There are a lot of gamers out there who carry an experience that is designed to be carried in your pocket. Mobile gaming is a giant industry carried by a huge customer base that craves an interactive experience on-the-go. Developers have managed to do what used to be impossible, create console-like experiences that new and older gamers find accessible and fun.
It’s a trend that’s only going to get bigger. Thanks to overwhelming support from major studios and publishers, as of early 2020, mobile gaming accounts for 60 percent of the global video game market pulling in $16.9 billion in revenue and is only projected to grow. The curiosities’ behind this trend are the major studios who have capitalized on this trend in a major way (Nintendo and the Pokémon Company) and studios who have yet to catch on (Sony and Microsoft).
The Nintendo Blueprint
It makes sense for Nintendo to reach into this space given they are a globally recognizable brand and have the distinction of having successfully created massively popular IP’s that are staples to every gamer casual or the like. Super Mario, Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, and even Fire Emblem have graced our phones in new ways as of late.
These IPs make sense on a mobile gaming device since by their nature and design hold appeal with both casual and hardcore gamers, easy and challenging fun is to be had. Of course, this is important when it comes to establishing and holding a core base of every type of gamer. Mobility with these titles used to be exclusive to handhelds like the Game Boy and the Nintendo DS and 3DS, now they are available on any device that has an app store.
Nintendo’s stranglehold on the handheld market is made all the more palpable due to its smart use of interactivity between mobile devices and the Nintendo Switch console. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has the unique twist of being compatible with the newly released Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo Switch, with scannable codes that affect in-game items and villagers, offering even more of a reason to download Pocket Camp.
The Animal Crossing mobile game has made $131 Million in revenue for Nintendo and will surely cross that threshold as the IP grows in popularity (the Switch game being released during a nationwide quarantine due to Covid-19 surely attributes to both games successes). Animal Crossing was a no-brainer to release as the experience focuses on relaxing open-ended gameplay and pleasing aesthetics, all suited for mobile play. It’s worth noting that Nintendo’s success in the mobile gaming market has something to do with the fact that Nintendo’s record of handheld experiences gives them an edge when it comes to an established marketing strategy and development.
Nintendo’s marketing techniques are ingenious in the way that they play to an advantage Microsoft and Sony don’t have yet, an established rotating character-centric that are well known and used in an innovative nature so that the experience is familiar but never exactly the same (with the exception of re-releases and ports). Nintendo has already crossed the threshold of $1 billion in profit from its mobile games alone, so why hasn’t Sony and Microsoft capitalized on this trend and followed in the big N’s footsteps?
Big Games Get…Bigger On Mobile
Battle Royale games like Fortnite are some of the biggest influences in gaming right now. The massively popular free to play game has been ported to every system imaginable, and on mobile, it has its own established player base and recognizable attributes. When Fortnite launched on mobile in April 2018, it reportedly made $2 million a day due to a massive audience of 125 million players. Its pick-up-and-play nature make it an easy choice for casual gamers who need a quick respite from the day, and it’s made even more convenient based on the fact that the game is in your pocket.
In fact, it’s worth noting that well-known shooters like the Halo series would be incredibly well suited for this kind of gameplay on the go, as well as its spin-off, Halo Wars, a strategic RTS. If Call of Duty and PUBG can successfully go mobile (which they have), so can Halo.
Tailoring experiences like these to mobile devices seems almost like a no-brainer and hopefully, Sony and Microsoft are taking notes.
The Case of Sony and Microsoft to Go Mobile
Sony and Microsoft share a shared space in which they tailor-make their experiences towards their consoles almost exclusively (with the exception of console companion apps), so should Sony and Microsoft follow in the footsteps of Nintendo to hopefully reach the same heights of success?
In short, yes. For starters, both aren’t entirely ignorant of the trend with Microsoft releasing Gears Pop!, a take on the well-known Gears of War series in a partnership with Funko Pop that plays like a cutesy PVP battle game that is well suited for mobile gameplay.
Sony has released no such games as of late, preferring to focus on console experiences only – a curious choice given Sony reached into the handheld market this past decade with the PSP and PSVita.
It seems as though Sony could definitely toy with the idea, at least. Both companies have popular and recognizable franchises like Crash Bandicoot, Halo, God of War, Forza, and Ratchet and Clank.
These popular IPs have the potential to be used in a mobile experience in some way and bring in a whole new base of gamers, and more importantly for Microsoft and Sony, more revenue for the Xbox and PlayStation brands.
Does that mean we’re suggesting a God of War mobile game? No; probably not. It’s tough to imagine Kratos making his way to mobile. But Crash, Ratchet and Clank, LittleBigPlanet? Absolutely.
Sony and Microsoft are in the unique position to break into the mobile gaming space having already seen the varying degrees of success it could have. It makes perfect business sense to finally focus on this trend because numbers don’t lie. Sony and Microsoft have an opportunity to build off of their existing IPs and reach the heights of success not quite as achievable with console gaming alone.
There’s a wealth of different gamers out there that are isolated from these gaming giants and what they could offer, and that’s a shame. This brings me to my next point: it’s natural for businesses to emulate each other’s success and Nintendo has already made the blueprint for this transition into the mobile gaming space.
Is it the right move for these two companies? All signs point to yes; there’s clear evidence of financial gain and opportunity to branch out and become more cognizant of the trends in modern gaming.
The landscape of gaming has changed and it’s for the better. Video games no longer exist in a singular three-console space that was once only suited for home experiences. Mobile gaming is here to stay and is only going to get bigger. It’s important to cater to this changing digital landscape not only to innovate and present new ideas but to introduce beloved characters to the casual consumer.
These new ideas are something gamers crave and appreciate. I hope Sony and Microsoft are watching and listening and taking note of the landscape that is continually evolving, with every missed opportunity there’s a chance of alienating an entire community of gamers who admire and look forward to these types of experiences on a mobile platform. It’s Sony and Microsoft’s turn to thrive in this space and I look forward to it.