Mobile Gaming – A Corporate Curse or Consumer Gift?

Since the iPhone was launched and the App store was released upon the world, we’ve seen thousands upon thousands of new apps and games flood the market from creative individuals and developers. This made mobile gaming a true platform to be enjoyed by literally everyone with access to a Smartphone, iPod touch or other compatible device. Specifically I’m talking mobiles/Smartphones/Tablets and not PS Vita or Nintendo DS/3DS.

From the age old classic of ‘Snake’ a decade or so ago in black and white, where having any game on your phone was a novelty in even the most basic of forms, to now almost PlayStation 2 level graphical quality with games such as N.O.V.A or Real Racing series by EA – mobile gaming has come a very long way indeed. Making calls and shooting zombies all on the same device has never been so rewarding or time consuming. From a good business standpoint it’s opened up the gaming market to the widest audience possible – a recent report found that 79% of 18-44 year olds have their Smartphones near them 22 hours a day. Giving consumers something fun to do while they are waiting or commuting whilst being engaged with a brand/mobile advertising is the best of both worlds one may think, but can this be destructive?

Games come in many varieties. Free, paid for or a disconcerting mixture called ‘Freemium’. Free games are generally supported by advertising (as are Freemium) whereas paid games generally speaking contain few or no advertisements. The paid or free games I take no issue with. Freemium however are cleverly disguised as ‘Free’ but soon either halt your game progress or constantly bombard you with slightly misleading options which make you unsure whether you have to pay or not. The aim is to get you so hooked with an addictive business model that you feel enamoured to spend money to continue. Granted, the issues arising from this are aimed at the younger audiences entering their Apple id and not realising there is a charge yet it’s an unsavoury practice. It’s much like a game demo but a very restrictive one that is rarely representative of a decent gaming experience. As a result this has caused untold grief for many people mistakenly making payments which were unclear and generally creating a bad taste in consumer’s mouth.

There is a fear in my mind that a Smartphone culture has made us all both less aware of what is going on around us, but also turning our brains on autopilot to an extent. On the train this morning out of 6 seats (split into 2 sets of 3 facing each other) every single person was deep into their Smartphone swiping and tapping. We’re in a digital age so naturally assume this to be pretty normal and there is almost a stigma attached to you if you don’t have a Smartphone, however I can’t help feeling a little jaded that most would spend all day with screens in offices and the natural instinct is to look at another screen on the way home. People miss train stops, lose track of time or even have been close to having an accident walking across the road due to playing on their Smartphone. Make no mistake, Smartphones will only get more advanced and more time sappingly engaging addictive games will arrive

Largely due to the complexity of mobile games we can now tweet, share and socially integrate ourselves with our digital counterparts. Perhaps cynically it’s a way to boost brands’ digital footprint under the guise of competing with your friends for a high score. In previous times the computer opponent was the only top score that mattered and now you’re up against the world – a daunting task if ever there was one, but empowering nonetheless.

Shady DLC practices and social monitoring aside, mobile gaming will simply continue to drain both time and money from many consumers but ultimately levitating any notion of boredom that ever existed when your train breaks down, your girlfriend is late or you’ve had that dodgy Indian curry and are ‘otherwise engaged’.