There is an old adage that warns if a company isn’t always growing, it’s dying. That adage reflects how I have felt about many of the big names in the video game industry for these past two console generations. The glory days of the N64, PS2, and Xbox have not again been seen with their modern successors. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have tried desperately to develop the next generation console that will once again grip the hearts of their fan base and add to their waning platforms. With each step came new features like a second screen, built-in Blu-ray player, and increased storage capacity to rival some of the hardiest PCs. However, with a growing customer base and video games increasing in popularity amongst ‘non gamers’, why is it that these companies can’t dominate as they once did? What can they do different? The answer is mobile gaming.
The world is entering a Candy Crush, Clash of Clans age of gaming. More and more people are delving into the appeal of the at-your-fingertips gameplay that grants instant gratification in 1-3 minute segments of play. Even I play just as much on my smart phone as on my PC. The mobile gaming industry, like e-sports, is gaining steam. According to the gaming research firm Newzoo.com, 2016 will mark the first year that mobile gaming will overtake PC and console gaming in sales. (https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/global-games-market-reaches-99-6-billion-2016-mobile-generating-37/).
Nintendo has already begun to figure out that the yellow brick road to better profits is paved with smart phones. On March 17th, they released their first mobile “gaming” app called Miitomo. I hesitate to call it a “gaming” app because from what I’ve seen, it only serves as an accessory to Nintendo’s Mii platform, and does not provide any challenge to overcome or objective to clear. Truth be told, when Nintendo announced they were releasing a mobile app, my thoughts quickly ran to the smart phone debut of a classic Mario Bros. platformer. Needless to say I was disappointed. Still the app alone has hit a mark of 280,000 users per week. To put that into perspective, that’s about 1.8 million users per month. Compared to Wii U sales reported by Nintendo, which came in at 3.1 million units in the nine months between April-December of 2015, the app has achieved a better saturation of a new market than the Wii U has its own market.
Nintendo isn’t the only company taking notice of the growing mobile market. In an article by Venturebeat, Samsung expects mobile gaming sales to overtake PS4 by the year 2020. (http://venturebeat.com/2016/04/27/samsung-predicts-mobile-performance-will-surpass-ps4-by-2020/) Samsung is also working on new software that will take advantage of the growing mobile industry by looking to create apps that live stream e-sports and has divulged they will be working with app developers to create quality mobile gaming apps.
This isn’t to say gaming companies are starting to wean off from manufacturing new generation consoles, but there is evidence they no longer see gaming consoles as the sole means of securing their share in the market.
There is a shifting dynamic in the gaming sector that is set to explode to an even bigger scale. As Netflix killed the movie rental industry, and ‘cord cutters’ are decimating the television industry, so too will mobile gaming consume the video game giants if they do not do more to embrace the changing climate.