamer, emphasises the strength of the content over the years: ‘’The games that have defined the platform are obviously the likes of Angry Birds, Clash of Clans and its sibling Clash Royale. But smaller studios are delivering fabulous gaming milestones too, like Monument Valley’’.

Pokémon Go and the adoption of AR

A long-awaited dream for almost anyone born in the late ’80s/early ’90s, Pokémon Go took the world by storm when it was launched in 2016. As Katharine Byrne, Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, explains: ‘’Pokémon Go was a huge moment for mobile gaming. Games had been gathering pace on mobile long before Pikachu and his pals got everyone off their sofas and out into the real world. It was Pokémon Go however that marked its moment of evolution from a casual, often overlooked past time to a serious form of entertainment’’.

Becoming a cultural phenomenon beyond the gaming world and attracting a fan base of people that often don’t fit the ‘gamer’ stereotype, Pokémon Go is notable for two reasons. Firstly, it’s insane popularity. According to Apptopia, it had been downloaded 752 million times as of December 2017. For perspective, that’s over ten times the population of the United Kingdom. Not a figure to be taken lightly.

Secondly, the game’s integration of AR to such a wide audience has also been fairly revolutionary. Admittedly, games such as Ingress were launched before Pokémon Go, also by gaming developer Niantic. However, the scale of Pokémon Go puts it in a league of its own, introducing AR to an audience far vaster than anything previously experienced.

The Nintendo Switch; a leap forward for mobile gaming hardware

A brand much-loved in the world of mobile gaming, Nintendo really proved its weight in plastic with the launch of the Switch in 2017. Delivering an experience as-yet unknown to mobile gaming and boosted by the success of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Switch has sold a total of 10 million units as of December 2017. Sam Loveridge, Reviews Editor at Gamesradar+, explains how: ‘’It’s a device that bridges the gap between mobile and console gaming, and we’re already starting to see mobile exclusive games making the jump to Switch’’. As comfortable in the home as on the move, the functionality and quality of the Switch was a major leap forward for mobile gaming.

Mobile gaming: Where next?

When considering where mobile gaming can go next, there are two avenues that jump out; the continued development of VR and AR, and Blockchain technology. A 2017 IDC report predicts that VR in particular will see a spike due to its ability to deliver competitive multiplayer content, though it is AR that Sam and Dave predict will really take the lead in 2018. Both have their money on Harry Potter Wizards Unite becoming the next craze, with Sam explaining: ‘’It’ll be AR technology that starts to make mobile gaming more appealing to a wider audience’’.

The implementing of new technologies, such as Blockchain, will also increasingly become a feature of mobile gaming. Companies like Blok.Party are already devising products with such technologies to improve the user experience, and games such as Spells Of Genesis are examples of Blockchain being used for more than just crypto-collectibles. It is here that Dave is particular interested, so much so that he has been involved in launching a website dedicated to it alongside Pocket Gamer, Blockchain ‘’I’d also brace yourself to hear a lot more about Blockchain and its application in the gaming sphere. The technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin also has uses elsewhere, one of which is in online games. We’re already seeing this buzzword everywhere’’.

Ultimately, the success of mobile gaming has been, and continues to be, in the ways in which the software maximises the hardware available. As Sam concludes: ‘’The potential of the mobile gaming platform is in games like Monument Valley, Pokémon Go, The Room and Gorogoa. Games that utilise the uniqueness of the platform features and push them to their limits are what will make mobile gaming really shine and come alive. The better the hardware gets, and with a little support from devices like the Nintendo Switch, the more people will realise that true gaming innovation lies with the device in your pocket”.


What do you think have been the major turning points for mobile gaming, and where do you see it going next? Let us know via our Twitter channel or send us an email at!

Elsewhere on the blog: Tech trends 2017-2018: The rise of intelligent homes and VR