2020 will be a year that lives long in many people's memories, for better and for worse. Thankfully, there have been some fantastic experiences on mobile to help us all through these particularly trying times.
The games industry is thriving despite the devastating effects of COVID, and the mobile sector has also seen extraordinary growth this year. Games have undeniably been a force for good under unprecedented circumstances.
With that, we've reached out to several members of the industry for their insight, thoughts and personal experiences throughout 2020. We're on a mission to discover favourite mobile games, how has the industry coped under the pandemic, and what we could see in 2021 and beyond.
This time we're speaking to Laurens Rutten, founder and co-CEO of CoolGames.
PocketGamer.biz What do you think was the biggest news or event for the mobile games industry in 2020?
Laurens Rutten: The tension between platform owners Google and especially Apple versus game companies and other app developers. Most notably in the fight between Apple and Epic Games, followed by the foundation of the “Coalition for App Fairness”.
This does not just impact the app-stores. It also slows the innovation of new cloud-based social game platforms, such as the Facebook Gaming app situation has shown.
I think this situation is not sustainable in the long run, and I’m certain we will see positive changes in 2021 and beyond as the ‘post app store era’ comes of age. A hopeful first sign was the reduced commission that Apple now asks from smaller game publishers.
Which mobile game do you think had the biggest impact on the industry this year?
Animal Crossing for Nintendo Switch. It turned out to be the perfect game when the world went into lock-down and social distancing because it’s a true ‘feel-good’ game that appeals to totally different demographics as only Nintendo can do.
What is your top mobile game of 2020?
That must be Among Us by Innersloth. Although it was initially released in 2018, I think no one really heard about it until this summer when it suddenly exploded. It’s great to see a relatively simple game can still make it to the top of the charts without massive UA machinery from one of the ‘big guys’.
Do you think the mobile games industry has reacted well to the many challenges presented this year?
I do. In a year with a pandemic that radically changed the day-to-day lives of almost everybody on the planet, there was probably not a better industry to be working in than games. 2020 wasn’t without difficulties and frustrations, but working from home and continuing to develop games ‘in the cloud’ went surprisingly smooth.
What do you think will be the biggest trend over the next 12 months?
I can think of several trends, but the most interesting will be the continuing growth of gameplay outside the traditional app-stores. Either on social game platforms from Facebook, Snapchat and WeChat or new channels that are popping up around 5G, as well as further development of the streaming platforms of Big Tech.
In terms of your company, what's the thing you're most proud of during 2020?
We developed three fully voice-based games for Google Assistant Smart Display devices. We have another that will launch very soon. Although the game genres (puzzles/casual) and technology (HTML5) were very familiar to us, designing a game with a “voice-first” interaction flow was new. It’s been great to see how much more fun and easy voice makes the player’s game experience.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
To leave ‘Corona’ quickly behind and work in person with colleagues in our studio again. I can’t wait to have in-person sessions with a big white-board, creating an atmosphere where everyone can come up with awesome ideas or even not so brilliant thoughts. That part of our work is still pretty difficult with Zoom, Meet or Teams.