Technological Trends and Their Impact on the Mobile Game Industry
The mobile game industry has been growing at an astounding rate over the past decade; beginning with the launch of the iPhone in 2007. The accessibility, reach and ubiquitousness of the mobile platform is further converting a large chunk of the global human population into gamers. This has now been further catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to growth of digital platforms for payments especially in Asian countries.
Games fulfill deep human intrinsic motivations of relatedness, autonomy and mastery and thus cater to a wide set of audiences. Below are some of the numbers which describe this growth.
Above graph shows the mobile games market climbing steadily to $120 bn.
The mobile gaming industry player base stands at 2.69Bn which is roughly 34% of the global world population. Lets go over the forecast of growth from Sensor tower for just mobile downloads and revenue. The downloads are forecasted to grow from 57B to 75B over the next 5 years.
The revenue is forecasted to grow from $72B to $ 98B over the next 5 years
If we look at the game industry across all channels — Mobile, PC and Console the size of the Gaming industry is greater than all other media categories combined.
Further if we add in various Gaming hardware and Gaming software the size is more than 2X of all categories combined
Channels such as AR/VR, Streaming, Crypto, Esports will further help accelerate the growth of this industry in the next few years. In fact, gaming is at the forefront of and can directly benefit from multiple tech advances such as 5G, AI, HTML5, High End Mobile Hardware, NFTs, AR/VR, Machine Learning and Cloud Native Tech.
Let’s explore each one of these technological advances in a little more detail to see the long term impact it would have on the gaming industry.
With the Advent of 5G Streaming, internet speeds could reach up to several 100 Gbps vs the several 100 Mbps that we see now. This would lead to multiple benefits in terms of player experiences.
The first being a lot more high scale multiplayer and social games working more smoothly. Social and multiplayer are some of the key drivers for retention in games and it is great that these technological advances would help in making this better.
Esports is another domain that will benefit from this. In Esports players compete against each other on a live multiplayer network. Higher net speeds would mean more data could be transmitted from one player to the other making it possible to have more real time live multiplayer games possible.
The second being that games themselves could be potentially streamed down to platforms to allow them to be played without having to be locally installed. This could lead to proliferation of console titles on low end devices such as mobile.
AI and Machine Learning
We see numerous advances in AI with new frameworks such as Tensorflow and other high end deep learning frameworks. Though AI is not as widely used in games today, in the coming years we could see content generation pipelines being driven off AI frameworks. AI could also be part of reinforcement learning in game AI agents to drive a more emergent gameplay.
AI created content could be the foundation of large worlds making up the so called metaverse.
Games also rely heavily on data analytics to determine the success or failure of individual game features. Data analytics can also be used to personalize and build an experience highly catered to the needs of the end user. As data analytics systems advance in terms of hardware and software the time for iteration on these systems is going to reduce rapidly.
Further, Machine Learning algorithms can help to drive predictions in terms of likely to predict a player action and these can be taken to incrementally drive higher revenue and engagement on mobile apps
Superior Mobile Hardware
Mobile hardware is continuously getting more evolved with multiple cores and faster gpus. This has led to multithreaded rendering and processing emerging on both the game engine as well as on the GPU side.
Frameworks such as Vulkan on iOS utilize multiple cores and make rendering faster. On the other hand Unity itself is building frameworks like Job Scheduling and the DOTS framework for faster processing on multiple cores. Fast rendering would bring higher quality and console looking titles, especially realistic ones becoming more common on mobile devices.
NFT and Blockchain-Based Games
NFT is an interesting piece of technology where the digital ownership of goods can be embedded onto a blockchain. Some of the direct benefits of this include higher liquidity of assets beyond the limits of the game that the player is playing.
This concept has direct applicability to games, as unique items can be assigned ownership and traded across gamers and beyond the ecosystem of the game to drive higher value for the game.
Some games have taken this a step further to the play to earn model where people can compete in battles and the winners get to keep the earned tokens.
Blockchain-based games is a definite area where we will see many more players over the coming years.
Cloud Native Tech
Games rely on multiple services for their functioning. These include basic services such as authentication, storage, messaging as well as services such as leaderboard, guild, search and more.
With the advent of cloud native and container technologies like Kubernetes the time for development, iteration, experimentation and deployment on these platforms is rapidly decreasing. This will allow game teams to iterate faster and build products that are truly cloud native.
The diversity of technology used in Zynga for the backend is also very high – Real time games on Zynga infrastructure use UDP technologies for multiplayer, some of the latest services use Golang and Nakama, from a storage perspective we have a diverse storage stack ranging from Redis, Aurora, DynamoDB, RDS, S3, Couchbase and more.
Zynga also uses cloud native technologies like the Hashicorp products which allow us to version control cloud infrastructure which could potentially help to deploy across clouds in future.
With organizations such as Cloud Native Computing Foundation driving the charter on the next set of cloud native products it is that much easier for gaming companies to pick some of the best technologies for rapid iteration, stability and efficiency for their backend technology stack.
HTML 5 and Instant Games
HTML 5 has arisen on the web as a replacement for Flash. However the ubiquitousness of HTML5 means games could exist on platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Zoom. There are other platforms where we may see games emerging in future for example on other chat platforms where the migration.
Another unique aspect of these games is that they being extremely lightweight have a low load time and low time for installation since the download size is small as well. This increases their accessibility, however their discoverability might be lower as compared to apps on the app store.
AR and VR leads to rise of yet another new unique immersive experience for gamers. Though it may not be ready yet for mass market in 2021, we can see more evolution of the technology with time and we can expect that sometime soon we may have a time wherein there might be a lot more users than today adopting these technologies.
AR Mode in CSR2 for example allows you to place the model of the car in the real world to show off to your friends.
As we see, a lot of technological trends are contributing to the growth of the mobile game industry. We also see that gaming is one of the first domains on which a lot of technological trends are experimented on before they go mainstream with a larger audience in even non-gaming domains. This offers engineers the opportunity to work on some of the latest tech trends and contribute to real world consumer applications which are directly used by millions of players. Gaming applications are all set to grow over the next decade riding on the latest platforms and technology frontiers.
Senior Director Of Engineering