2017 GAMING TRENDS: WHAT TO EXPECT?
Every last man shared his thoughts on what made the biggest buzz in 2016’ mobile gaming industry. The short summary of the past year as gaming experts saw it would fit in a nine-word mantra: Pokémon GO, Nintendo, Niantic, Clash Royale, PvP, VR & AR.
RISE OF THE FRANCHISES... AND CLONES
In 2016 mankind fell prey to several IP-based games, such as the summer hit Pokémon GO. Brands will continue to dominate in 2017 as well, with fresh serving of franchises coming from mobile studios. The console/PC-first companies are most likely to join that flow by collaborating with mobile devs to allow their best titles catch the second wind and drive bigger revenues. Following the path of Nintendo and DeNA super-alliance, a future game being developed by Machine Zone on the setting and all assets of Final Fantasy XV was announced. So everyone expects to see more of such quality mobile experiences built on famous IPs this year.
What we don’t like to see is the onset of Pokémon GO clones, offering the same old candy in a new wrapping. Experts anticipate more location-based games coming in 2017, yet nobody really believes any of those is able to truly innovate on Nintendo and Niantic’s mega hit experience and be a success.
One more tactics that’s been widely used by studios to draw attention to their mobile titles is involving influencers, Youtube/Twitch celebrities, brand advocates to popularize the game. That gives powerful boost to influencer marketing making it a number one tool for game discovery these days.
EAST MEETING WEST
Supercell’s success with Clash Royale demonstrated how Asian gaming trends start to penetrate into the Western market. What is traditionally popular in China has hit the mark in U.S. and this mobile-friendly MOBA continues to do well in U.S. staying among the top grossing games up till now. The popular Japanese monetization mechanic known as ‘gacha’ is now trending in the West. Games like Clash Royale, Agar.io have turned the real-time synchronous gameplay into a major trend of 2016 mobile gaming worldwide. And this is going to get even bigger in 2017.
That’s where the next big thing in gaming industry is involved - the cybersports. The industry is waiting for the arrival of multiple high-quality mobile titles with synchronous multiplayer gameplay connecting players in real time and perfect for online competition. eSports competitions have gathered massive millennial audiences on ESPN and Turner, and TV companies continue to invest in broadcasting competitive games, such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike. Mobile games live-streaming is also expected to hit it big this year with Twitch, Youtube, Facebook and new services such as MobCrush at hand. Though the breakthrough moment is still yet to come, as not enough mobile titles have got it all for enjoyable streaming experience (pvp, multiplayer, huge community).
While Asia accounts for the biggest share in cybersports viewing audience, North America and Europe follow it quite close. That means we’ll see a continued growth in eSports popularity globally, and this market alone is expected to surpass $1 billion revenue in 2017.
It’s a known fact that mobile games market is oversaturated. The amount of submitted games is growing every year; for example, according to the 2016 rough data, the App Store received around 740 (!) new gaming apps every day. The competition has never been this tough and, unless the application store policies change towards tougher selectivity, the main ingredient for mega hit would be innovation, a hooking novelty of some kind.
But where to look for new ideas, if all the good games seem to have been invented before us?
Everywhere. Most experts anticipate there will be at least several new big genres on mobile, which will most likely be brought by small studios/indie developers rather than market leaders who spend enormous production budgets on making mobile titles with near-to-console graphics. As said before, synchronous gameplay will play the first fiddle, with some of the titles making their way to top 50/100 charts. Another guess is there will be a lot of transmedia products coming in 2017 to combine TV, mobile and web.
Pokémon GO is a great example of how unbelievable success can be achieved with combination of famous IP and new technology (augmented reality and geo-location).
VR & AR - NOT YET A REALITY
It feels weird to mention Pokémon GO so often, but doesn’t it deserve every word of worship? With the location-based gameplay this title turned glances of even non-gamers, without actually stealing prime-time playing hours from other mobile hits. The contribution is huge, since it demonstrated AR gaming potential. So in 2017 we’ll definitely feel the hype of AR and VR, but only a few have high hopes of some revolutionary game being released when there’s still no capable hardware to deliver the promised experience. It’s not yet a reality, but we will surely get closer to the big moment this year.
Let’s try to predict the business model that will work best on mobile in 2017.
It still looks like free-to-play will dominate this year, yet there are other mechanics and models that are worth mentioning.
G a c h a. This Japanese monetization mechanic of exchanging hard in-game currency for random rewards has found its way to the Western gaming market. The trick is player never knows what he’ll get next time, something really awesome or completely useless. The popularity is explained with the element of luck which makes it more fun and engaging.
P r e m i u m. With the launch of Super Mario Run, people started to talk seriously about the comeback of premium. All eyes will be on Nintendo’s ‘free-to-start’ title for months, guessing if the business model and console-first Mario will survive on mobile. It seems very unlikely though, even in case of Super Mario Run success, that developers will switch from free-to-play and in-apps to freemium.
S u b s c r i p t i o n. This model is predicted to rise on Google Play and Apple App Store in 2017.
Experts believe developers will experiment combining the subscriptions with other monetization techniques, such as in-apps and ads, to have their revenues grow. Surely, devs can leverage subscription model to predict revenue, grow loyal user base, given that they manage to provide engaging experience with ongoing value instead. Game bonuses, exclusive content, multiplayer gameplay might be one of the things to offer your subscribers.
Takeaway for developers
Mobile games market is maturing, everyone says. So developers should look for ways to deliver more quality titles, that would be engaging over long time, have longer LTV and be immune to shark fin phenomenon. So the major tip and trend for 2017 is to bring new experiences that are truly mobile. ‘Mobile’ means just a few key things: 1) easy-to-master at the beginning, 2) having deeper gameplay at later stages, 3) fitting for several play sessions per day, 4) having potential for longer sessions, and 5) based on fair, non-aggressive, player-friendly monetization.
Good luck with your new games!