Interview

'Hardcore' games gaining mobile momentum, but casual will remain king, reckons PopCap

Contestabile says two can co-exist

'Hardcore' games gaining mobile momentum, but casual will remain king, reckons PopCap
Some regard the idea of more console-quality games making their way to smartphones as inevitable, largely owing to mobile hardware becoming increasingly powerful as new handsets hit the market.

Such intensive titles don't necessarily sit well with the typical idea of a consumer base that plays games 'on the go', however. No-one is going to take on a Metal Gear Solid style opus on the bus trip to work.

Interesting, then, that a survey by PopCap suggests that the main places people play mobile games is actually either sat on the sofa, or laid in bed – domains where consoles previously used to dominate.

We caught up with PopCap's senior director of mobile product and business strategy Giordano Contestabile to ask whether he thinks such info means mobile game design needs to evolve.

Pocket Gamer: Did the suggestion that mobile games are now played more at home than out and about surprise you?

Giordano Contestabile: I wouldn't say that it was surprising.

As mobile has emerged as the primary gaming platform for a majority of casual users - who outnumber hardcore gamers by a factor of 10 times or more - and those users are playing games on their mobile at any time of the day, as most people spend a significant amount of time at home, they also play a lot of games there.

That said, this data dealt a blow to the notion of mobile games as being games played just 'on the go'.

In particular, the fact that 70 percent of gamers play on their mobile device while on the couch has implications for both traditional console gaming, and the overall TV market. If people are paying attention to their phones, are they really watching TV?

I think mobile will become the primary platform of media consumption for a majority of people, and gaming will play a big part in that.

What do you think this says about the mobile market in general? Is it maturing?

The mobile market is indeed maturing, growing both in size and in breadth of games available.

I think what this survey points to is that mobile gaming has become so ingrained in the fabric of most people's day that it is now second nature to most people, and when something achieves such a high level of pervasiveness, it's a signal that the market is mature and ready for the next stage of growth.

People have previously assumed they need to break up their mobile games into short bursts of play to accommodate people playing while out and about. How do the results of your survey inform game design?

While a significant amount of play happens at home, that doesn't mean that play sessions are becoming longer.

Our data with Bejeweled Blitz shows that players are still engaging with the game several times a day, in relatively short bursts.

I think this is driven by the fact that mobile gaming is often used to fill time between other activities, or it's done concurrently with other activities, and Id still recommend that developers calibrate play for short sessions, between 30 seconds and a few minutes.

Does this mean we're likely to see more console-like triple-A releases heading to mobile? Does it spell trouble for more casual games, or puzzle titles?

We are undoubtedly going to see more 'hardcore' games coming to mobile, and I think that there's a huge opportunity for freemium mobile hardcore games.

That said, numbers don't lie: there are more than a billion casual gamers against probably 100 million core gamers, and the casual market is growing at much faster rate.

I think both markets will develop and grow, and hopefully we're going to see some cross-pollination between the segments: we know already that hardcore gamers enjoy a game of Bejeweled now and then!
Thanks to Giordano for his time.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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