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For a while back there, everybody believed that mobile gaming was just an innocent, if interesting, offshoot of the main branch that is console-based gaming and entertainment. In under a decade, however, the mobile bloomed and became the fastest-growing segment in the gaming industry with estimated revenues expected to top $100 billion by 2017.

The phenomenal and seemingly unstoppable rise of mobile gaming shook the industry’s foundations, spawning a completely new gamer type, the casual gamer, and a social experience that has no parallel. In this article, we take a step back and try to examine the factors that could account for mobile gaming’s explosive take-off.

Better hardware
It all starts with having a machine fit for purpose. Advances in mobile technology have created smartphones and tablets that could easily rival notebooks in terms of power and speed. The industry only took off properly once the proper physical elements were in place to support the tremendous growth, a hidden potential that was waiting for the right time to be actualised.

And actualise it did. Many point to the Apple and the iPhone for introducing to the world mobile gaming as we know. In many ways, the new versions of the iPhone still sets the bar in this burgeoning industry, however a decrease in the cost of hardware parts has made it possible for many more companies to jump onto the mobile bandwagon and push the envelope in the hardware department.

The availability of cheaper smart devices worldwide has also contributed in the almost viral spread of mobiles and consequently of the world of games that they hold the key to. This world of games accessible to everybody is the second element responsible for propelling the mobile gaming industry to its current state of growth.

A thriving market
The low threshold of entry to the game app markets is in stark contrast to the costlier and lengthier process that is required for a game to make its debut on one of the big console platforms. This ‘democratisation’ of game development and distribution gave the opportunity to millions of independent developers to create and launch their games in front of large audiences.

The two main app markets, the App Store on iTunes and Google Play contain an incredible amount of game app titles, and two markets alone account for 90% of the total app downloads globally. This has firmly shifted the centre of gravity of the industry, from retail shops selling physical products to app markets which are increasingly serving as the main hub where gamers get their fix.

There is no stopping the growth of the app markets, although pundits have pointed out there could come a time where the markets become saturated with games, effectively squeezing out the indie developers that started off the revolution in the first place, in favour of the big software houses that can throw their financial weight around. Whether this will affects the growth of the industry remains to be seen.

Everybody can be a gamer
But the real stars of the rise of mobile gaming are the players themselves. Their insatiable appetite for gaming apps has fuelled the growth of an industry that has had to extend itself in order to fulfil the demand of players.

As mentioned previously, one of the key factors in the rise of the mobile gaming industry are casual and social gamers. These new types of gamers emerged as a consequence of the growth of mobile gaming, but eventually became responsible for driving the industry’s growth further.

Casual play and social gaming have proved to be a knock-out combo that took down more established forms of gaming and firmly established the dominance of mobile. However, one of the thorniest challenges that is now facing the mobile industry, is how to fully capitalise on this new means of serving people with games.

Future opportunities
Mobile gaming makes a lot of money. Its revenues easily outstrip those all other forms of gaming, yet the prevalent sentiment is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Developers believe that finding a way monetise casual play will trigger a second growth spurt in mobile gaming, and the million-dollar question (quite literally in this case) is how to do this without scaring away casual gamers.

Real-money gaming has mainly been the domain of online casinos and poker rooms. Online and mobile gambling has been a huge success, with many online casino operators making the leap to mobile and offering app versions of their games for players to enjoy on the go. Mobile betting is a significant contributor to the huge revenues generated by the mobile gaming industry, with players encouraged to wager money in return for generous free cash offers and other welcome bonuses.

However, casual games are aiming for a different, more discreet strategy which focuses primarily on promoting in-app purchases, ‘freemium’-to-premium upgrades and in-game advertising. Solving this challenge will have a huge impact on the mobile gaming industry and will probably be responsible for a us having to add a third ‘rise’ in this article’s headline!

Conclusion
The growth of the mobile gaming is a truly fascinating development in the history of the gaming industry. The most fascinating aspect is probably the fact that its unfolding is happening right before our eyes.

Commentators have pointed that 2014 will be a year of transition and further disruption in the gaming industry, with even more robust growth to be registered in the near future. As expected, mobile gaming will be at the centre of this expansion, pushing the boundaries even further and providing players with countless innovative and exciting gaming opportunities.