The lights are on
I recently came across this user review for Angry Birds Star Wars in the App Store: “Best game ever made!!!”
I can’t help but cringe when I see these sorts of comments. People are entitled to their own opinions, of course, and flinging miniature birds toward destructible objects is indeed a swell time. Nevertheless – and I say this as plainly as I can – Angry Birds Star Wars is not the best game ever made.
But there’s no use in denying it. The world of video gaming is changing, and the above user’s sentiment is a common one. Mobile games have become increasingly popular in recent years, some of them astronomically so. Angry Birds was originally released for iOS in 2009. In the four years since then, Rovio’s games have been downloaded more than 1.7 billion times across platforms worldwide. To put that number in perspective, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles share a combined worldwide sales total of around 150 million units. Call of Duty: Black Ops II – the game that broke records late last year by earning $1 billion in 15 days – has sold around 25 million copies.
The staggering popularity of mobile games scares me sometimes, especially when I consider the prominent freemium model, in which a game is initially free but requires consistent in-game purchases for full content access. “What is this world coming to?” I ask myself. “What will become of video games?”
But then I think about the current state of video games more broadly. Including the mobile sector, Americans have spent $3.5 billion on video games this year in the first quarter alone. Although that number hasn’t improved from last year’s first quarter, it’s still incredibly, incredibly high. In comparison, the American box office total for films in this year’s first quarter was $2.3 billion.
I cite all of these numbers to say this: Video games are quickly becoming the most dominant entertainment medium in the world. And, I think, mobile games significantly contribute to that trajectory.
With the advent of accessible, inexpensive mobile games, people who have never played video games before are playing their little hearts out. My girlfriend’s mom, for instance, has been philosophically against video games her entire life. Last summer, she called in sick to work one day because she’d stayed up all night playing Plants vs. Zombies on her iPad. I haven’t let her live that down since.
On page two: How mobile titles are changing gaming for the better.