When former Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs died last week, the nation wasted no time in mourning the loss of the renowned innovator.
According to an article in USA Today, several video game companies lauded the life and legacy of Jobs, calling him a “leading light,” an “inspiration” and “one of a kind.”
One reporter from CNET named Jobs an “accidental video games visionary” for contributing to the marketing of popular mobile games on iPhones and iPads.
These comments on Jobs’ impact exemplify how far the video game industry has come in its abilities to adapt to a generation of on-the-go technology.
By 2014, the industry is projected to exceed $11.4 billion. In other words, in a span of just five years, the mobile game industry is expected to nearly double its profits.
The idea of playing video games on mobile devices and smartphones didn’t gain widespread popularity until the introduction of Apple’s iPhone in 2007. Through a collection of cheap, creative and high-quality games, the iPhone quickly became a target for casual and seasoned gamers, while Jobs became instantly intertwined with the success of a new field.
In the four years since the iPhone’s creation, the gaming industry has revolutionized itself by establishing a powerful presence in mobile-device technology. This year the mobile game industry will make an estimated $8 billion in revenue, up a substantial 33 percent from 2009.
Some of the biggest draws are these games’ prices — or lack thereof. In July, 51 percent of the 25 best-selling mobile games in the App store are completely free, while 27 percent are just $0.99.
Most of this trend has to do with a combination of the state of the economy and the mass market of casual gamers. For most working adults, smartphones are a necessity for managing hectic lifestyles. According to a 2011 study conducted by Geekaphone, 37 percent of iPhone owners play games on a daily basis and 84 percent of tablet owners play games in general. Basically, a majority of mobile device owners use their devices to play games, and most of these people are in their late 20s to early 40s. Therefore, these people are looking for games that require little skill and little money, but still offer fun and convenient temporary refuges.
These downloadable games are being sold through the ever-increasingly popular freemium strategy, which allows users to download games free of charge but requires them to make in-game purchases for additional features. Traditionally, downloadable games followed a “pay-per-download” format, in which consumers purchased and downloaded games in their entirety at typically higher prices. Games following the new “freemium” formula are expected to surpass the number of traditional pay-per-download offers by 2013, which could affect the way consumers purchase video games in the mobile and traditional console markets.
Without a doubt, the gaming industry is evolving. And unsurprisingly, some are worried that as we enter this digital age, traditional video games will begin to disappear.
Though these statistics highlight a flourishing mobile gaming market, they don’t necessarily mean an end to the traditional gaming market.
Video game sales have not declined with the rise of mobile games. In fact, despite the increased number of digital downloads, the desire to own hard copies and cartridges remains fairly consistent among gamers. With Sony’s upcoming PlayStation Vita handheld console, the company opted out of a digital-only device so as not to alienate the traditional gamers, who still have a penchant for hard copies.
“Some consumers like shopping in retail stores, talking to knowledgeable store clerks, buying and playing games on the spot. We do not want to remove that capability from consumers,” said Shuhei Yoshida, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios president, in an interview with Edge.
There is clearly a kinesthetic and humanistic factor that people enjoy. Traditional video games encourage socialization through shared television screens and close company, whereas mobile devices focus more on independent gaming and anonymous online interaction.
Though the mobile gaming market is expanding at an impressive rate in part because of Jobs’ vision for technology, this unique branch of the gaming industry is not about to squelch the more traditional market any time soon. On the contrary, mobile games have defined an entirely new set of gamers that can easily oscillate between traditional and digital-age video games.
Even without Jobs’ powerful presence, the Apple visionary has used the appeal of mobile technology to establish a broader group of gamers, which continues to revolutionize the market and can only encourage the video game industry to create even better products.
Hannah Muniz is a junior majoring in East Asian languages and cultures and creative writing. Her column “Game Over” runs Wednesdays.