Gaming industry changes dramatically | Science | In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 04.01.2013

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Gaming industry changes dramatically

More people are playing computer games than ever, but how they play is changing. So the gaming industry is evolving. More games are being developed for mobile devices. DW takes a look at some of the trends.

"Mobile gaming is the hot thing," says Klaas Kersting, one of the co-founders of Gameforge, Europe's biggest browser-based gaming company.

Kersting is considered a guru in the gaming industry. He left Gameforge to start up a new company called flaregames. It focuses on developing games for mobile devices.

"The mobile market is huge," Kersting says, speaking excitedly from the depths of a sofa in his office in the German town of Karlsruhe.

"There are more and more smartphones – 1.2 to 1.3 million new devices enter the world everyday, and more than 70 percent of the new device owners actually play on their devices," he adds.

Kersting attributes the popularity of mobile games to the fact that they fit better into people's lives.

"Now, you can basically make your move whenever you have time so the game experience fits where you want it," he says.

This undated image provided by Zynga shows a screenshot of Farmville 2, announced on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. Not Long ago, online games company Zynga looked on pace to unseat much bigger, well-established rivals as it rode the popularity of FarmVille, (Photo:Zynga/AP/dapd)

FarmVille, which is available on Facebook, is one of the most popular games

Quicker and easier games

Because many people play games on their smartphones for short periods of time, mobile games need to be simple to learn, quick to play and easily interruptible. This differs vastly from intricate classic strategy games on a PC where sessions can last hours or even days.

"People enjoy playing games at a bus stop when they have time to kill," says Carsten van Husen, the CEO of Gameforge 4D.

Although the Germany-based company concentrates on creating games for hardcore gamers on the PC, it recently moved into the mobile market with the release of five mobile games in 2012.

On mobiles, people tend to play "smaller games where (they) can conclude some rounds of playing in five, ten minutes," van Husen says.

In addition, using a touchscreen means mobile games need to be finger-friendly and easy to navigate compared to computer games, which are operated with a mouse and keyboard or a console.

Future is free-to-play

A composite file photo shows the Apple iPhone 4 , the Samsung smartphone Galaxy S 4G (top-C), Apple iPad 2 (top-R) and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. (Photo: ANDREW GOMBERT, SAMSUNG/HO, ANDREAS GEBERT, SAMSUNG/HO)

The proliferation of mobile devices is changing the gaming industry

The sheer choice of mobile games is overwhelming. Apple's app store alone currently has more than 122,000 games on offer, and many of them can be downloaded for free.

As a result, people are less willing to buy expensive games or to pay a monthly fee for certain games. This is changing how the industry makes money – the free-to-play model is becoming standard.

Gamers can download a game for free, with companies making money selling in-game items, which range from a few cents for a new haircut for an avatar to a few euros to upgrade a sword.

"The vast majority of players won't pay a cent for a game," explains Kersting, "but some enjoy the game so much they are willing to pay for additional features."

Gameforge, which has used the free-to-play model since it was started about a decade ago, estimates that only ten percent of users are prepared to pay for extra items.

"This is completely fine because we are lucky to attract so many people and that adds up to a very meaningful market in total," says van Husen.

Gameforge had a combined revenue of 130 million euros in 2011.

Female gamers on the rise

Many think of teenage boys when they think of gamers, but women make up nearly 60 percent of gamers on mobiles in the United States. In fact, women are one of the industry's fastest growing demographics.

image of a screenshot of online game Mahjong Diamonds

Kr3m's Mahjong Diamonds appeals mostly to women

The female gaming client has become so lucrative that the Karlsruhe-based company kr3m uses games as a marketing tool to attract women to certain websites. Currently, the company's most successful game is a Mahjong game – a staggering 96 percent of its players are women.

The company is so convinced of the strength of the female gamer market that it is investing more than 1 million euros to create a new facebook game that will primarily target women. The 3D game will combine a social game with a multiplayer experience.

"You have your own character in a virtual city," explains Jan Reichert, kr3m founder and CEO.

"The character will have a story, clothes and an apartment. But we went, technology-wise, one step further by making it a real multiplayer game," he adds.

Still, Reichert believes that the PC as a game platform shouldn’t be written off completely. Gameforge CEO Carsten van Husen agrees.

"(The PC) offers the possibility of having the biggest and fanciest graphics and the biggest immersive experience which you cannot reduplicate on a smartphone and not even on a tablet," he says.

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