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.
PocketGamer.biz: What do you think was the biggest news or event for the mobile games industry in 2020?
Matt Casey: The Epic/Fortnite and Apple story was certainly the most unusual and unexpected news event of the year. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes and what it means for mobile storefronts.
Which mobile game do you think had the biggest impact on the industry this year?
Among Us caught so much attention (everyone in my family is playing it) and the sheer level of virality it achieved was great - even to AOC streaming it. I also admire how the team pivoted from working on Among Us 2 and paused its development to support Among Us’ content further. That’s a great commitment to its player community.
What is your top mobile game of 2020?
I’ve played Steve Jackson’s Sorcery more than anything this year. I played a lot of the fighting fantasy series back as a kid and the mobile version is really authentic to it.
I think we can all feel a greater sense of achievement in what we have done in overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic.Matt Casey
Do you think the mobile games industry has reacted well to the many challenges that presented itself this year?
I think we can all feel a greater sense of achievement in what we have done in overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic. We can also be proud that, as a creative industry, we all kept delivering gaming experiences for players who were looking for a break and a diversion from everything affecting the real world in 2021.
It's of course been strange for us as developers because we are very collaborative by nature, but we've certainly learnt a lot and got better at making games remotely. And we kept hiring, welcoming more than 100 new starters to Jagex this year.
For us, one extra challenge was maintaining a close connection with our community but thankfully everyone got the hang of Zoom and got inventive too. We were able to continue our player-facing live streams with the community – each of us also becoming broadcasters from home. And we had Zoom calls with community members, inviting them into our design sprints as much as possible and some of the content and ideas covered in those sessions from the players are now in the game.
What do you think will be the biggest trend over the next 12 months?
A greater adoption of cross-play gaming between mobile and other platforms has been a rising trend and will continue. We first integrated cross-play in Old School RuneScape when it came to mobile in 2018, enabling players to continue their adventures on either mobile or PC and are doing so with RuneScape on mobile.
In terms of your company, what's the thing you're most proud of during 2020?
Obviously, it's been a hugely challenging year with the restrictions and changing our whole studio to remote working, but we achieved that and launched some of the most well-received content in both RuneScape and Old School RuneScape over the course of this year, all while working from home.
The proudest moment for me was how we offered support to our players since the pandemic began. We saw that the RuneScape world, as with many online worlds, provided players with a positive place to escape from real-world concerns. Players have been coming back to the game because, yes, they’ve had extra time, but RuneScape is also a very social game – connecting players with each other and to ourselves.
We also worked with our mental health charity partners to offer wellbeing advice and resources for any of our players who felt the pandemic was affecting their mental health. We participated in the industry-wide Play Apart Together initiative and launched an in-game fundraising event during Mental Health Awareness Week, which saw £204,000 being donated to our health charity partners to support their work.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
Next year is a momentous one for Jagex as in 2021 we’ll be celebrating 20 years since RuneScape first went online and launched on January 4th, 2001, making it one of the world’s longest-running online games. We’re launching it all over again in 2021 as the game arrives in full, following its 'Closed Beta' and 'Early Access' phases on both iOS and Android, which is very exciting for us.
This opens RuneScape up to a new audience, particularly suited to its lean-back gameplay and we’re fortunate that RuneScape is a flexible game; you can play for five or 10 minutes and have a really rewarding experience.
As we saw with Old School RuneScape on mobile, the game once again becomes accessible to past players who no longer have PC-screen gaming time – but they’ve told us that if RuneScape was playable on mobile, they’d be back playing in a shot.