As a video game researcher, I love talking about all sorts of games with all kinds of gamers. Obviously my job at ICHEG affords me many such opportunities to do so. Yet, I often talk gaming with acquaintances who don’t consider themselves gamers. There’s actually a lot of gaming buzz among them—and it isn’t just about playing Zynga’s Farmville on Facebook.
Here is what they are talking about: mobile gaming apps. While games for mobile devices certainly aren’t new, the touch interface introduced on the iPhone in 2007 took mobile gaming in a new direction and to a much wider audience. It’s hard to miss these games atop the App Store Top 25. Even if smartphone users are not thinking about gaming when they buy their devices, they often end up with a small library of gaming apps downloaded and ready to play.
I can’t tell you how many times someone has pulled a smartphone from their pocket or purse and shown me the first few levels of a favorite gaming app. It’s happened in the barber shop, the grocery store, and even during my daughter’s violin recital. I’ll admit I was rather shocked when my 70-year-old aunt cornered me with a “you have to check this out” app in hand. There is incredible power in word-of-mouth advertising such as this, and quite often I download the game someone has just shown me. With all the choices, such recommendations help sort through the clutter. I’ve been steered wrong a few times, but more often than not, these games are fun to play and hard to put down.
It’s also hard to resist the urge to download more games I can play regularly. Of the 10 billion apps (not a typo) downloaded from Apple’s App Store since mid-2008, games are the most popular category at nearly 20 percent. These numbers have the game development community talking as well. Speakers at game conferences have addressed design and development for wireless devices for more than a decade; as the mobile game market continues to grow this trend will certainly persist. Travis Boatman, Vice President and head of Electronic Arts’ global mobile development teams at World Wide Studios, spoke at the D.I.C.E. Summit. Later in February, the first annual Smartphone Summit is scheduled for the 2011 Game Developers Conference, and Rovio Mobile’s Peter Vesterbacka is scheduled to speak. I’m looking forward to hearing their ideas at these important industry events.
I admit it. I’ve caught mobile gaming fever. Future Games of London’s Hungry Shark: Part 2 is a huge favorite of mine, and I have attained the rank of Admiral of the Fleet on Electronic Arts’ Battleship. Neon Play’s Paper Glider, one of my children’s favorites occupies a space on my home screen as well, a testament to how often they ask to play the game.
As smartphone ownership continues to increase, so too will the audience for gaming apps. What innovative gaming apps have you heard buzz about and among what crowd?