Mobile Gaming Trends 2017

Trying to predict trends in the gaming industry is a lot like trying to predict the weather. Who knew that Pokémon GO was going to be so huge this time last year? Had anyone even heard about AR (augmented reality) before then? Yeah, okay, I'm sure they probably had – but still, we like the surprises, it's part of what makes the industry fun!

Last year saw the release of three mobile gaming giants: Clash Royale, Pokémon GO, and Super Mario Run. It was also the year everyone became a lot more aware that VR (virtual reality) exists. As 2017 closes in on the halfway point, there are still open questions about what games and trends will dominate the mobile gaming industry this year and beyond.

Below we'll take a look at the biggest topics and predicted trends of mobile gaming in 2017.

Android & iOS

Mobile as a gaming platform is growing, and a big part of the reason why is obvious: Everyone's got a smartphone. A smartphone is never too far out of reach, and people love gaming on them in part for that reason. According to a report by Newzoo, mobile gaming will represent over half the entire games market by 2020 – and that 2017 will see mobile rise to 42% of the market; or, $46.1 billion of the total global games industry which is forecasted to grow to $108.9 billion this year.

I mention this because at PlaytestCloud we're in the mobile games business; but also, because this shift to a games industry where mobile is the biggest revenue earner is significant from a developers perspective. Just look at the release of Super Mario Run last year to get an idea of how important mobile has become as a platform. Super Mario Run is a rare Nintendo game released on hardware that isn't Nintendo's own, showing how serious they take mobile as a gaming platform.

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Not trending this year: VR & AR

It might seem counterintuitive because of how much media attention both get and also because Facebook and Snapchat are putting their weight behind the technologies – but 2017 won't be the year VR & AR take over. It appears, from a gaming perspective, to be due to a mixture of factors. There are the hardware limitations of smartphones, the high cost of separate VR equipment, and differences in developer focus that mean that neither will come to dominate the mobile gaming landscape...at least not this year. Matthew Wiggins, CEO of MajiWorks Limited had this to say to PocketNow about the VR and AR:

"VR/AR won’t be a significant trend in 2017 - we’re several years away, at least, from hardware that will be desirable enough for widespread consumer adoption."

While it does appear that VR has high hurdles to maneuver itself into a real market force even beyond 2017, it's easier to argue that AR is in a different situation. Pokémon GO shows that the market is there for well-executed AR titles, and as a survey conducted at GDC 2017 shows, developer confidence in mobile AR is higher than for any other platform:

The lion’s share of devs think the VR/AR industry is trending towards mobile AR/VR — and just AR specifically.

When asked which would be the dominant immersive reality tech in five years, mobile vs. PC/Console VR/AR, 33 percent of respondents said mobile. 31 percent said PC/Console, and 17 percent said PC/Console and mobile VR/AR tech would be equally popular in five years’ time. Eight percent said neither would be important, and 12 percent admitted they didn’t know.

It seems like this year won't be the year that mobile VR and AR titles take over the mobile market, but expect to see more and more mature titles produced for both as the public becomes more familiar with the technologies. Look out for more AR titles in particular as the year progresses.

Mobile game brands

Mobile gaming doesn't quite have a Mario or Sonic yet. There's Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Angry Birds, and a host of other titles that are prominent in the Play Store and App Store. But it's hard to picture a dominant IP (Intellectual Property) that comes to mind in the same way that Mario and Sonic did in the console generation of the early 90's and Master Chief in the early 00's.

This could be the year that brands capitalize on existing brand recognition to emerge as mobile gaming's most visible face. There is a sense, even after the release of Super Mario Run on iOS in December 2016, that there is no such iconic figure in mobile gaming – and it's yet to be seen if the world-renowned Italian plumber can hold his own in the unfamiliar waters of Android and iOS. Here's what Alex Brunicki wrote about mobile gaming brands on VentureBeat:

"Currently, at least at the company level, brands in the mobile gaming space are weak, with the exception of a few like Supercell and King (we’re not talking about long-established IP such as Pokémon or Mario here). Company-level brand will increasingly become a key differentiator for gaming companies, leading to greater loyalty, better discovery and a derisking of product investment."

Engaging the eSports and Twitch Generation

Mobile game streaming is going to become a lot more popular. There is a generation who have grown up with eSports, and the current buzz in the mobile games industry is that mobile platforms need to develop more as a platform to better attract eSports enthusiasts.

The biggest difference between mobile platforms and the console / PC markets for eSports is that mobile platforms don't offer the same volume of games that players love to watch and play. While there are games like Hearthstone, Vainglory, and Minecraft on either Android or iOS, there simply isn't the same diversity that's offered through other platforms. Alex Brunicki, in the same VentureBeat article, articulates this perfectly:

What has yet to emerge, however, is a class of game that is as enjoyable to watch for a mainstream audience as it is to actually play: hybrids of watching and playing.

Predictions for 2017

While there's no way to know exactly how the biggest trends will play out over the course of 2017, it seems certain that this is the year mobile gaming will consolidate itself as a mature gaming platform. Mobile gaming has been around since the days of Snake, but it's now positioned well to take its place as a home for a new generation of characters and brands that can rival – and even surpass – those of more traditional gaming platforms.

Expect to see more focus on multiplayer and social functions over the last half of 2017, as well as an increase in the popularity of streaming mobile games.

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Your take?

What are your predictions for the rest of 2017? Do you have any hot tips or insights? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Dillon Cleaver

Content Writer at PlaytestCloud. Currently playing Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Berlin, Germany

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