Mobile gaming comes of age

joanne

MEF COO, Joanne Lacey was at the UK game’s industry conference Develop this week and was delighted to see mobile gaming leading the debate, driving innovation in both business models and technology.

MEF was founded by a small group of member companies in 2000. Two members were mobile games companies, both pioneering a vertical that continues today to be a key market driver for mass-consumer mobile adoption, setting content & commerce agendas worldwide.

BO4sYahCcAACMQDAnd as the App Store celebrates its 5th anniversary, it appears the wider games industry’s attitude to mobile games has finally changed for good.

For those of us that have been attending game industry events for more years than I care to remember then you, like me, will be used to being the distant cousin in the corner.

But perhaps not so much anymore. This week the UK games industry gathered for its annual three day conference Develop in sunny Brighton and I was delighted to see so much attention focused on the mobile platform.

Supercell was the only company to win two accolades at the show’s annual games industry awards. And the IP award went to Rovio for its Star Wars release.

OK fine. Angry Birds and Clash of Clans have been readily accepted into the gaming industry elite, toppling industry behemoths off the top spot in the App Store. But much more interestingly was that 50% of the titles showcasing in the indie development area of the event were exclusive to the mobile platform, demonstrating the focus for innovation and investment. MEF member Samsung’s 100% Indie were team were out in force at the show also supporting this key growth area in mobile games.

F2P is here to stay; the games industry as a whole has to accept it, embrace it and learn how to make it a success to sustain its wider future.

The Free-2-Play model is driving a lot of this success and innovation in mobile.

The argument whether Free-2-Play is evil or the inevitable evolution of the games industry was a central theme throughout the conference with the general consensus: F2P is here to stay; what that means and how the business model will evolve is to be determined but the games industry as a whole has to accept it, embrace it and learn how to make it a success to sustain its wider future.

Amazon reinforced this, saying understanding the data and usage trends behind in-app purchases (IAP) will be the key to success – read more here.

pg-mixer-brighton-panel_7F2P has clearly a long way to go to establish clear and successful best practice, but that’s what makes it exciting and it was great to learn about mobile championing innovation in the model for example in-game charity giving via IAP with start-up Playmob.

The future of F2P was also debated at the www.pocketgamer.biz  meet-up, which brought together a mix of industry experts from across the value chain including two former heads of mobile entertainment at UK carriers – both on the panel representing middleware technology and monetization solutions for mobile gaming. An interesting evolution in itself.

Likewise MEF members Nazara Technologies and Vserv.mobi were both at the show demonstrating the diversity in the mobile content value chain that is today engaged with games.

The F2P business model brings its own challenges particularly around the value exchange that it inevitably means for the consumer. At the show I had several discussions around MEF’s forthcoming launch of an online tool to support games & apps developers to ensure best practice around data collection as part of our Privacy in Apps Initiative.

There was lots of positive feedback from the wider gaming community about the initiative and it was interesting to note the discussions led quickly into concerns around parental consent for example with in-app purchases and the perennial debate for the need of age ratings.

Indeed, in a taxi ride to the venue before the show had even started, I got into an interesting conversation with the driver about mobile games and how he had no idea what his nine year old son was doing on his iPhone.

Mobile games is mainstream. Both many challenges and opportunities remain and drive us as an industry to continue to pioneer.

Joanne Lacey is COO at MEF  –  Images courtesy pocketgamer.biz

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