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Your map through the minefield of mobile development.
One of the many benefits of working in the gaming industry (aside from getting to tune out the fairly boring real world) is that we get to be pioneers — bold explorers of The Next Big Thing. Our gaming apps are often the tip of the spear when it comes to the integration of exciting new technology, trends and advancements.
Staying fresh and reactive to change is what put our beloved medium where it is today, at the absolute apex of the entertainment food chain, towering over music, cinema and streaming. Man, it feels good to be king. Dive even deeper and you'll note that mobile gaming eclipses the console and PC markets. At the time of writing we were widely identified as the most thriving gaming sector in 2018, siphoning in a whopping $70.3 billion USD (or 51% of the global games market).
That said, we're also beset by a gimmick minefield. For every genuinely app-enhancing concept that's guaranteed to start a new wave of fun and profit, there'll be half a dozen more cuckoo ideas that amount to nothing more than evolutionary dead ends. Fortunately, we have our crystal ball and decades of industry experience to draw upon today. Collected here are the safest bets for the future of gaming app development.
Hyper-casual will hyper-plateau
While hyper-casual games aren't going to disappear overnight from the download charts, the accepted consensus is that they're losing sustainability — players are getting sick of games with limited content and mind-numbing repetitiveness. We're going to see user tastes evolve a bit this year, to seek out deeper mechanics, a dash of narrative structure, a sprinkling of RPG elements or some low-level puzzling. Don't get us wrong, though — short session lengths will still be prized by the end user, but experiences will become more substantial as larger publishers port their wares to mobile in greater numbers.
5G will spark innovation like never before
Let's get the obvious benefits of 5G out of the way early. Having speeds 10–100x better than 4G means that more ambitious and content-rich gaming apps will be able to slide from app store to the end-user in no time at all. Likewise, PvP junkies can expect radically lower pings (which translates into an increase in maximum players supported by a title and opportunities for eSports integration). On the pioneering side of things, 5G also opens up exciting avenues in terms of cloud-based AI, ad videos delivered in higher resolution/fps and game streaming. And the latter of course neatly segues us to...
Google Stadia will change everything
At the time of writing, the big G's fledgling games streaming service has been revealed but also remains covered in some fog of war. The question of how it will be monetized is the most pressing for us. Will it tap into the existing $4 billion USD in-game ad market, or is Google looking to the in-game cosmetic add-on model à la Fortnite? Whatever the case, there's little doubt that the market landscape will change irrevocably if Google can in fact pull off a gaming service that does away with expensive hardware while delivering experiences with far higher graphics fidelity. Watch this space and watch it well.
All intel points to crypto-gaming growing exponentially in 2019. And of course we can't talk about this up-and-coming vertical without mentioning the game that drew the most eyeballs from the mainstream masses, CryptoKitties. If you've never played it, it's more or less a Tamagotchi purchased with Ether and then you raise your feline attributes, breed with other CryptoKitties or just sell your fleabag on for Real Earth Dollars. How popular is this sub-genre of gaming? At the time of writing a CryptoKitty can go for $20 USD and the highest one sold went for over $110,000 USD. Clearly there's a niche to fill here for a subset of gamers who hunger to collect one-of-a-kind “100% theirs” content that cannot be replicated.
Thawed Chinese freeze and translations
In case you missed the story in 2018, the Chinese government made a move to regulate its local games industry as a means to clamp down on a bunch of things. (Think: user addiction, excessive in-game violence and basically anything that didn't gel with State messaging.) The end result was a pretty massive and problematic plateauing of consumer spending. As of this year, however, expect to see a ton of Chinese game devs looking to globalize their way around the problem, a solution that will translate into… well, increased opportunities for translation providers and overseas publishers.
Wearable tech and increased immersion
Let's be honest for a second. While the resurgence of VR sure started out exciting with the release of headsets like the HTC Vive, Sony's PS VR and Oculus Rift, the hype has died down somewhat of late. Heck, it's been four years and we're still waiting to see what Facebook intends to do with its $2 billion USD 2014 acquisition of the latter headset. And as for the topic of AR? Yeah, the less said about Google Glass, the better. Even still, there's a chance for interest to spark yet again with damn impressive products like Microsoft's HoloLens 2 and the insane gaming potential of its fully articulated hand-tracking, not to mention the way it can retina track to better understand user intent. This is sci-fi-today stuff and there's no chance it's going away.
The rise of gaming-focussed phones
Put your memories of the ill-fated Nokia N-Gage phone/gaming system out of your mind. Banish them completely. In 2019 we're talking about the much more sensibly designed devices backed by experienced gaming hardware manufacturers like Razer and ASUS. The former offering is the Razer Phone, a beast leveraging a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with 8GB RAM, a 120Hz screen and THX certified Dolby Atmos speakers. Meanwhile, the ASUS ROG Phone is also escalating things with a Qualcomm 845 and HDR visuals lavished upon a 90 Hz display. Owning that sort of grunt will create a user demand for showcase material. If you're a purveyor of sweet, sweet 3D eye candy, expect an uptick in sales. As you can no doubt see, 2019 is an exciting time to be in the industry and developing gaming apps can only get more lucrative from here.