There’s no question that the world of computer gaming has become far more accessible with the advent of the smartphone. Over the years mobile games have evolved to become competitors to their console-borne cousins.
The changing nature of the gaming market was clearly seen in the results of our State of Online Gaming survey, which indicated that globally, mobile phones were the favoured device on which to play, particularly by younger gamers.
In line with this, the majority of consumers have turned their back on physical purchases. Of those that download, free-to-play games are the most popular, with two fifths of gamers downloading them at least once a month. For those in the business of developing and selling games, the implications are clear. Games that are designed or optimised for mobile and free to download are likely to offer the best results, with opportunities for revenue coming from in-app purchases instead.
Despite the fact that fewer consumers are willing to pay for their content, their expectations of the gaming experience have not lessened. Gamers hold ‘fast performance’ as their top priority when choosing what to play, with ‘intuitive gameplay’ and ‘an interesting storyline’ not far behind. This is especially pertinent for those who are developing games to be played whilst connected to the internet, as they must consider how their immersive (and bandwidth-consuming) content makes its way seamlessly to gamers. As such, many games developers are now implementing a content delivery network strategy, leveraging private internet networks to ensure that live online gameplay is delivered quickly and securely.
Wider consumer attitudes to personal data are also reflected in the gaming sector. Numerous high-profile cyber breaches have increased awareness of cyber threats online and the potential personal cost to individual consumers, with the damage to any business found to have been breached, having become increasingly severe following the implementation of the General Data Protection Act by the European Union.
Gaming platforms have of course been targeted before, with both Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live falling foul of cyber criminals in the past, but with the democratisation of gaming expanding the marketplace, the potential value of the personal data stored online has grown considerably. Beyond any fines that might be received, reputational damage is all but guaranteed, with over half of gamers questioned for the State of Online Gaming report stating that they would not make purchases from platforms that had suffered a breach.
The move to mobile gaming and the creation of a class of casual gamers marks a significant shift in the way games are being developed and profited from. Whilst big releases on traditional consoles still have their audience, the average consumer is looking for a free-to-play experience, with developers challenged with drawing them in enough that they wish to make in-app purchases.
However, creating a game everyone wants to play is only the first step in the journey to success. As the outages popular game Fortnite Battle Royale experienced earlier in February this year stand testament to, millions of gamers trying to concurrently access your servers puts you at risk of service outages, resulting in extremely unhappy users, if you haven’t got the right strategy in place to deal with that demand. It’s for this reason, putting a robust content delivery strategy in place has become fundamental for anyone looking to profit from the era of mobile gaming.
Michael Milligan is Senior Director, Product & Solution Marketing at Limelight Networks.
Read more gaming content in this month's Gaming Spotlight.