The Future of Mobile Gaming discussed at #MGF2014

I've just come back from spending two extremely informative days at Mobile Games Forum in London. An event that focuses on the business side of game development, it provides developers with the information they need to not only bring their game to market efficiently, but to do it so successfully that it becomes the viral app of 2014. With a keen focus on marketing information, industry experts set out what they consider to be the main opportunities and threats to the industry, explaining where the trends lie and what they see to be the next game-changing event on the horizon.

Now, I will admit here and now (for better or worse) that I am not a developer nor have I ever been - I am a marketing professional through and through (there, I've said it!) and to me this event was fascinating. The mobile gaming market is one of huge potential and massive opportunities. In just ten years it has undergone serious evolution and it is not looking to slow down any time soon. For people producing applications within the market, where development lead times can be anywhere from a year to ten years, it's extremely volatile and who knows whether the plans you have for a fantastic game now will be relevant in three years' time? And there are other issues too. Different global markets have different attitudes to mobile games, so what do you do if you're looking to globalize? Market saturation is so high, how do you make your app stand out above the crowd? In a society that clearly prefers free-to-play, where are the opportunities for profit? These are questions we rarely ask in these blogs, yet they are problems that members of our ecosystem face every day.

Thankfully, informative market data was coming in from all angles. The US and Japan are unsurprisingly two of the largest markets for mobile games in 2013 (both in terms of downloads and revenue) - yet Brazil, Russia, Mexico and Turkey are all making great strides within the list of Top 10 mobile gaming countries and well worth a consideration for developers trying to find a niche market where their games might stand out above a thinner crowd. Action games are more popular in download terms than Arcade games, which are more popular in turn than Puzzle games, but Role Playing games monetize a lot better. And if you really want to make money from your app, bear in mind that adverts only play a 12.4% part in the total purchasing decision of a mobile game customer - if you really want to do well, you'd turn your attention to creating positive social media and word of mouth which combined influences 35% of the purchasing decision. The themes of user acquisition, user retention and the lifetime value of a user were prevalent in Day One of the conference. As an FYI for developers, if you have 50% user retention after Day 1 you are doing stunningly - average market figures suggest that the first day retention rate is more likely to be at about 25 - 30%. Also much discussed was the question of the merits of the free-to-play versus premium versus "freemium" business model - and perhaps the most sensible and simplest suggestion on this matter came from Dan Gray of ustwo - pick a business model, design the game to suit the chosen business model perfectly and then stick with it. Different business models have such different design needs that changing models post-launch is asking for trouble.

Day Two of the conference focused more on technological opportunities and this is where ARM stepped in to give both a presentation and a panel discussion. However, I would like to dwell for a paragraph on the very good opening keynote by Robert Tercek, the Chairman of Creative Vision Foundations. He contemplated the changes that he has seen over the past ten years not only to the mobile device market, but also to society thanks to the mobile device market - 69% of 18 - 30 year old's publish videos online; 350m photos are uploaded to Facebook each day; 100hrs of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute; that picture of the announcement of Pope Francis. Mobile devices have become inseparable with our daily lives. In so many ways they acts as a sixth sense, helping us to take in and remember our environment and activities. And Robert encouraged the game developers to take this idea even further. Up until recently there has always been distinctly separate "digital experiences" and "real-world experiences". Why can't game developers help the two to combine? Overlay the digital world over the real one to accentuate the experience? And as the Internet of Things heats up, mobile game developers need to start taking advantage of the fact that the smartphone will become the central interface between the user and the world around them - there is a wealth of opportunity out there for the innovative.

Back to the ARM talks.  Following a whistle stop tour through the latest ARM technologies that are becoming available to mobile game developers (64 bit, big.LITTLE, 4K content to name a few), nizarromdan was joined on stage by Peter Parmenter of EA, Chris Doran of Geomerics, Sameer Baroova of PlayJam, Marcus Kruger of Goo Technologies and Will Freeman of Develop Magazine for a half hour discussion on "The Future of Mobile Gaming Technologies". The most interesting point I picked up from this discussion was the potential future market of HTML5 games on SmartTVs - as SmartTVs become more and more prevalent (yet predictably fragmented), the browser shines out as the most stable and dependable platform for gaming across all of the solutions on the market. Yet mobiles were confirmed to be the primary gaming device in the future - preferable above console, above PC, above SmartTVs. Current console gamehouses such as EA and ActiVision have seen this and are responding rapidly, developing their own games for mobile. Facebook mentioned the day before that the company had already made the mental switch to prioritizing mobile over PC. The entire gaming industry is moving to mobile and as technology advances, it will only be more and more confirmed as a standard in our daily lives.

At the end of the day, Will Freeman's quote summed up the mood of Mobile Games Forum 2014 perfectly for me: "There's a few challenges, but a hell of a lot of opportunities". Good luck to all the game developers out there!

Nizar Romdan presents the gaming possibilities available on ARM hardware

Meanwhile, Phill Smith demonstrates the graphics

capabilities of ARM® Mali GPUs

ARM, EA, Goo Technologies, The specified item was not found. and PlayJam

muse on the future of mobile gaming

Graphics & Multimedia blog