Mobile Games Make as Much as Movies and That's Why Other Mediums Have to Change

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Unless you've been living under an 8-bit rock for the last few years, you'll have noticed that mobile gaming is now a booming sector in the industry. In fact, in 2016, portable platform games and the like not only raked in record amounts, they helped the mobile medium become the biggest earner in the gaming world.

"iPhone 4G" (CC BY 2.0) by ArabCrunch

Midway through 2016, analysts at Newzoo predicted that mobile gaming revenue would top $36.9 billion by the close of the year. That figure would have made it more than PC revenue ($31.9 billion) and console gaming revenue ($29 billion) for 2016. As it transpired, SuperData Research found that reality actually exceeded expectations and mobile gaming generated $40.6 billion last year. To put that in context, that total is an increase of 18 percent on 2015 and, more impressively, the same amount of money taken by movie box offices around the world in 2016.

Whichever way you slice it, mobile gaming is now biggest player in the game and something developers from other corners of the industry should be looking to for inspiration. Of course, console and PC games can't simply abandon all their old values and try to imitate mobile games. Aside from the practical and logistical differences, PC and console games are still making a lot of money for developers. However, in a gaming culture that's rapidly changing, there's nothing wrong with taking a few pointers from the new (bigger) kid on the block.

With this in mind, we've picked out four things PC and console games could try if they want to increase their appeal, be more like mobile games and, importantly, make a bit more of the green stuff.

Microtransactions Make Major Profits

"iZettle Mobile Payments" (CC BY 2.0) by Håkan Dahlström

Perhaps the biggest reason mobile games have become prolific profit making machines over the last few years is the use of microtransactions. Using what's known as the freemium or free-to-play model, mobile game developers will allow users access to the main game for free but structure the action in such a way that purchases will allow gamers to play more often or more easily. Of course, players can get by in games without making a microtransaction (i.e. buying an upgrade, bonus or time extension for a small fee), but it definitely helps to pay. In fact, according to research by Swrve in 2016, 48 percent of mobile revenue came from just 0.19 percent of users. However, the average spend per user (i.e. in-game purchases) has increased from $22 in 2014 to $24.33 in 2016. What this shows is that microtransactions might not be hugely popular, but they are effective and this is something the developers at League of Legends have taken notice of. The multiplayer online battle arena game has been around since 2009 and while it's a favorite of pro gamers on the tournament circuit, it's also highly profitable. SuperData found that the game generated $19.6 billion in 2016 and much of this was due to the in-game payments. Indeed, despite being free to download and play, paid-for upgrades and new skins have allowed developer Riot Games to generate $150 million per month.

Timed Bonuses Keep the Action Flowing

"Timer at 0" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by numb3r

Another technique PC game developers could use to increase revenue is in-game bonuses and time-released rewards. One sector of the mobile gaming industry that relies heavily on bonuses is the casino world. For example, when a player joins Betway Casino, they don't have to pay anything to download the iOS. In fact, they can actually play games such as Mega Moolah or Poker Pursuit for free. However, to encourage players to make a deposit and, in turn, encourage them to maintain a steady level of activity, the provider gives new players a welcome bonus worth more than $1,000. To unlock the bonus, players must make a deposit and then wager a certain amount. Eventually, the money is released and they can do as they please with it. This system is similar to the time-released rewards offers by games such as Top Gear: Stunt School SSR. Every time a player loads up the game they are given a new reward or a chance to spin a roulette wheel to win a prize. Because BBC Worldwide's programmers have set the game to release a new bonus each day, it's in the player's best interest to play as regularly as possible - which is yet another reason why mobile games are so successful.

Episodic Releases Create a Story

"511459774" (Public Domain) by sac_sae

The final trait PC and console games could adopt in order to improve their profits is embracing episodic releases. Take, for instance, a game such as Angry Birds. What started off as a single game has now turned into a franchise with "episodes" of Angry Birds covering all manner of genres. From Angry Birds on Valentine's Day to Angry Birds Space Xmas, fans of the game have now come to expect a new release each time a major holiday or season is on the horizon.

Releasing games in this way essentially gives players something to look forward to but, more importantly, it pulls them into a storyline and in fact, it shares some traits with the Software-as-a-Service model that even Microsoft has adopted in recent years. Much like a TV show that leaves you on a cliffhanger, each episodic game flows into the next and you simply have to play the next episode in order to continue the story. This idea is something Hitman has adopted in recent years. Yes, the latest release will feature HDR and 4K support to make it look better than ever, but the most impressive move by IO Interactive is to make Hitman episodic. As noted by the developers, 2017's release is "a truly episodic AAA game experience, with a major live component." Indeed, with just one location (Paris) and prologue mission, the idea is that you'll now go on a journey with the deadly assassin. This, in theory, should give fans of the franchise something to get invested in and, in turn, increase the game's earning potential.

Use a Mobile Hook to Make More

What mobile games have taught us in recent years is that you need to give players more reasons to play. Of course, that doesn't mean you can just create a mobile-styled game for PC players (i.e. Neon Space 2 might look like a mobile game but it was a "lazy" flop). However, if you can hook players with the techniques outlined above, you stand a good chance of making some money. Yes, creating an attractive game with lots of action is great, but if a player can play for an hour and then not return for a week or two, it's not good. Mobile games have overcome this and that's why they're now the standard bearers for the industry and something developers from other mediums should aspire to.
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