According to research conducted by SuperDataResearch and Unity Technologies, mobile games garnered a record-breaking amount of revenue in 2016, having generated over $40.6 billion worldwide. The leading games and interactive media market intelligence alongside the global gaming software provider found that the mobile gaming revenue had increased by 18% between 2015 and 2016.
In fact, mobile games such as Pokémon Go and The Walking Dead now represent half of the world’s total digital games market according to the report. Though we can’t pinpoint the specific reason why this has occurred, the fact that 77% of individuals in the US alone own a smartphone and Nintendo’s decision to embrace portable gaming through apps and their new Switch probably contribute to this development. “The sustained growth of the global mobile games market is helping to legitimize games in the traditional media landscape,” the vice-president of research and strategy of SuperData Research Stephanie Llamas explained. “The size of the market is also attracting the leading players in the gaming market, as can be seen with Activision Blizzard’s deal to buy King and Tencent acquiring Supercell.”
The astonishing growth revealed in the aptly named Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The 2016 Mobile Games Market report means that the mobile gaming industry is now bringing in the same amount of money as the global movie box office. In fact, if Statista is to be believed the global box office should have only brought in around $38.3 billion last year.
So, who is playing these mobile apps and which genres are the most successful? Of all the demographics in the survey, Asia has the most robust mobile games market having generated $24.8 billion throughout 2016, compared to $6.9 billion in North America and $5.7 billion in Europe. As for what mobile gamers are playing, iGaming app titles such as Bet Way, a casino operator with two separate apps covering both bets and casino games including roulette and slots, are predicting revenue of over $4 billion by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, it was found that 58% choose to play puzzle games like King’s incredibly popular Candy Crush, while 40% play action games such as Super Mario Run and 26% play simulation games like Infinite Flight Simulator by Flight Development Studios.
Interestingly, the Can’t Stop report has revealed that Americans now play mobile games significantly more often than they watch online streaming sites like Netflix (we’re still excited about Iron Fist), Hulu and even YouTube. If this is indeed the case, and the mobile gaming industry is bringing in more revenue than the global box office, what does this mean for the future of mainstream entertainment?
Could Mobile Games Really Threaten Cinema?
As digital technology develops, many older media genres tend to become obsolete. However, the fact that handheld digital device games are now making as much money as big blockbuster movies does not necessarily mean the cinematic empire is about to come crashing down. While yes, the global box office and the mobile games industry may now be level pegging when it comes to revenue, they offer customers utterly different experiences. Cinema screenings are grand events, a traditional treat that families, friends and couples alike indulge in from time to time. On the other hand, mobile games are constantly accessible and available on demand, undeniably great qualities – but still, they lack the immersiveness and nostalgia that cinema presents.
In addition to this, while the global box office is thought to have brought in less than mobile games, it still experienced an all-time high in 2015 – with $38 billion across the globe – and is predicted to grow over the next few years. As the gap closes though, it may be time for developers to begin thinking of ways to combine the two industries for the benefit of their customers. Perhaps in years to come, the technology devised for mobile games could be added to cinema.
The Ultimate Combination
One digital technology that we are yet to mention is interactive storytelling, a development that could soon change cinema as we know it. Inspired by games such as Ron Gilbert’s Monkey Island and Tim Schafer’s Grim Fandango, both of which were published by the late LucasArts, interactive storytelling allows viewers to control the narrative. With the success of games like Until Dawn, some professionals believe that big movie companies could soon utilize this method to attract customers. Imagine being able to write the next Kong movie or at least have some impact on how the story progresses: cool huh?
This isn’t the only technology that’s transitioning from mobile games to theatre, in fact it is just one of the many engaging methods that cinema may soon be applying. At CinemaCon in March, virtual reality (VR) was highly popular as it allows patrons to immerse themselves almost entirely in a movie, whether they’re falling from a plane or being submerged in the ocean. Of course, this technology has already been utilized by Google Cardboard, gear that allows you to transform your phone into a VR headset to play games such as BAMF VR, Chair in a Room and Minos Starfighter VR.
In reality, it seems that the prevalence of mobile games does not in fact threaten cinema but has encouraged those behind the global box office to embrace some of the technology and tricks that has made gaming apps so successful. We don’t know about you but we’re excited to see where both industries will go in the future.