Mobile gaming has come a very long way since Snake was all the rage on the Nokia phone. It is a highly profitable and fast-moving industry now worth more than $103 billion US dollars globally.

Around the world, almost three billion people enjoy playing games. While gaming on mobile does have some limitations, smartphone technology has improved tremendously over the past decade and has revolutionised the gaming experience, making games more seamless, immersive and complex.

From casual games like Candy Crush to battle royale experiences like PUBG mobile, there is now a great range of choice to suit all types of gamers. We take a deep dive into the history of mobile gaming and how it has evolved over the years:

Pre-smartphone era

When we think of mobile games, we often think of modern smartphone apps. However, mobile games actually pre-date the smartphone with basic games available long before the development of the first game app.

In 1994, the first game entered the world of mobile. This game was a variation of the popular arcade title Tetris, which came on the Hagenuk MT-2000 phone. It wasn’t until three years later that the infamous game Snake came to the market on the Nokia. Both of these games came preloaded on the phone as there was no facility to download from a store in this era.

While mobile gaming was yet to reach a large audience, games such as the 2001 release life simulation game Lifestyler peaked the interest of many.

A short while later advancements in mobile tech resulted in the release of Java enabled devices. In 2002 both the Nokia 3410 and the Siemens M50 were announced at a tech event, both of which supported java.

Java enabled phones were capable of hosting more advanced games, resulting in the introduction of a range of more complex and captivating games, from puzzles and strategy games to racing simulator games.

The popular arcade game Space Invaders made it to mobile around this time. Another well loved title was bowling game Jamdat Bowling which utilised BREW technology.

Phones with colour screens then really helped to bring games to life for players. Vibrant games like Bejeweled, The Fast and the Furious and Tower Bloxx are just some of the titles that became iconic during the early noughties.

The smartphone revolution

The next big milestone in mobile gaming development came with the release of the very first iPhone in 2007. This touchscreen device was seen to be the future of mobile and was soon followed by a number of Android releases.

One year later, Apple introduced the app store to the market. The app store was quickly welcomed by early tech adopters and wider audiences, within days there had been 10 million app downloads from the store.

While Apple may have dominated the market, other players like Samsung released their devices to challenge the iPhone. Android app stores also enabled mobile games to be downloaded as apps.

Mobile gaming apps

With apps now available, there became an incredible range of choice in mobile games with something to suit all interests. For casino fans, there came slots apps to play for real money, while for younger audiences’ casual games like Doodle Jump provided awesome entertainment.

One of the first mobile apps to see significant global success for Angry Birds, developed by Rovio Entertainment and released in 2009. The game has a simple premise, involving the use of a slingshot to launch birds at pig characters, yet it became highly addictive to players around the world.

In total there were more than 1.7 billion downloads of the Angry Birds mobile game app, few other mobile games have rivalled this success in the years following this.

While many mobile game apps came at a cost, the popularity and evolution of gaming apps saw the rise of the free-to-play app model. Developers release games to the app store that are free to download and access.

To generate revenue from these games, in-app purchases were developed. In-app purchases such as accessing higher levels, removing advertisements, purchasing virtual items and power-ups all helped to boost profitability.

Augmented reality (AR) is one of the more recent technological developments being explored by game developers. Following the success of AR game Pokemon Go, other titles like Jurassic World Live and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite soon reached the market.

Console attachments for mobile devices

While the touchscreen was revolutionary for the mobile gaming experience. Console attachments for mobile have helped to enhance the experience further. Attachments such as Xbox’s Razer Kishi and the 8BitDo have encouraged dedicated console gamers to try out mobile.

Mobile gaming has come a long way in a short space of time and we can expect it to continue to evolve rapidly as new technological innovations are explored and utilised by game developers.


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