As the holidays are approaching in America, we take look at America’s mobile game industry this month, with its history, issues, and monetization. Unraveling the complexities of the American gamer is a must in one of the most aggressive and lucrative areas in mobile.
America has the longest history with video games starting from being a laboratory experiment to something you hold in your hand. America brought rise to the gaming, killed it in the early 80’s and rejuvenated it with the thanks of Japanese game developers. America today is #1 in game revenues and #2 in mobile after losing to China this year. If you aren’t an American developer, be prepared. With so much experience in gaming, it can be extremely difficult to make a buck off gamers. But, the bright side is, they love new adventures and new games. Today, let’s take a quick look into the United States mobile game industry.
Early Phone Games Just Sucked
If you look at most games prior to the late 2000’s for a mobile phone in USA, most times you would see either the game Snake or Solitaire. Mobile hardware had been moving to make phones smaller and more practical, but were very far behind in graphics compared to the Game Boy Color. Mobile gaming lacked largely from this and innovations that were happening in Asia with micro-transactions were not succeeding or even of interest for America.
It wasn’t until J2ME (Java 2 micro edition) and BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) were adopted that gaming started to pick up interest. Games like Space Invaders and Brady Bunch Kung Fu were some examples of the times as well as the N-Gage experiment from Nokia, allowing a phone to be a handheld game player at the same time.
Mobile Games = Casual Games
During this time, the PC casual space had started to mature with companies like PopCap and Real Networks building up great games for the PC. Many of their games like Bejeweled were starting to be programmed onto the phones and were becoming great successes. Many more casual PC game companies started to join the mobile industry, but the problems of fragmentation of phones were incredibly roadblock to success.
Even our company, TestBird would have a huge problem with the amount of bugs coming from the hardware at the time. Though we have over 2,000 devices, the complexity and differences in hardware architecture and software of that time were extremely frustrating to developers of big companies and made it almost impossible for smaller studios to grow. The industry needed better standards.
Apple to the rescue
Apple finally broke everything with the release of the iPhone and iPod Touch. Having dedicated hardware and software with a marketplace backbone brought great movement in mobile gaming. Since Apple and Google (with the Android platform) had created better standards, the mobile industry has grown from low level games, to casual, to mainstram, and now even hardcore gaming with games like Vain Glory becoming available for gamers.
According to NewZoo, there are over 325 million gamers playing mobile games. Nelson lists this as part of the 63% of total gamers in the country. Growth in gaming from consoles and PC to mobile has been increasing as seen in these charts from Nelson’s reporting earlier this year.
The graph shows the amount of gaming devices they are using to play games (mobile/handheld, PC, and console). Regular gamers in America are also turning to mobile gaming.
Children are playing the most games and so games more towards children and teens are gaining the most as seen in this chart by Nelson.
NewZoo estimates that Americans will spend on average $200 per paying user in games totaling $22 Billion dollars. This trend also seems to be continued growth in the next 3 years.
In part two, we discuss the issues and the business of game development for the USA gamer.