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Big Games, Small Screens

Posted on December 09, 2014
By Sonia Abraham

iPhone 6: $649
Super-awesome iOS fps game: $10.99
Playing BioShock on the bus back home: Priceless.

Screenshot of BioShock being played on the iPhone 6 © K2 Studios

The August 2014 iOS release of the multi-platform smash-hit, BioShock, was one small step for it’s publisher, K2, but one giant leap forward for serious mobile gaming. The iOS game may not be a perfect rendition of it’s PC/console elder brother, but it did send a telling signal: big game studios have well and truly set their sights on mobile.

K2 may have just entered the 5” market, but other huge names and much-loved franchises have been around for some time. The mobile version of Capcom’s hugely popular horror franchise, Resident Evil, made an appearance on North American devices back in 2006 under the guise of Resident Evil: The Missions. Rockstar North’s GTA: San Andreas was released on selected iOS devices in December 2013. Many more big games have been on mobile devices for years now, but more and more big studios are waking up to the huge possibilities that mobile gaming offers them.

In fact, EA mobile recently announced that it had reached 100 million mobile downloads of its sports-related video games. “About half of the gaming business is on mobile devices right now. It’s a gigantic market in terms of audience size, engagement and participation”, says Frank Gibeau, VP of EA Mobile.

Show me the money!

And he’s right. The earning potential of mobile gaming is huge.

Clash of Clans' developer, Supercell, reported a revenue of $829 million in 2013. Gameloft, makers of games like Ice Age Village and Asphalt 7 announced earnings of $85 million for Q4, 2013, and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood brought in $43.4 million in its first quarter on sale. All very, very respectable numbers.

By the end of 2014, mobile gaming will reach revenues of $21.1 billion, according to SuperData Research. In 2015, mobile gaming is projected to overtake console gaming in revenue, according to recently released data from Newzoo, an Amsterdam-based games research firm. Interestingly, the same Newzoo survey predicts that Apple’s earnings from games this year will double those of Nintendo.

Mobile Killing the Video Star?

There is some evidence that video game sales may not be the best. According to a cnet report, video game software sales have been falling. These may be early days to make blanket statements, but big studios do look positive about moving to mobile, or at least expanding their mobile divisions.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Gregory: Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
Holmes: To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
Gregory: The dog did nothing in the night-time.
Holmes: That was the curious incident.

(Excerpt from Silver Blaze, a Sherlock Holmes short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Nintendo, the mammoth game developer responsible for beloved titles like Super Mario Bros and The Legend Of Zelda, has been curiously absent in the mobile gaming industry. Till now, top honchos of the company have been adamant against bringing their games to mobile. Things just may change though. Junichi Masuda, producer and co-founder of Game Freak, the studio that first developed Pokemon, and who develop games for Nintendo consoles said that Pokemon for iPhone is a "possibility". Even more interestingly, Nintendo recently filed a patent for Game Boy emulation on mobile phones.

An artist's rendition of what Mario on mobile may look like
Image © http://www.leviathyn.com/
Mario © Nintendo

Whether it is to appeal to a burgeoning casual-gamer populace, to rescue well-loved old titles from certain death, or just to explore new markets, the big fish are heading to mobile gaming.

Perhaps Yoshiki Okamoto, creator of Street Fighter, articulated the attraction of big studios to mobile gaming the best when he likened mobile gaming to a portable arcade: “Right now places...like homes… (are) becoming their own mini-arcade. You see people gathering at lunch time, or on the train… people are trying to hook up (to play with) with people nearby. It’s kind of like mobile mini-arcade centers are popping up everywhere.”

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