The rise of mobile gaming can be closely tied to the growth and success of mobile phones. The earliest known game on a mobile phone was a Tetris variant on the Hagenuk MT-2000 mobile device from 1994. However, the first true success was the game Snake; hard programmed onto Nokia phones in 1997. It has since become one of the most played video games and is found on more than 350 million devices worldwide. In the early 2000s, companies such as Namco and Panasonic used the then new camera phones to make simple games using the better hardware. At the same time mobile games had started to earn traction in Japan. By 2003 many simple mobile games were available on Japanese mobile phones such as puzzle games and board games. Some of those games even utilized the phones camera and fingerprint scanners. in 2008, Apple launched its app store iPhone smart device. With the introduction of some cult classics like Angry Birds in 2009, Plant's vs Zombies in 2010, and Candy Crush in 2012, the popularity of mobile games grew immensely. In 2015 China lifted its ban on console gaming and while console gaming started to thrive, China's mobile gaming market is much more successful. As a result of the console ban starting in 2000, people in China turned to mobile gaming and it quickly grew in popularity. Tencent Games is a subsidiary of Tencent and China's largest game developer. With rapid growth and a large amount of influence, Tencent Games is spearheading the largest growth of the online gaming market we've seen thus far.
In 2017 the global games market was worth $108.9 billion dollars. The largest growing category was mobile gaming, sitting at $46.1 billion; claiming 42% of the market. The PC and console game markets generated $29.4 billion and $33.5 billion in 2017, respectively. Tablet and mobile gaming is projected to grow at a rate of around 19% a year. This makes mobile gaming the largest and largest growing contributor to the global gaming market. (McDonald 1) to put this is perspective, Mobile gaming revenue alone is nearly 15% more than the yearly global box office revenue, $46 billion compared to around $40 billion respectively. The mobile gaming market alone is even comparable to the GDP of a small country such as Costa Rica at roughly $57 billion dollars. (Mediakix 1)
China currently has largest gaming market in the world, including mobile gaming. Ever since the console ban in 2000, the mobile market has been the place to go for gaming. The majority of China's working class is able to afford a smart device because China is mobile- first, meaning smart phones available in China are cheap and affordable while also relatively high performance. In fact, prices for phones are so relatively low because out of the top 5 competitors for smart phones in China, 4 are Chinese companies; the 5th being Apple. Interestingly, while Samsung is highly popular in the west it is not as much in China while iPhones retain their popularity. The mobile game's industry in China is surprisingly robust given government censorship and internet restrictions. Google and the Google Play Store are all essentially banned in China yet domestic gaming companies more than make up for it. As a result, domestic gaming companies that thrived in China have begun to globalize, such as Snail Games, a domestic company formed in 2000 and then opened a branch in LA in 2010. In comparison, gaming giants, Tencent, and Alibaba opt to buy western gaming studio's instead as a means of globalization. One notable acquisition was Tencent's purchase of Riot Games in 2011, the studio behind the extremely popular online game League of Legends. The mobile games market in China for 2017 was $14.6 billion, an increase of $3.4 billion from the previous year. Additionally, in 2020 the mobile market is projected to rise 46 from 2017 to $21.3 billion dollars.
To be one of the largest growing markets in the world, mobile gaming attracts a wide range of audiences from young to elderly. There are roughly 2.1 billion mobile gamers worldwide with 193 million being from the United States alone. 8% of gamers are aged 13-17, 14% are aged 18-24, 21% are aged 25-34, 19% are aged 34-44, 15% are aged 45-54, and 23% are aged 65 and older. The mobile gaming market is diverse and has games to fit the needs of almost every consumer. The relatively even spread and distribution of the population shows how versatile the mobile gaming market is and how that versatility allows it grow quickly in popularity with the general populace. In addition, 63% of mobile gamers are female while 37% are male. (Mediakix 3) Accessibility to mobile gaming is also much cheaper than conventional console or PC gaming. To have a PC or console meant for gaming is a large investment for many and can quickly become too expensive. On the other hand, nearly everyone who can afford one has a smartphone. A decade ago seeing smartphones was much rarer but now with a diverse and competitive mobile phone and tablet market, mobile gaming becomes much more mainstream. Many mobile games are free to play, increasing the player base and accessibility. Rather than paying for a game, companies make money through in game and online microtransactions.
The gaming industry is a large and fast-growing market. With the introduction of popular e-sports and talk of gaming on an Olympic scale, gaming has become more than just a niche hobby and will see a permanent place in daily recreation. With mobile gaming taking 42% of the total market in 2017 and 39% in 2016, we can expect to see a steady increase in mobile gaming's market representation. Currently 2018's estimates put mobile gaming at 45% of the market, (McDonald 1) however early statistics show that amount to be closer to 51% of the total market. If this trend continues then 2018's total revenue for mobile gaming will amount to 70.3 billion dollars, a drastic increase to 2017's 46.1 billion, and 2016's 38.6 billion. Year to year growth for mobile gaming would also increase from 19.3% in 2017 to 25.5% in 2018. (Wijman 1)If this projected forecast holds true, then by 2021 mobile gaming alone will grow to become a 100-billion-dollar market; holding a 59% share of the total gaming market. (Wijman 2)