Elance Blog

Performance, People, and Profit: The Future of Mobile Gaming


Earlier this week Google announced their Android 2.3 mobile operating system update (codename Gingerbread), which is making waves not because of its enhancements for multimedia or communication—but for gaming. There is an incredible demand for mobile gaming now and it’s clear that Google has heard the consumer’s voice loud and clear. Android is the fastest-growing mobile OS in the U.S. and is poised to jump Apple iOS in the near-future, so it speaks volumes that the enhancements of this eagerly awaited update will probably benefit game developers the most.

Hoping to bring more high performance games to Android, Google made native APIs available so that developers have direct access to input & sensor events, low-latency audio, OpenGL ES, and a new native framework for lifecycle and window management. Gingerbread introduces a concurrent garbage collector which minimizes application pauses, results in smoother animations, and increased responsiveness. And for games that support motion processing, there is now gyroscope support.

What do you get when you add it all up? Well, Gingerbread is said to be the OS at the heart of Sony’s long-rumored PlayStation Phone, and the new 2.3 release was found to have keyboard code for a dedicated PlayStation controller—so we’re going to see an effort go towards a pure gaming experience that will more resemble portable gaming consoles like Sony’s PSP rather than the rudimentary games found on cellular phones ten years ago.

Apple has a number of high performance games available in its App Store as well, such as Call of Duty: Zombies and Rage HD, but it clearly sees the social aspect of gaming being a huge part of the future. In its September iOS update (4.1), Apple included GameCenter, an application designed to promote social gaming by letting a user challenge friends to compete in games, manage friend requests, and post high scores on community leaderboards to spur competition. Other mobile social gaming platforms like OpenFeint have over 50 million members and growing.

As mentioned in our Elance 2010 Year in Review, we’ve seen demand for mobile developers jump an incredible 98%, with iOS (iPad and iPhone programmers) and Android programmers leading in demand followed by BlackBerry, Symbian, and others. Game developer skills are likely to be big contributors in driving these rankings higher in the very near future, especially as consumers increase demand for smartphones (with more than 200,000 Android phone sold each day and the iPhone coming to Verizon), iPads and Android-powered tablets devices.

So what’s in it for game developers? Well, for starters—money. Revenues from in-game purchases will surpass the popular pay-per-game model as the primary way to make money in mobile gaming, according to Juniper Research, who predicts that revenues will almost double from $6 billion in 2009 to more than $11 billion in 2015. A large share of this money will come from “freemium”-ware, where you download the game for free, but purchase upgrades from within the game itself to give you added abilities, boost stats, or unlock additional levels of play.

Also, smartphone ad revenue will generate almost $1 billion in 2010, and is projected to grow with in-game advertising likely contributing a big chunk of it. Angry Birds, one of the most well-known games on the market, has 7 million Android users, over 12 million iOS users, and over 30 million total downloads since its launch in late 2009—generating over $1 million monthly from the ad-based Android version alone.

Early mobile app developers probably had nightmares about the mobile gaming marketplace years ago, but now with Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Marketplace home to over 400,000 combined apps (with one-click download and payment), mobile developers have never had an easier way to distribute their games, and are seeing increased revenue share compared to before.

It’s clear that with the increased demand for high performance and social games, the availability of tools to bring them to life, and the very real potential to make a few bucks, it is as exciting a time as ever to be a mobile game developer in 2011 and beyond.

So what do you think the future of mobile gaming looks like? Have you developed a cutting-edge mobile phone game? Do you have plans to with the help of elancers? Which platform would you choose? Let us know in the comments section below.