It's Official: The Console-to-Mobile Gaming Revolution Is In Full Swing

Insights & Best Practices

June 12, 2015


min read

For big-name console developers, you might say mobile gaming is the new black.In March, Japanese gaming giant Nintendo ? which talked down any plans to join the mobile revolution as recently as 2013 ? announced a partnership with mobile expert DeNA to bring its iconic gaming characters to smartphones and tablets, starting later this year. Other traditional gaming powerhouses like Konami and Square Enix are already preparing for a future where mobile is king, too.When you look at the numbers, this trend makes a whole lot of sense. Big players go where the money is, and mobile gaming revenue ? heading for an estimated all-time high of $30.3 billion this year ? is set to overtake console revenue for the first time in 2015.

The Nintendo/DeNA double-team

Drilling into the numbers, it's clear why Nintendo finally succumbed to the charms of mobile gaming. The company insists that it ?believes in the future of [its] dedicated video game system business,? but it can't have failed to notice that Apple's App Store earned around $4 billion in game revenue in 2014 ? roughly double what Nintendo's own game revenue was worth, according to estimates from industry analyst Newzoo.Nintendo's going to need to adapt to succeed in a competitive mobile market, though. It can't just rely on its established formula for console gaming success, as traditional game experiences don't always work so well on mobile. Partnering with DeNA ? the home of successful mobile titles like Marvel Mighty Heroes ? will certainly help Nintendo adapt.[caption id="attachment_8806" align="alignnone" width="900"]

Image via Marvel

Image via Marvel[/caption]?This alliance makes commercial sense on many levels," says Piers Harding-Rolls, the head of games research at analyst IHS. "The main challenge will be knitting together the cultures of both companies and aligning the speed of development and iteration that is needed in the mobile space with Nintendo's more patient and systematic approach to games content production."

Konami's continued push towards mobile dominance

While Nintendo may be playing catch-up with its mobile-driven future, seasoned developer Konami has been developing for iOS since its 2008 version of the arcade classic Frogger. It's now reorganized to be mobile-first, something that current CEO Hideki Hayakawa predicted back in 2010, when he "strongly felt that mobile devices would soon become the major game platforms."[caption id="attachment_8806" align="alignnone" width="900"]

Image via Konami Europe

Image via Konami Europe[/caption]It's not been a popular move with some parts of the gaming community ? given that Konami has recently sidelined development of the big-budget console game Silent Hills as part of its reorganization ? but it makes financial sense."Gaming has spread to a number of platforms, but at the end of the day, the platform that is always closest to us is mobile," explained Hayakawa in May this year. "Mobile is where the future of gaming lies."Konami has since reassured gamers that it's still developing titles for console, but it also reaffirmed how important mobile is for a sustainable future. Looking at Konami's in-development games, that balance is very clear ? it only has two games in development for current generation consoles, compared to five games for mobile devices (including one in partnership with Star Wars) and six for arcades."I believe that the overall game market will continue to grow, with mobile devices as a driving force," added Hayakawa. "Dedicating ourselves to constant evolution is how we ensure our survival."

Square Enix's mobile vision

Other traditional game developers are also making the leap to mobile, not least Square Enix, home of the popular Final Fantasy role-playing series.In a recent report to investors, the Japanese company shared its vision for a future that embraces mobile over what it called the "increasingly competitive and oligopolistic [dominated by a small number of sellers]" console industry."The business environment surrounding the group is in the midst of major changes, where smart devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs are spreading rapidly," it said. "In light of such environmental changes, the group is focusing all efforts on a substantial earnings improvement through driving reforms of business structure in order to establish new revenue base."Indeed, Square Enix released fewer full-length console titles last year than it did in 2014, and it's a trend that's set to continue as the developer refocuses on mobile gaming (including its recent release of Hitman: Sniper for mobile).

A word of warning

But it's not just big companies making the move. Plenty of seasoned console developers have already jumped ship and joined the mobile revolution.Juan Mendiola, a video game artist who previously worked on triple-A console titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, transitioned to mobile a few years back. He says that working on mobile requires a completely different mindset. He likens a successful mobile team to a group of elite Navy SEALS who can take on multiple roles and adapt quickly in shorter, harsher development cycles.It's a different way of working, and Mendiola says it's important that console developers don't make the mistake of thinking things will be the same on mobile. ?In many cases, the lessons of 'traditional' game development can get mobile developers into trouble," he says.Whether the once-great console giants take note of these differences will likely determine their future success ? or failure ? in the highly competitive mobile market.