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What will Play Out in 2012? Four Bold Predictions for Mobile Gaming
by Jamie Hall on 01/06/12 10:38:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


2011 was the biggest year yet for the multi-billion dollar mobile gaming industry. From IPOs to M&A, the industry has gone from a stepchild of the console gaming world to the leading platform for interactive entertainment.

Here’s what we can look forward to in 2012.

1. Mobile gaming reaches the masses…and HTML5 will be ‘the great normalizer’

This year 55 percent of gamers were expected to play games on their phones or handheld devices, according to the ESA - and I expect to see that percentage jump to over 75 percent in 2012. Improvements in HTML5 mobile gaming will be key to this growth, by allowing people to play social games with each other no matter what device their friends have. One champion of HTML5 is Peter Relan, chairman of the mobile/internet incubator YouWeb, which has incubated four gaming startups. Relan has said, “HTML5 games will start out as arcade titles. Then they will evolve. The technology is here to be the great normalizer across the platforms.”

But the technology is not all that’s necessary for mobile gaming to reach mass appeal - as we learn more about the appeal of mobile gaming and the people who love to play games, we need to create new games tailored to a gamer’s interests, age, and location. Because of the specificity of these games, advertisers can be especially targeted in their mobile marketing as well.

2. A purely HTML5 mobile game will gross seven figures in revenue

As HTML5 matures this coming year, we can expect to see mass-adoption by game developers. According to Strategy Analytics, HTML5 handset sales will surge 365 percent between 2011 and 2016. HTML5 allows developers to build a game once and then publish it across many platforms, maximizing distribution and revenue opportunities.

At MocoSpace we’ve seen over 30 HTML5 mobile games launch in 2011 on our platform. The best games, including our own Street Wars and FriendShop titles, are on track to amass over 1 million MAU and bring in over seven figures in revenue.  There’s also a huge amount of innovation happening with HTML5 games for mobile - for example, last fall we launched Rise to Fame, a celebrity themed social role-playing game which leverages the geolocation capabilities of HTML5 to enable players to check-in at various locations around town to help build their celebrity status.

3. Brand integration in mobile games will triple

Many brands have created virtual goods for desktop games, but only a few have experimented with creating branded virtual goods in mobile games. Old Navy and Best Buy understand the importance of creating emotional value for their customers; the ‘Best Buy Sleigh’ appears in Zynga’s CityVille, while Old Navy has connected with Crowdstar’s It Girl to encourage gamers to buy clothes from a virtual rack. These companies have tapped into the $350 million mobile virtual goods industry to increase sales and brand awareness.

And thanks to Zynga’s public presence, combined with better education around metrics of game engagement in the agency world, brand integration in social games will grow triple-fold in 2012. Brands will set out to discover innovative ways to entice gamers and establish memorable experiences. Gamers will be excited about their purchases: for little expense and no hassle, consumers can engage with their favorite brands, in ways which benefit their game experience – literally in the palm of their hand.

4. Android in-app game revenue will grow, but still disappoint

At the end of 2011, the iTunes App Store is reported to generate nearly four times the revenue of the Google Android Market, according to mobile analytics firm Distimo. Earlier this year, Mobclix analyzed 50 top-performing apps that each had 500,000 downloads and/or 75,000 daily active users; finding that iPhone games generate $4.00 per active user, with Android users at less than half that at $1.90.

Even though Android devices have been heavily adopted this year, and will continue to be in 2012, iPhone users still outpace Android users in purchases. I expect to see growth for Android in mobile games revenue, especially as carrier billing options grow in the Android marketplace, but this growth will not provide enough incentive for developers to shift their focus to building on the platform yet. Expect to see developers focus on iPhone and HTML5 games in 2012.


These are my predictions for 2012 – I’m excited to see how this year plays out, and to be in the midst of this incredible growth in mobile gaming. eMarketer projected that 72.8 million people would play games on their mobile devices in 2011 - and I believe the number of mobile gamers will far surpass the 100 million mark in 2012.  


What do you see as emerging trends in mobile gaming this year?

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Shawn Covington
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Is there some form of code protection offered by HTML 5 beyond a basic javascript obfuscator? I'm having a hard time comprehending why it's such a groundbreaking language since it seems like all your hard work is readily available via a simple view source command.

Jamie Hall
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This is a problem with any client side code, whether it be Flash, Javascript or whatever. Obfuscation can never really work. For anyone who really wants to get at your code, it's just a speed bump. The only way to really protect code is to move the important code server-side and have your public Javascript code do Ajax calls to it.

Pete Hobson
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There's the argument that most *interesting* features will be server based with the client code simply marshaling and processing requests. The view code however is all client side, and it's perhaps difficult to see how commercial middleware such as unreal or unity would manage their third party licenses. However the recent flash based exporters for unity hint that this accessibility of underlaying engine code is perhaps of lesser importance than the tools that help generate the code.

James Coote
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I think places like India/Pakistan/Bangladesh, S.E Asia, South America and even sub-saharan Africa are going to take off massively as more and more people get cheap (android) smartphones. Many of these countries have strong story-telling traditions and fantastic IP's waiting to be tapped. Whether that happens this year or further into the future is more the question

It will also be interesting to see whether Amazon can solidify their position as a rival to Apple. Maybe we'll see an Amazon branded phone?

I personally can't see 2012 being the year of HTML5 on mobile (not yet). As the market matures, games that can take advantage of a device's touchscreen, which to my understanding HTML5 can't, will continue to dominate as either the current gimmicky cut-the-rope/fruit-ninja swipes, or with really slick, well constructed UI's that fully unlock the power of touch screen gestures as opposed to just jabbing a series of buttons. (Afterall why is there a facebook app if you can just browse to the website on your mobile?). Not to say HTML5 doesn't solve a lot of problems, but the general impression I got from a number of different people was that it wasn't ready yet to fulfil all its promise. (But then I also have a vested interest in Android being an android dev :P)

Luis Guimaraes
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I have two bold predictions for mobile gaming in 2012:

1. The "Mobile gaming is a joke" meme will dry out;

2. At least one competitive mobile gaming community will arise.