There is no doubt that the tablet market is the fastest growing space in gaming. Tablet adoption continues to rise faster than ever and more users are opting for tablets as their primary gaming device–mainly due to their better display quality, enhanced gameplay, and delivery of a more console-like experience.
This growth has been seen worldwide, beyond our North American borders, and is surely a phenomenon that will continue to occur throughout the next years.
This growth has been closely measured in numbers with the most recent data from IDC showing tablets experiencing record growth of 142.4% year-over-year, in the first quarter of this year. From a financial standpoint, tablets have also been monetizing better with an increase of 5% in mobile transactions in the last year alone. With competition amongst tablet-makers getting stronger and a larger variety of form factors emerging, more mobile game developers are realizing the importance of shifting their strategies to include tablets. In contrast, PC shipments are going down and tablet adoption has been accelerating at a much higher speed than mobile phones were when they first launched, clearly showcasing a huge shift in the gaming industry’s landscape.
At GREE, we have been focused on creating experiences for the tablet and have done so for a while. In fact, our tablet-first strategy dates back to our early days at Funzio, almost 2.5 years ago. Despite industry skeptics, we were convinced that tablets were going to be the future; if we could create games on both the tablet and smartphones, we would be successful. We took a risk, but, in hindsight, it was one that clearly proved to be a win for the company. When GREE acquired Funzio in May 2012, we were already seeing over 50% of our revenues coming from our tablet games and have seen that happen continuously since our shift in strategy.
In realizing this trend, other mobile game developers have been responding to the growing
demand by not only adapting to, but also creating titles entirely dedicated to the tablet experience. Beyond the market growth and consumer demand, the benefits of developing games for tablets is also helping to solidify the industry’s shift in embracing tablets as the ultimate gaming platform.
Up until the “tablet era,” mobile games consisted of super casual, simple, one-dimensional experiences that didn’t include much depth or complexity. Thanks to tablets, gameplay on mobile devices is becoming closer to a console-like experience. While an obvious benefit, the larger screen size of tablets allows for more information and content to be shown at any one time and also eliminates or decreases the need to swipe around for content that is not readily visible. This can have a major impact on the level of player engagement and can help promote a more captive gameplay experience–like on a console. Also, the tablet’s ability to deliver more immersive gameplay has opened the door to new genres like MMOs, strategy, and hardcore games, which were once exclusive to the console space.
The mobile gaming ecosystem is evolving in complexity as evidenced by the fact that more traditional console developers are getting into the mix. With that shift, consumers are becoming more sophisticated and wanting to experience games that are of console quality. Higher screen resolution, more powerful hardware, and faster processing speeds of tablets help to deliver high definition, 3D, and visually gratifying games to users like never before. There are still tremendous opportunities in mobile devices for the gaming industry; the ultimate goal is to bring a console-like experience over to mobile, and tablets are helping to bridge that gap.
Monetization is another major driver for mobile developers to adopt a tablet-focused approach. As previously mentioned, bigger screens, higher quality 3D graphics, and more immersive game genres contribute to a heightened, engaging gaming experience. More importantly, though, a richer gaming experience can have a dramatic impact on monetization with more players opting to make in-game purchases to further enhance their gameplay and performance. Outside game mechanics and technical superiority, it is no surprise that tablet owners, by default, will showcase a higher ARPU (average revenue per user) as they tend to have a more disposable income compared to smartphone users. Naturally, game developers will want to target this segment, especially in the world of free-to-play games, where developers generate revenue through in-game microtransactions.
At GREE, we continue to heavily focus on our tablet-first strategy and make unique gaming experiences tailored for these devices. For instance, when developing our first hardcore game – War of Nations (released in June 2013)–we made a conscious decision to emphasize a tablet experience. While the game is available for smartphones and tablets, we knew that hardcore gamers would gravitate towards playing on tablets and felt that the level of deep strategy involved would lend itself to be better played on a tablet. Our users are always craving more sophisticated content, and we wanted to make sure we were creating rich experiences that they’d enjoy. As
Forrester reports, we will continue to see tablet shipments and sales grow with the expectation of hitting 44 million units by 2015–meaning a rise in untapped opportunities for tablets, leading to more mobile gaming developers getting creative and entering the tablet race. In addition to the tablet market’s continuous growth, I think there will be a rise in different types of tablets as well including new sizes, manufacturers, functionalities, and display qualities.