#1 – In-game advertising will become the key source of revenue for developers
It took many years until developers found a way to actually earn money from the game apps they release on mobile, but the introduction in-game purchases have brought a much needed boost to the industry which triggered an unprecedented in the quantity and quality of gaming apps available on the market. However, in-game purchases seem to be a temporary expedient and in-game advertising, including sponsored in-game accomplishments and video ads, is expected to surpass the former as the key driver of revenues in 2015.
#2 – As the game app marketplace becomes more crowded, major developers will join forces or drop out
Although 2014 has gifted gamers with a few gems, it seems that overall there is less innovation in the casual gaming marketplace as many developers simply release ‘me-too’ offerings that mimic the latest fad. A notable example of this was Flappy Bird, which spawned off countless knock-offs that flooded the marketplace and contributed very little in terms of stretching the boundaries of mobile gaming. This being said, it seems that one solution to the dearth of creativity is having big and small developing team collaborate together and jointly release games that benefit from the originality of perspective of a smaller outfit coupled with the financial backing of a much bigger software development house.
#3 – Social casino app will continue to be the most popular genre of social games
Social casino games have made huge inroads in the market and managed to capture a broad audience that is devoted to the thrills and excitement of try one’s luck without the attendant risk of losing money at real gambling. As a lucrative genre, social casino could be the next mobile gaming frontier and the source of future innovation in the industry.
Real money online casino games will also register a growth in popularity even though these will remain largely the domain of hardcore gamers, whereas social casino games will be the mainstream in this genre. However, casual gamers will also have the opportunity to try their hand at micro-stakes gambling, enjoying the same thrills of challenging the odds at a smaller risk to one’s bankroll. Online casino operators (as shown here) have cottoned on to the winning strategy of offering generous welcome bonuses and cash promotions to new players, a strategy which will be central to their operations in 2015 as well.
#4 – Understanding individual gamers’ preferences and acquiring new users through targeted marketing will be a top concern from companies
As every category of the app market becomes more saturated, companies will find it increasingly difficult to convince users to download their offerings over that of the competition. Using Big Data techniques and collaborating more closely with social media networks, companies will have to target their consumers’ preferences more closely and invest more money in strong analytics and marketing teams to connect with gamers. The expenses involved will drastically raise the entry barrier for smaller companies, who will be forced into looking more merger and acquisition opportunities by their larger counterparts.
#5 – Smartphones and tablets will match revenues from console sales
As prices drop and the variety of smartphone and tablet models in every price bracket increases, the mobile gaming industry is expected to command over a quarter of the global games market by the end of 2014, yielding revenues in excess of $21 billion, and keep on growing over the following year. This rate of expansion means that monthly mobile game revenues will surpass those yielded by TV and handheld consoles, and nearly equal that generated from traditional game consoles. By the end of 2015, smartphone and tablet gaming is expected to pull in a total of $26.3 billion compared to the $26.4 billion raked in by consoles.
#6 – Physical game sales dwindle as digital-only release become the norm
The US physical games market dropped to a little over 30% in 2013 and, if the downward trend persists, in 2015 physical game sales could account to less than 20% of the total market. This decline will be even more dramatic should more publishers decide to embrace the financial advantages of digital-only game releases. Microsoft and Sony will remain the undisputed heavyweights in the industry. Physical retail will still be important but the product offering will shift from selling exclusively game titles to released merchandise, game credits and other tie-ins that enhance the gamers’ experience of the actual game.
#7 – As game developers jostle for market space, users will congregate ever closer together
Real-time multiplayer games that add the benefits of social with the excitement of real-time gameplay can be one of the most significant trends to characterise the mobile scene during the next year. The wild success of Clan Wars by SuperCell, an update to their smash hit Clash of Clans proves the popularity of real-time multiplayer gaming and other developers will jump onto this bandwagon to fulfil the demands of players for this type of gameplay.
#8 – Gamers will continue to queue for a freemium lunch
Although paid apps are heavily promoted by Apple and Google, the vast majority of players will continue to opt for freemium downloads. This economic model accounts for more than 90% of revenue from mobile games, thanks to in-app purchases or advertising, however developers may try to experiment with a hybrid model which offers a variety of in-app monthly or yearly subscriptions for extra content, bonuses and rewards to complement the gaming experience on free apps.
#9 – Companion apps burst into the scene
A big trend which is set to become bigger in 2015 is the release of companion apps or second-screen apps which provide a complement the gaming experience on a tradition console like PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This innovation points towards a convergence of mobile and home gaming devices, an ‘if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them’ approach which sees established home console manufacturers take mobile under their wing and use it to connect users to their primary consoles, offering more features and options, and manage their gaming life remotely.
All in all, 2015 appears to be another good year for gaming in general and mobile gaming in particular. The biggest change in the industry will be its underlying economic model which will gravitate towards a predominantly digital-only market where players expect to play for free and revenue is generated primarily by selling advertising space in the virtual gaming worlds that developers create.