What makes a game, well, a game? We’ve touched on this before in our Visual Novels Vs. Games article, but where do mobile games stand on the scale? For many gamers, mobile games aren’t seen as a “real” platform of games (see Dr. Disrespect’s stance on the subject here,) and yet it’s a huge market with its own titles, streamers, and gamers alike. From Candy Crush to Monument Valley and everywhere in between, let’s take a look at the mobile game market to see how it stands in comparison.
To start, ‘mobile games’ is a broad category. It’s not as simple as saying ‘puzzle games’ or ‘strategy games,’ as mobile can encompass all that and more depending on the specific games in question, not to mention the number of cross-platform games that make an appearance on mobile, such as Among Us, Fortnite, and my personal favorite, Ghost Trick, Phantom Detective, originally featured on the Nintendo DS. Mobile as a platform brings games to a whole new expanded audience who might not otherwise have had a way to play the games. Buying an entire console for a single title is expensive and, frankly speaking, ridiculous. But since most people have access to smartphones of some type, that’s not a huge investment on its own.
Moving on, mobile gaming as a platform has unique titles and games that you can’t play elsewhere. Not only that, but many games utilize the unique functionality and gameplay available when using touch screen controls. Take a game like Monument Valley, for example, which is only available on the Apple App Store or Google Play. A mobile exclusive, this game was released to wild acclaim and success in 2014 featuring puzzles and levels designed for mobile screens. With vertical architecture reminiscent of Escher’s best optical illusions, it sold more than 26 million copies within its first year.
And finally, let’s touch on Candy Crush and the plethora of addictive slide/puzzle/ 3 in a row “casual” style of games. I think this is part of the main problem for a lot of players: that label of ‘casual games.’ Phone and mobile games aren’t designed with the same intent or audience as console games. Many of these games are designed for short, fast play sessions, like while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew or the train to show up or your computer to finish restarting and updating or any of the other countless small moments of downtime that occur in our day-to-day lives. And there’s a lot! While exact numbers are hard to nail down, MoPub claims to reach 1.5 billion users over their network of apps and games and has some interesting statistics on who their player base consists of. It’s not exactly who you may expect. Mobile gamers tend to be 45+ and female, playing things like Words with Friends or Candy Crush. It’s a huge industry, and to wipe the entire thing under the rug as ‘not real gaming’ is to ignore billions of players and millions of dollars of revenue. To me, that makes no sense at all.
So where am I going with this? To make things short and sweet: Yes, mobile games are real games! Just like all genres and types of games, there are good and bad apples in the bunch, games we’d rather not spotlight and diamonds in the rough that we can’t stop talking about years after their initial release. So, keep playing games! And maybe tone down on the loot boxes and Free-To-Play/Pay-To-Win titles… They can be a bit scummy.