“We are FREE!”
Such exuberant words, screamed out by students all over the world when school lets out for the holiday season. Parents groan, wondering how on earth they will accomplish their ever-so-secret last minute gift shopping. Gamers sigh, knowing that with each holiday break the hordes of new players rush into their virtual realities. Sometimes that sigh is in relief, for there will be new people to experience; sometimes it is in despair, for there will be new people to experience. Yes, these new players are a blessing and a curse for veteran gamers. For the game producers, it is all pure revenue.
Never has the gaming industry been more active, and profitable, than now. Mostly due to the advent of the Mobile Tablet along with the proliferation of WiFi hot-spots. Even some of the biggest game producers are ramping up development for the iPad and Android markets. Electronic Arts offers Ultima Forever. Blizzard Entertainment is in beta with Hearthstone. Sony Online Entertainment is being mum about Everquest Next, but there are hopefuls praying this game will be the first Free to Play (F2P) with “… a real sandbox-MMO feel to it…” which lacks in the other mentioned games. Or maybe it will be Portalarium’s Shroud of the Avatar which breaks the genre into the mobile market. I’m betting on Portalarium. Top all this off with a holiday market just busting at the seams with a plethora of wireless connectivity devices and mobile plans that span the world – you’ve got the makings of a mobile-gaming culture that truly is, mobile.
This development shatters the long lasting meme of the closet, overweight gamer sitting in a darkened basement keeping munchies and soda pop within arm’s reach while being utterly focused on a blinking cathode ray tube connected to a large tower whirring madly to keep up with a mad capped gaming marathon of 72 hours *gasp*. Now, our favorite MMO genre can be enjoyed while taking a break from biking on that mountain trail! Set your fishing line in that babbling brook and bust out the iPad! Pitch your tent in the mountains and fall asleep in your ‘Droid’s gentle glow! Even I must admit to letting the multicolored scheme of Candy Crush Saga (not the Facebook version) lull me to sleep many a night. Now, gamers have the opportunity to be more active, fitter and really participate in outdoor-life, while taking little “gamer breaks” on their mobile devices. I’ve personally played Ultima Forever on my iPad while sweating it out on my treadmill for my daily 4 mile “walk”. There really are no more gamer-excuses to put off the workout anymore.
We mustn’t forget the laptop market. Laptops are getting more powerful by the release, able to display Hi-Def graphics without scorching your favored pillow. Every part of the laptop – from the display to the fans, the CPU to the hard disc – has been beefed up with better technology, allowing gamers to take their huge-install games on the go as well. I regularly play Ultima Online (both Classic and Enhanced clients) at the beach while sending ICQ messages via my iPhone using Siri’s talk-to-text feature. I recently installed the Battlenet App on my laptop and will see if I can play World of Warcraft next. I doubt I’ll be able to accomplish much, but not for the lack of power in my laptop. Bandwidth will be an issue at my favorite country beach on the North Shore of Oahu. Perhaps I should hula on over to Waikiki Beach, where the free hotspots from the hotels overlap for superb connectivity.
It doesn’t stop at the games. Surfing the web, participating in forums, chatting via Skype or even ICQ is possible while not being shackled to a high speed modem. I can Tweet, Facebook, Google, Twitch and yes, even Stream all from the comfort and warmth of the balmy beaches of my island home. Or I can sit in the middle of a mall sipping a latte while checking on my 7 email accounts, proofread articles submitted for Stratics, and hold an interview with a potential new writer. What I enjoy the most is sitting in my car, plugging my iPhone into the stereo, and blaring my favorite play list from iTunes through my Super 808Bass System while videoing wild and crazy surf (the bass is so deep the windshield vibrates). If the license allowed it, I would install my Adobe Creative Suite onto my laptop, then truly would I move my office to the beach!
But I digress, this isn’t about work, but play, and boy do we gamers love to play! The producers of our favorite (or not so favorite) games know we do and can view statistics to prove it. Just look at the figures below. Game downloads continue to lead in both the Apple App and Google Play stores in the second quarter of this year, representing about 40% of all downloads in both stores. These figures include all smartphones and tablets worldwide installed with the iOS and Android operating systems – including the iPod touch. Google Play inches above the Apple App Store with in-game purchasing, but not by much. Further in the IDC/AppAnnie report, we found out that consumer spending via Apple App and Google Play stores were more than double that of all gaming-optimized handheld revenues! That means, the money people spent to buy handheld gaming systems like the PS Vita or the Nintendo DS paled in comparison to the money spent through games on iPads and Androids. Almost quadrupled spending in the mobile markets than the handheld! Can you guess where game producers are wanting to spend their budgets next year? Is it any wonder there are resounding cries to SOE to make Everquest Next for mobile devices? Will all this mobile gaming help me lose 60 pounds?
We will still love our snazzy or “Frenkenstein-ed” desktop gaming rigs. I know my own AlienWare box is a lovely piece of gaming technology that I’ve barely begun to optimize. As we all close out the year with a mad rush of holiday spending and gluttony, it does pay to look at what the future will hold for our favorite habit, addiction, past time – whatever you want to call your online gaming time. Even now, as I look over my holiday list of what-to-buy-for-who, I keep thinking that perhaps I should just chuck the list out the window and send everyone some gift cards for their devices. Well, maybe not for my baby sister who is married to her Blackberry phone. Maybe I’ll just send her an Amazon gift card through my new iPad while jogging on my treadmill.