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Mobile Gaming Is Rising (Again)

Every so often there’s a reminder that mobile gaming is a massive, massive thing. It’s easy to forget when all you think about is the next-gen blockbusters on the horizon.


Last year $116 billion was spent on the mobile market. For context, the entire video game market generated $162 billion in revenue in 2020.

The joke, of course, is that nobody talks about being a mobile gamer. There aren’t many popular forums where casual gamers debate whether the Samsung or iPhone gives the best graphics in Subway Surfers. Nobody is discussing the lore of Candy Crush Saga.

Or maybe they are. This is my point. The mobile market is massive, and nobody in the core gaming circles knows it. Maybe that’s why we’re constantly surprised when someone yells “you guys all have phones, right?” at major events.

Mobile gaming is huge. Let me say that again. Mobile gaming is HUGE. 2.5 billion people play games on their phones. How many people bought The Last of Us 2?

That’s not to say console gaming isn’t pretty profitable too. I’m not making excuses for those developers who want to cast off their biggest fans in the hopes of converting casuals who will never buy their game. That’s never going to work.

But it puts it in perspective, doesn’t it? Every year, when some thinktank releases results of a survey saying that the average gamer is a 50-year-old woman called Angela or whatever, this is what they’re talking about.

And angry people across the internet turn up their lip like the bad guy in a Harry Potter movie. “They’re not REAL gamers though,” they say, safe in the ignorance of just how much money Angela and her mates are spending.

Mobile is Growing

It would be overly dramatic to say that mobile is overshadowing the console market. When many non-gamers talk about the hobby, they are talking about those violent, childish things they read about occasionally in the newspaper. Or when there’s been a school shooting.

Maybe they’re talking about Mario, but only if they’ve had kids in the last 15 years.

And once they’re done, they play some Wordle. And I don’t blame them.

What this does is put everything into context. It reminds us that our little corner of the industry might be growing, but it’s growing alongside something much, much bigger. Our squabbles about consoles, our pixel counting – it is absurd.

Not that we needed data on mobile games to work that out.

What does that mean for the future?

Well, put it like this. When Take Two buys Zynga for $12.7 billion – now the biggest purchase in the gaming industry – they’re doing it for a reason. And it’s because Grand Theft Auto isn’t paying the bills. The development cycle, the thousands of members of staff, the controversy, the annoying fans online…

Why not just pay 100 people to code something people can play for five minutes at a time on their mobile phone? You’ll probably double your money.

And let’s face it – if Grand Theft Auto isn’t paying the bills, what chance in hell does Dynasty Warriors stand?

These games will always exist. But don’t be surprised when publishers start looking elsewhere.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott