From humble beginnings, mobile gaming is now a multi-billion dollar industry driving the next-generation of smartphone devices and technologies. According to the latest update from Newzoo’s latest 2022 Global Games Report, in 2022 the mobile gaming is set to deliver $92.2bn in revenues. These staggering figures have been empowered by the increasing performance capabilities and advancing features of premium smartphones, many of which are built on Arm technology.
At the same time, the complexity of mobile gaming experiences has advanced significantly in the past 10 years. Thanks to more powerful processors, along with bigger and higher resolution displays, and superior battery life, users can enjoy more immersive AAA gaming experiences on their mobile devices. In fact, a recent Arm-commissioned report from Newzoo showed that the most popular AAA gaming titles on PC and Console, like PUBG, Fortnite, Call of Duty and Honor of Kings, are now widely available on mobile. Also, Genshin Impact – which many believe is one of the best AAA games currently available – launched on PC, console, and mobile at the same time.
Let us take a closer look at how this phenomenal growth story happened, Arm’s role in the rise of mobile gaming, and where it could be heading in the next few years….
For me, mobile gaming begun on my beloved and (near) indestructible Nokia 3310 in the late 90s with Snake. Such games were simple in terms of graphics and also constrained due to the nature of the mobile screen and graphics power.
The first 3D mobile games emerged in 2003, but mobile devices took a little longer to catch up, with 3D mobile gaming not becoming widespread on devices until around two years later. What really helped to push the envelope on mobile gaming was the introduction of full screen smartphones in the late 00s.
The advent of full screen smartphones opened up a range of new possibilities. Phones were now not just for calls, but a device with multiple uses that would soon become the central item for most people’s digital lives. With touchscreens and the development of a new app ecosystem, it introduced a new gaming experience that had more advanced graphics, a wider choice of games and the opportunities for “gaming on the go” wherever you wanted to sneak in a quick game. This quickly became an “essential” while commuting or traveling. An example of this evolution in mobile gaming was Rovio’s Angry Birds in 2009, which integrated the smartphone touch screen with more real-life physics and more advanced graphics for a brand-new mobile experience.
In the 2010s, mobile games continued to evolve with new ways of playing for a new gaming audience. For many, the 2016 release of Pokémon Go was not only the first experience of mobile gaming, but also augmented reality (AR). The game also added a brand-new social aspect to mobile gaming. No longer would people be simply looking down at a screen playing games by themselves. Instead, thousands of players went to various Pokémon Go events – big and small – that took place worldwide.
This concept of gaming events has led to the blossoming of esports. While mobile e-sports are still lagging behind PC and Console in terms of popularity currently, it is nevertheless drawing millions of players to the esport arena. Moreover, PUBG Mobile, first released in 2018, will be an official medal sport for the first time at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, taking place between 23rd September and 8th October 2023. The growth of esports and a new spectator element to gaming means the integration of streaming services, like Twitch, are now being seen as integral aspects of gaming development.
The first time the games industry experienced a shift in focus towards being ‘mobile-first’ was 2020. Even game studios that traditionally focused on developing only PC and console games are putting their resources into developing more mobile titles.
Recently, I was blown away by the graphics of the AAA mobile game Genshin Impact. Quite simply, I forgot straight away that I was on a smartphone. The clarity of the scenery, the different shadows, and lighting effects and the details on the different game characters made me immersed in the story from the moment I started the game. It is no wonder that Genshin Impact won the 2021 best mobile game award and it really serves to illustrate just how far mobile gaming has come in recent years. It is now a gaming platform that is producing games competing with console titles in terms of immersive gameplay and graphics capabilities.
Furthermore, the ability to cross-save across different platforms and play Genshin Impact across PC, Console, and Mobile and be able to enjoy high-quality gaming experiences regardless of the device is impressive. AAA mobile gaming is now part of an overall gaming experience. This encourages more social gaming, with multiple players able to enjoy the same gaming mission on different devices in the same space as one another. AAA mobile gaming has the benefit of extreme portability at no cost to the game content or players’ experiences.
With AAA gaming titles becoming increasingly common on mobile, the compute workloads that power these gaming workloads are becoming more complex. A series of wider gaming and graphics trends are driving the need for these complex workloads, including:
Arm GPUs are the world’s most popular GPU, with over 1 billion shipped by our partners in 2021. Alongside the rise of mobile gaming and emerging graphics trends, different generations of Arm GPUs have pushed the boundaries of performance, efficiency, and features for improved mobile gaming experiences. And now enters the brand-new flagship GPU, Immortalis-G715, which delivers Arm’s highest ever GPU performance and the very best graphics features, including hardware-based ray tracing support on mobile. Immortalis-G715 and Mali-G715, G710, G78, and G77 GPUs are all based on the Valhall architecture, which are better aligned with the latest APIs, such as Vulkan, to enable the high-quality graphics that are required on AAA gaming titles.
However, it is not just the GPU where Arm has impacted mobile gaming. Our latest Total Compute solutions improve the entire system performance across the mobile SoC to deliver tangible benefits to complex, real-world and specialized workloads like gaming. Across our latest Armv9 CPUs we have focused on key optimizations to accelerate the CPU performance for gaming workloads, as well as improving software drivers that run on our CPU cluster configurations consisting of our Cortex-X, Cortex-A7x, and Cortex-A5x CPUs. Moreover, our Interconnect CoreLink CI-700 supports a System Level Cache (SLC), which helps to reduce latency and system power consumption for a variety of gaming content running in the system.
Globally, our gaming partners use our Mali GPUs and supporting optimization technologies to create the most immersive and interactive mobile gaming experiences. This has created one of the largest gaming ecosystems in the world. Arm works with leading game engines and game developers to fully optimize the performance of their games on Arm GPU-based mobile devices through new graphics technologies, tools, and developer education resources.
Arm Mobile Studio is a great example of how we support developers to optimize their gaming content. It unlocks performance and efficiency benefits through free-to-use performance analysis tools that analyze content metrics of games, along with GPU and CPU activity.
On the partnership side, Arm has a long-standing relationship with Unity – used by 75 percent of the world’s game developers – where we work together to provide graphics improvements and resources to developers and their game applications. This helps to bring smoother, more efficient gaming experiences to the billions of consumers who play Unity-generated content on mobile devices built on Arm GPUs.
The next-generation of flagship smartphones enable even greater gaming performance and features. Launched in November 2022, Mediatek’s new flagship SoC, the Dimensity 9200, became the first silicon solution to adopt Immortalis. Arm’s IP – which are part of the premium Total Compute Solution (TCS22) – form the compute foundation for the chipset. This enables Mediatek’s dual commitment to ultimate performance and unmatched power efficiency on the next generation of 2023 flagship smartphones, including the new Vivo X90 and X90 Pro, that will be built on Dimensity 9200. Through Immortalis, Dimensity 9200 is set up to deliver the very best graphics features on flagship smartphones, like hardware-based ray tracing support. This means ultra-realistic graphics in every frame and more immersive, advanced mobile gaming for longer. I am excited to see the next-generation of flagship smartphones built on the Dimensity 9200 chipset in action!
While mobile device innovation has empowered the phenomenal growth of mobile gaming, it can also be said that this has led to gaming performance and experiences being a key consideration for any new smartphone. Soon, it could even become the main defining feature, ahead of photo and image quality.
For mobile gaming’s future, the only way is up, with a greater demand for ‘more’. This means more performance, more features, and more game time. At Arm, we aim to be at the heart of this multi-billion-dollar mobile gaming evolution, providing the industry-leading GPUs and supporting technologies to create the very best mobile gaming and visual experiences. We have helped to drive the mobile gaming evolution in the past decade and will be doing so in the decade ahead.
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