Comment & Opinion

6 things we learned at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2018

What the show tells us about the big upcoming mobile games industry trends

6 things we learned at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2018

So another Pocket Gamer Connects London has come to a close (our fifth in fact) and it's time to reflect on the big stories and trends that came out of the event.

With almost 2,000 delegates in attendance from all corners of the mobile games industry across the globe - as well as those in the PC and AR/VR/XR spaces - there's certainly been a lot to think about.

Key insights

You can check out all our coverage of the sessions from the event right here. But in this article we're delving deeper into the big trends, which included hot buzz topics like esports, influencers and the blockchain.

So without further ado, here's six things we learned during Pocket Gamer Connects London 2018.

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 Blockchain technology is the next big thing

    Cryptocurrency and the blockchain are, potentially, two of the most important pieces of technology in the mobile market in 2018 – and yet for the unitiated they're incredibly difficult to understand.

    Even with a full track at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2018, learning about cryptocurrencies requires a lot of attention. It's likely why each session was packed to the rafters with attendees looking for insights into this huge trend.

    Decrypting Crypto

    One helpful analogy came from Scary Puppies CEO Gary Bracey, who explained that the blockchain is essentially like paying a token to go on a fairground ride and having that transaction checked by 100 different people before you're allowed on the ride.

    But beyond that, it was clear that the technology is a realm you really need to invest time in. What Bitcoin Did founder Peter McCormack warned that some developers simply shouldn't get involved with cryptocurrency at all – unless they're willing to really dig deep and learn it.

    But should you be interested and willing to take the time to understand the technology, the opportunities span far and wide, especially in mobile games where developers can turn in-game items into entities on the blockchain.

    And if you were lucky enough to attend, you might even have had a chance to get rich quick.

    EverdreamSoft founder and CEO Shaban Shaame gave everyone in his talk a chance to acquire a blockchain card from the studio's game Spells of Genesis, which one day could be worth a fair chunk of cash.

  • 2 Independent studios can still compete with the big publishers

    The mobile games industry is undoubtedly in a period of consolidation as the big games publishers snap up studios as they eye a firm grip on the mobile market

    Over the years, Activision has acquired King, Ubisoft bought Ketchapp, Take-Two purchased Social Point, Zynga took on Naturalmotion, Netmarble snapped up Kabam and Tencent swooped in for Supercell.

    Many of these companies are now dominating the grossing and download charts, some with multiple hits, creating stiff competition at the top end of the market where the same titles typically dominate year over year.

    "Don't give up"

    But that doesn’t mean other studios can’t hit the big time. Speaking during a fireside chat at Pocket Gamer Connects London, Playdemic CEO Paul Gouge discussed the developer's road to the hit Mobile Games Award-winning title Golf Clash.

    Founded in 2010, the company has previously developed titles like Village Life, Gourmet Ranch and Gang Nations. It’s first real runaway mobile hit though was in early 2017 with Golf Clash - a different kind of title to what the company had previously worked on.

    Developed prior to its sale to TT Games, it’s become a massive international success and continues to become ever more popular.

    Gouge said while some might say the mobile games industry is over for anyone but the big companies, “we’re evidence that isn’t true”.

    “It's possible,” he said of hitting the top grossing rankings.

    “It's hard and you need a decent amount of luck, but it’s possible. Don't give up on that idea.”

  • 3 Mobile games are breaking out from the small screen

    The mobile games industry has reach unlike any other games market, able to get easily accessible titles in front of billions of smartphone owners.

    It’s provided the platform for some stellar global IP such as Candy Crush, Clash of Clans/Clash Royale, Angry Birds, Summoners War, Subway Surfers and more.

    Indeed, many of these IPs have now branched out of the mobile screen and become films, animations and TV shows, as well as sparking a wave of merchandising opportunities.

    Expanding reach

    “In the world of media consumption, you’re not limited to just being a game player," Sybo CEO Mathias Nørvig told at the show.

    "You also watch animated content, and increasingly we get fans asking ‘can I see Jake (Subway Surfers’ lead character) doing this', or 'could I please have a cap, because I love this game and I play it everyday’. It’s our way of rewarding players.

    “I think the same goes for the others. I really love the fact that King is doing something different with their game show and I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw the format. I think Seriously with their Boot Camp is pretty well executed, Clash-A-Rama! is a good example.

    “I think all of it is basically reusing more assets to provide more content to fans, because things have already been developed, it has been drawn. It’s then quite easy go that extra mile and add a fun story to it.”

    Out of this world

    The mobile market's pervasiveness also provides an opportunity for completely unique types of projects you wouldn’t see on other platforms.

    Take Space Nation for example, who attended the show at PGC London. The company, which has the involvement of Peter Vesterbacka, wants to use a new mobile app to find members of the public to send into space.

    The mobile app itself offers a number of gamified tests to judge who might have what it takes to make the journey. Those who successfully pass the tests will be taken to a real-world location and face much more stringent tests of their physical health and psychological well-being before being offered the chance to become an astronaut.

    It’s a completely bizarre premise - turning mobile games players into astronauts without years of training - and it’s a project that is only possible through mobile.

    “We founded Space Nation in 2013 because we shared the same beliefs about space and how important it is to humanity, not just the cool aspect to go there, but the benefits are necessary to do that,” Space Nation CEO Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola told

    “We need to go to new frontiers and it shows the best of us and drives us. The moon landing was just a small peak of what is now happening.”

  • 4 VR will continue to grow, but AR is set to explode

    Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality got its own dedicated conference, XR Connects, alongside PGC, with the virtual reality and augmented reality spaces, particularly the latter, looking like hugely exciting sectors in 2018.

    Even freelance consultant Nick Parker, who spoke mostly about the current mobile market, turned his attention towards the growing technologies.

    Dreaming of virtual realities

    By his estimates, mobile VR is set to make a big step up by 2020, with an install base of 14 million Google Daydream devices predicted for that year.

    Google Daydream

    AR is set to grow even bigger thanks to a huge number of devices that can already run the technology. Apple's ARKit is currently the market leader in this respect, given that it launched alongside a new set of iPhones and iPads, and already worked with a bunch of existing models.

    Excitement around AR and Apple's tech is why the company won Best Technological Innovation at the Mobile Games Awards.

    But Parker claims that's all set to change in just two years. He predicted that with the launch of ARCore, and the wider range of Android devices that will spawn after Google's AR tech is released, ARKit could be overtaken in 2019. ARCore's install base is even predicted to be double that of Apple's ARKit by 2021.

    Parker wasn't the only one shouting about the growth of VR. Both ex-Unity CEO David Helgason and ex-Rovio mighty eagle Peter Vesterbacka talked it up in their fireside chat, though Helgason did note that the roll-out of VR is "damn slow".

    Vesterbacka noted that the industry itself has "created the illusion" of demand for VR tech, though Helgason did counter that "there will never be a time again where VR headsets are not for sale".

    For more on AR and VR, check out our sister-site

  • 5 Influencers take the creative lead on marketing campaigns

    It's no secret that influencer marketing is becoming one of the most alluring strategies this year and PGC did nothing but support that. PGC London saw its first ever dedicated influencer track, plus several other panels dedicated to influencer marketing.

    Zorka.Mobi's Dmitry Liapin hosted an informative panel with actionable advice and guidance on how to recruit influencers, build relationships and keep them happy and focused throughout a campaign.

    The presentation highlighted the importance of using an influencer's native language to connect with them, as well allowing them to exercise creative control to suit their audience.

    Culture shock

    Fanbytes founder Timothy Arnoo hosted a talk on user acquisition through Snapchat ads. The app is a fast expanding platform but its ad format is completely different to the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

    Repurposing adverts from other platform campaigns is ineffective, said Arnoo, as Snapchat has a different UI with much less time to cram information in. 

    Creative control

    The track also featured an influencer perspective panel, with four content creators discussing their thoughts on marketing and their personal experiences. YouTubers Josh Pieters, Kwebbelkop, Azzyland and Turps ran an insightful talk with advice on how to approach and handle creators.

    The panel collectively encouraged brands to trust their judgement on what is appropriate for their audience, highlightng that it's becoming increasingly obvious when content is sponsored.

    This could mean that 2018 will see a rise in influencers taking a creative lead in such marketing campaigns.

    To keep up to date on the Influencer market, check out our sister-site

  • 6 Mobile esports has new rising stars

    Esports is one of those buzzwords that seems to get bandied around a lot when competitive games are involved, even when it's not necessarily relevant.

    Thnakfully, the ESL's James Dean gave a pretty comprehensive breakdown of what actually makes an esport at PGC London, so now we can cut through the pretenders and get to the real action.

    In short, a game is an esport if it has a competitive playerbase, a tournament ecosystem, a fanbase with online and physical audiences, statistical analysis and sponsorship – lose one of those and it's probably not an esport.

    The good news here is that, as Dean said, "any game can become a sustainable esport", so long as it adheres to the requirements above,and if developers are willing to invest the time and effort in constantly evolving the game based on player feedback.

    The hottest mobile esports

    As for what's big in mobile esports, while obvious titles such as Vainglory, Clash Royale and Arena of Valor were brought up, it was rising stars Battle Bay, Shadowgun Legends and Summoners War that caught our eye.

    Could Rovio's Battle Bay be the next big mobile esport?

    Dean warned though that developers looking to build competitive games with the potential for esports shouldn't stick with the tried and tested genres, noting that there are big opportunities for developers who are looking outside of MOBAs and shooters.