In the 1980s a little-known Japanese toy manufacturer set its sights on a burgeoning video game market. The result: the first ever Gameboy – a portable gaming device that would transform the way we play video games forever.
No longer shackled to our TV sets and consoles, the Gameboy, with spanking new multi-player functions and addictive offerings like Tetris and Super Mario, allowed us to leave the confines of the home and take the gaming experience to the streets.
Fast forward a quarter of a century and a new generation of gamers are captivated by Nintendo’s latest phenomenon, Pokémon Go, with its combination of augmented-reality and addictive gameplay prying kids and adults alike off their sofas and into the outside world.
While early incarnations such as Nokia’s ever-popular Snake paved the way, it was the advent of the smartphone that really pushed mobile gaming into the mainstream. From the first iteration of the iPhone over a decade ago to the creation of the Android Market a couple of years later, the way we play video games has changed beyond all recognition.
An early adopter of portable tech was the online gambling or iGaming market, quick to offer mobile-friendly sites alongside cutting-edge tools such as live video streams. This innovation has transformed the iGaming industry, allowing players to experience real-time gambling and experience the thrill of genuine casino gaming from the comfort of their own home by playing authentic online casino games at the touch of a button.
Others were also quick to spot the potential, with money-spinners like freemium play and in-game purchasing seeing Google Play grow from less than twenty thousand gaming apps in 2009 to nearly a million today, with more than 90% of its revenue coming from games.
This app explosion was fuelled by a new do-it-yourself attitude, which saw a plethora of smaller developers like Rovio Entertainment (creator of Angry Birds) come to dominate the market. So does this upsurge in gaming apps and smart devices spell the end for major players like Sony and Nintendo?
Not Quite. For while the leviathans of the industry have been a little slow on the uptake, they’re beginning to catch on. Nintendo’s Switch, released earlier this year, aims to combine traditional console gaming and gaming on-the-go, and with mobile-friendly offerings featuring some of the brand’s mainstays, such as Super Mario due for release next year we could yet see them dominate the market. Sony has a trick up its sleeve too, with plans to release at least five smartphone games in 2018 based on popular PlayStation titles.
The real change is in how and when we access our games. A recent survey suggested that most of us (a whopping 74%) play games simply to pass the time rather than to compete or interact with others. And this reflects an upward trend.
More and more of us are gaming on our smart devices than ever before, racking up screen time in our coffee breaks, in the doctor’s office, between meetings or on the train. Gaming, it seems, far from the insular pursuit of years gone by, has become an integral part of modern life.
And while they’ll always be hard-core gamers, fastened to their consoles by an invisible thread, for the rest of us there’s a whole new world of interactive, on-the-go gaming at our fingertips.