By Yoon Ja-young
A screen shot of “Air Penguin,” a globally popular mobile game by local developer Gamevil
Electronic games became a real part of leisure activities from the 1970s, mostly with games played in video arcades. The introduction of console games in the 1980s allowed enjoyment within homes and offices instead of having to go to the arcades, and the industry also broadened its scope.
The birth of online games in the late 1990s and the release of Nintendo DS and Wii in the mid-2000s expanded the base of game users to the masses, including women and senior citizens.
Now, the keyword of the game industry is mobile. “Unlike previous game consoles, mobile game devices such as smartphones are powerful in that people can always carry them around and can use them regardless of when or where,” said Hau Yong-sauk, a researcher at Samsung Economic Research Institute. He said that based on smartphones and tablets, mobile games are leading the paradigm shift in the industry, extending the users to reach all age groups.
He cites statistics according to which the global mobile game market is expected to mark an annual 33.6 percent growth to $14.6 billion in 2014 from $3.4 billion in 2009. Mobile games will take 26.8 percent of the game market in 2014, which compares with 8.8 percent in 2009. Games constitute the top download category for iPad users, with other categories falling far behind.
He noted that the game industry will evolve with three keywords ― multiplatform, virtual & real ― and increasingly linked to businesses.
Multi-platform means enjoying the same game in diverse game hardware, including desktops, smartphones, tablets and game consoles.
“As the transition toward multi-platform continues, the dependence on a certain game device will decrease while game contents will be gradually more important,” Hau said. He cites Angry Bird, the popular mobile game, as an example of a successful multi-platform game. The smart game, which was first developed for iPhone users, has had over 75 million downloads since its launch in 2009. The developer of Angry Birds then expanded the platform to iPads, desktops and Play Station 3.
The games are expected to become more real, as the virtual reality gets linked with the real world. “3D, augmented reality and location-based services are adding reality to the games,” he said. The researcher said that the augmented reality enables the user to feel the movement in the video and will become a major technology factor in this sector.
Games are also being used for business purposes in diverse sectors, instead of simply to pursue fun. Hau notes that functional games that are used for a special purpose in diverse industries such as education, medical, domestic defense and finance will grow steeply.
Daimler Chrysler and Honda, for instance, are already using games for the marketing of their new cars, and L’Oreal and IBM take advantage of them for recruiting and communicating with customers. L’Oreal recruited employees through “E-Strat,” a management simulation game. IBM enhanced customer understanding of its ‘Smarter Planet’ strategy through “CityOne,” a simulation game where users solve urban problems.
Hau said that local game companies should strengthen their mobile casual games division as Chinese companies are rapidly catching up. Korea has been traditionally strong but Chinese games took half of the top 10 online games in 2009, while there were only three Korean online games on the list. Diverse sources of game contents based on a long history, an abundant pool of game developers, and rapid development strategy are factors behind the rapid success of Chinese online game companies.
Hau pointed out that Korean companies meanwhile, suffer high risks in game development as they focus on the grand massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG). He advises focusing on mobile casual games.
“The industry should expand the business to other game-related industries such as publishing, movies and characters. Society should also seek ways to actively make use of games instead of maintaining ungrounded negative views of games and gaming habits,” Hau added.