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2014 Predictions for the Mobile Gaming Market
by Rob Weber on 01/24/14 04:32:00 pm   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.


2014 is the year mobile advertising finally gets better. Last year Supercell raked in over $2.5 million a day between Clash of Clans and Hay Day but they were far ahead of the pack. As I predicted last year in Forbes, there were many closures and consolidations in the mobile gaming space. There was also great innovation, with developers giving us great new, hardcore gaming experiences to enjoy on our devices.

Carrying on the tradition from last year, I wrote a few predictions for the mobile gaming market in 2014. Before we dive in, let’s do a quick recap of my 2013 predictions.

Recap of 2013 Predictions

1) More Closures and Consolidations

The Result: Correct.

Unfortunately, nobody was too big to fail in 2013. Among the closures, Fishlabs, the developer of Galaxy on Fire was acquired by Koch Media and THQ (who technically filed bankruptcy in 2012) liquidated its assets. On the consolidation side, Supercell sold a 51% stake to Softbank and Gungho OnLine Entertainment and Hasbro acquired Backflip Studios.

2) Mobile Gaming, The Sequel: More Sequels and Licensed Games

The Result: Incorrect.

Although I could argue for it, this didn’t really happen. Sequel games were launched in 2013, but none were very successful. Instead we saw a different trend with gaming companies focusing on pumping out new content for their existing games.

3) The Mobile Dustbowl: Less Farming Games, More Hardcore and Gambling Games

The Result: Correct.

In 2014, we put down our pitchforks and started blasting zombies. Machine Zone’s successful title, Game of War launched in July and is being called “the 6th most lucrative game on iOS.” Countless other hardcore games are close behind and at the moment, five of the top twentyfive grossing apps on the App Store are casino games.

4) The Rise of True Multiplayer Games

The Result: Correct.

This one excites me, multiplayer is finally taking off on mobile! It’s not just strategy or role-playing  games either, but casual games too. We’re seeing breakout successes from casual games like QuizUp and Leterpress that allow you to compete against your friends in real-time.

5) Windows 8 Woos Gamers

The Result: Correct.

With strong market share growth outside of the U.S., Windows Phone has risen in the eyes of leading mobile game developers. For example, just in time for the holidays, Temple Run 2 launched on Windows Phone.

6) Tablets Kill Consoles

The Result: Incorrect.

The initial sales figures coming in for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been strong. With that said, tablets outsold PCs for the first time this holiday season so keep an eye on this trend in 2014 as Apple will likely announce their play for the living room at WWDC.

2014 Predictions

1) Small Developers Will Rely Heavily on Publishers

The market is getting competitive and it’s getting harder and harder to self publish mobile games. Indie developers are going to continue to need bigger marketing budgets to compete and the easiest way to get it is through a publisher.

2) Subscription Billing Will Become More Pervasive.

We’re already seeing Kabam and Glu successfully sell in-app subscriptions on Google Play to stabilize the sale of virtual currency. Based on early figures on Google Play, look for more game developers to offer in-app subscriptions on the Apple App Store in 2014.

3) Your TV Will Be Connected

Apple will inevitably come out with something that connects games to your living room television in a big way. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how Apple will do this, their acquisition of Primesense, the company who helped Microsoft develop Xbox Kinect was a clear signal of what’s to come.

apple itv

4) Games Will Serve Fresh Ad Formats

Large publishers like SEGA are testing new native ad formats in their flagship games as they take them free-to-play. In 2014, smaller indie developers will follow close behind, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for mobile advertising.

5) The Lines Between Console and Mobile Gaming Will Blur

More and more console games are going to include the freemium-based business model in 2014. This will kick off a new trend in which console game developers will also launch games for mobile that aid the console experience.

6) Micro-Consoles Will Become Extinct

It was fun to watch projects like Ouya from start to finish on Kickstarter. There was a lot of hype in 2013 but after a few failed attempts to build great micro-consoles, this trend will completely fizzle out and die in 2014.

ouya micro console

7) Two More Game Publishers Will Rake in More Than $1 Million a Day

In 2014, the gap will widen between the top grossing games on iOS. The US gaming market is big enough to support two more companies that make over $1 million a day and after a rough 2013, one of them is going to be Zynga so buy stock now. The second developer to rake in over $1 million a day in 2014 will be a smaller indie developer that isn’t currently on the radar.

8) Helsinki is the New Silicon Valley, But…

While Helsinki had a hell of a year, Chengdu is up next in 2014. There are more developer geniuses in Chengdu, China than in SOMA. Get ready for a few top games to surface from the game developers in Chengdu, China in 2014.

chengdu china game developers

9) Wait on Wearables, They Aren’t Ready for Game Developers

There won’t be any meaningful game revenue generated from wearables in 2014, so don’t waste your time developing for them, yet. Google Glass and smart watches like the Pebble or Samsung’s Galaxy Gear are neat but they’re too experimental. Serious developers should focus on what’s going to keep their businesses afloat in 2014, not the latest tech trends. Bill Gates once said, “People often overestimate what will happen in the next two years and underestimate what will happen in ten.” Although Glu developed a game for Google Glass, I don’t see enough user adoption to provide game developers with meaningful revenue for another 3-5 years. Wearables will have their moment but it won’t come this year.

google glass and wearables

10) There Won’t Be Any Major IPOs

While rumors are flying all over the place about certain game developers going public, none of them will do it in 2014. I’m predicting zero large game developers will go public in 2014 because it didn’t work out well for any of the companies that filed in 2012 or 2013. The team at Supercell made the smart choice, selling a 51% stake to SoftBank and Gungho Online.

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Josh Charles
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Very interesting and reasonable predictions for 2014. I have to say, for the 2013 predictions, #6 (Tablets Kill Consoles) was very much in the wishful thinking category. Looking at the variety of reasons for why some people prefer to buy and play games on consoles versus playing games on tablets, I personally never considered this to be a realistic possibility at any point in 2013 or prior to that. Which makes me want to add the following prediction to your 2014 list:

11) The industry will finally realize that mobile and tablet gaming and handheld and console gaming, while overlapping in some respects, largely cater to different audiences.

We should be mindful that we as human beings are all different and we prefer different things in our lives. Some will prefer mobile or tablet gaming while others will prefer handheld or console gaming. Let's accept that instead of trying to predict winner-take-all scenarios from our high horses.

Anyway, I'm in agreement with you on #6 for 2014 (Micro-Consoles Will Become Extinct) but I don't necessarily think it'll happen in this year. Micro-consoles appear to be catered to a very small segment of people in between consoles and tablets. And I'm not so sure there's a lot of people that are in that group. Heck, I don't even see how micro-consoles are worth the cost when we can already do the vast majority of what they offer with the devices we already have.

How do you convince casual gaming fans that their expensive yet powerful mobile or tablet device is not "good enough" and that they need to buy a micro-console to have a better gaming experience? That seems like a very hard sell.

TC Weidner
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While I agree indies need help getting found and seen, Im not sure traditional publishers are needed for this however. In the past Publishers did a many thing such as help finance and distribute and if you were lucky highly promote a game. If you dont need them to finance your game, and anyone can distribute it easily via the web these days, it leaves one thing, getting noticed and why not use a PR firm for that? They are the experts in that area. So I kinda agree with you that indies and small houses will need to reach out for help to be found in this highly competitive arena, but I think it will be to PR firms not publishers that may be a new mainstay and partner in the industry.

As for my predictions for the overall industry, Im sort of a gloomy gus , I see a potential for another 2008 on the horizon. Financially things are getting shaky all over the world, and with leveraging and debt being a main stay of so many corps and industries, I see a credit crunch potentially happening again, and if that comes to pass, the bigger you are, the harder your gonna fall. I see this once again potentially creating a large purge in the industry. 2014 is going to be a really interesting year in many ways.

Fingers crossed we all come through OK financially.

John Flush
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in your 2014 predictions, 3) Your TV Will Be Connected - Maybe this will be something new, but mine is already connected via Apple TV. We play multiplayer games from the tablet and stream it to the TV so everyone can play. We pass the 'console' (tablet) around to take turns. We cancelled cable, streaming it all through our iPads and projected on the TV via Apple TV. My TV is already connected in a big way, and it isn't even a smart TV.

So I guess with your prediction is there something else? It sounds like you are saying we need something new here to make it happen. It might be smaller than that and it will finally happen with what everyone already has available.