What it is: Mobile computing, defined by smartphones and tablets, have displaced many PCs including laptops. Initially the hottest trend was gaming on mobile devices but that trend seems to be dropping.
At one time, you had to use a PC (desktop or laptop) for everything. If you wanted to browse the Internet, send e-mail, chat, or play games, you had to use a PC. When Apple introduced the iPhone and later the iPad, they created the mobile computing market so people no longer had to rely on a PC for everything. That meant sales of PCs immediately plummeted since smartphones and tablets were not only less expensive than PCs, but more convenient to use wherever you went.
One of the early bright spots in the mobile app market were games. Because people could take mobile devices everywhere easily, they often pulled out their smartphones or tablets to play a simple game like Angry Birds just to pass the time. Unlike more sophisticated Xbox or PlayStation type games with detailed graphics, multiplayer support, and multiple levels to challenge users for months, mobile games were often much simpler and easier to play. In the early days, the most popular mobile apps were games.
Yet the latest survey by Yahoo’s mobile analytics company Flurry suggests that while the average amount of time Americans spend using mobile devices every day continues to increase, average time spent playing mobile games in the U.S. has dropped significantly in the past year. Instead of playing games, more people are increasing their use of social apps and entertainment apps. People still want to be amused but they’re just choosing different ways to do it.
That doesn’t mean that gaming is dead, but that it’s no longer the lucrative field it once was. If you’re developing an app, gaming is still popular but it’s an increasingly crowded field where more competition means less visibility for you. If you have a great idea for a game, don’t hesitate to jump into the gaming market. Just be aware that selling it may not be as easy as you might wish.
Perhaps the real key to gaming isn’t just to provide a compelling game but to include social network and entertainment aspects to your game as well. For example, most games let you play and track your high scores, but why don’t games offer a way to share your results with others? For example, suppose you got a particularly high score on Angry Birds. What about making it easy to share your high score to post to your Facebook page or send through Twitter so you can brag to your friends? What about capturing your game session and sharing video clips of your best gaming moments to boast about your skill to others?
By combining gaming with entertainment and social networks, games don’t have to be limited to just playing. If the current trend is towards more social interaction and passive entertainment, games should embrace this new field and cater to these trends.
The point is that nothing lasts forever so you always have to keep your eye out for changing trends. Just because gaming was popular in the past doesn’t mean that gaming will remain popular forever. Don’t jump into a crowded field because you think it’s lucrative because by the time you discover a lucrative field, the trend is likely already over. That means being smart and watching new trends. You don’t want to blindly follow trends just to make money. What you really want to do is create something you enjoy and then find ways to tweak your product so it takes advantage of changing trends.
Given a choice between playing a game or playing a game that includes social network features as well, you can already see which game should appeal to the growing trend. Gaming will always be popular, but like any crowded field, you need a way to differentiate yourself from the pack. That means looking for changing trends and following them as fast as possible.