Which brings us to Microsoft. Despite its best efforts, the computer giant hasn't managed to take a big bite out of the smartphone market. Launched late last year, Windows Phone 7 features both a unique operating system and integration with Xbox Live, but it's still a relatively small slice of the mobile pie. In 2010 MS had less than five percent of the smartphone market with around 12 million Windows Phones sold, though that number is expected to double by the end of 2011; by 2015 Windows Phones could account for almost 20 percent of the market.
"It certainly hasn't resonated with consumers as anyone would like," says PopCap's Stein, who uses a WP7 device as his everyday phone. "Given the install base of Windows Phone devices, our games have actually sold quite well, and it monetizes very well for customers who have a Windows Phone. There just aren't enough of them right now."
PopCap has been with the platform from the beginning, releasing Bejeweled Live as a launch title, and will be bringing Plants vs. Zombies to the platform in the future as well.
It's not just the small market share that's holding back WP7, as PopCap's Stein also says that there are technical issues that could potentially be holding back developers from creating games for the platform.
"Microsoft insists on a different development paradigm with C sharp instead of C++," he says. "So it's a lot more work for developers to support Windows Phone as a platform."
That being said, with its next update, code-named Mango, Microsoft is adding new features that will enhance the gaming experience on WP7, both from a developer and user perspective. Starting this fall, developers will be able to access cameras, sensors, and gyroscopes built-in to handsets, as well as utilize contact and calendar information, among other changes.
Whether or not these changes are enough to entice consumers -- and developers -- to the platform remains to be seen. But it seems clear that in order to become a viable platform for game development, WP7 phones simply need to be in the hands of more users.
It seems that as the platforms continue to grow and mature, the differences between them become increasingly small. At least, that appears to be the case with iOS and Android. Both platforms are steadily shifting towards a more service-based economy, with a focus on in-app purchases as the major revenue source.
WP7 may be dragging behind in terms of consumer adoption rates, but Microsoft is clearly making efforts to improve the platform from a gaming perspective, and this could very well lead to WP7 being a viable option for developers. And having all three platforms, and potentially others, become successful can only be a good thing.
"The more viable and meaningful platforms that succeed," says Breslin, "the better we as an industry will do."
But no matter which platform you're developing for, there is still one genre of game that could potentially be the next big thing in mobile gaming. It's a genre that's rife with potential and creative opportunities, and is also one of the few that can only truly be done on a mobile device. But it hasn't produced a blockbuster hit just yet.
"We're starting to see interesting and fun and commercially viable location-based games," says Contestabile, "and I think new titles are going to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities because the platform lends itself to new and interesting stuff, in a sense."