As this year's Game Developers Conference clearly showed, we have moved into a new era: the Age of Mobile; and there has never been a more exciting, and perhaps challenging, time to be a mobile games developer. Smartphone and tablet proliferation, in particular within the United States, has changed the gaming landscape at such a fast clip that it's difficult to stay on top of the latest trends. Gamers, who in the past may have been limited by access to a game or platform, now have nearly unlimited options using downloadable content from digital stores on multiple platforms.
And the growth of mobile is facilitating a new society of 24/7 gamers. Thanks to our "always-on, connected world" and the beauty of today's high-speed networks, players can activate a game session and connect with friends via mobile devices anytime, anywhere on the planet.
In fact, 2011 was the first year ever that smartphone shipments overtook PC shipments globally -- 488M smartphones vs. 415M PCs.1 According to Comscore, 1 in every 3 Americans owns a smartphone, and there are about 101.3 million people with a service subscription enacted on a smartphone.2 (Pew Research even increases the percentage of smartphone owners to 46 percent of American adults3)
The current breakdown by platform looks like this:
Tablets have also arrived, and the post-PC era is upon us. Apple had a phenomenal 2011 and is poised to capture huge chunks of market share this year with the launch of the new iPad and reduced prices on older iPads. However, the success of Amazon's aggressively priced Kindle Fire, and a slew of upcoming Android-based tablets including rumored $199 tablet from Google, has prompted IDC research to predict Apple's tablet market share will diminish in years to come with iOS and Android splitting tablet market share in half by 2016.
This is great news for the games industry. With tons of mobile devices in use, all gaming-ready and loaded with social network connections and contact lists, the "social gaming on the go" market has never been stronger or riper for great content.
But the huge smartphone ramp-up also saw a huge influx of app developers pushing content to traditional AppStores (iTunes, Google Play). Currently, there are about one million apps available in AppStores, and gaming is the driving force. A few facts:
Indie Game Developers Rule
In the world of mobile gaming indie game developers rule the roost. According to data recently released by Flurry, 60 percent of all mobile game sessions occurred in games built by independent studios in 2010. This figure declined slightly to 56 percent in 2011 due to a wave of consolidation by established game companies that acquired independent studios. However, in 2012, another larger wave of independent companies are, once again, pushing indie game session share to an approximated 68 percent.
The question remains, where is the growth opportunity and how can indie developers remain competitive in such an expanding market? On a pure numbers basis, Android will continue its upward trajectory and offer more opportunities and flexibility in the areas of distribution and monetization.