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Mobile gaming has come a long way since Mattel Electronics released “Auto Race,” the world’s first mobile game, in 1976.

It sold less than 100,000 units but paved the way for a global mobile gaming industry with an expected net worth of more than $50 billion this year.

Throughout the decades, mobile gaming has evolved in line with technology and our tastes and budgets to become the enormous sector it is today.

From Handheld Devices to Phones

Mobile gaming was once synonymous with handheld devices designed specifically for gaming. The first, like Mattel Electronics’ “Auto Race” and the Nintendo Game & Watch mobile games, released in the 1980s, played a single game. Things changed with the 1989 releases of the Atari Lynx and Nintendo Game Boy. While these devices could play many different games, they were still gaming specialists.

In 1998, Nokia shook up the mobile gaming market after adding “Snake” to its phone handsets. While the game was simple, it was the first people could play on a mobile device capable of more than gaming. Games have been a feature of phones ever since, from pre-installed games like “Snake” to optional apps that users install.

From Solo to Collaborative Play

Mobile gaming is typically thought of as a solo activity. In mobile gaming’s earliest days when players enjoyed games like “Donkey Kong” and “Tetris” on single, unconnected handsets, this was certainly true. However over time, as technology became more advanced, mobile gaming became more collaborative.

Atari paved the way with its Lynx device, which could connect to up to 17 other systems for multiplayer play. Connection required ComLynx cables, so it was a little messy, but it made multiplayer games like “Awesome Golf,” “California Games,” and “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” much more exciting.

However, collaborative mobile gaming didn’t really hit the mainstream until the smartphone era began in 2007. Smartphones allowed users to play games together online, without those messy cables. Today, virtually all smartphone mobile games have a collaborative element, from games users play together like “Words With Friends” to games like “Candy Crush,” which encourage users to monitor their friends’ progress, beat their scores, and send extra lives.

Real-Time Voice Has Made Us More Engaged

For true collaboration, players want to do more than simply play together. They want to communicate to discuss strategies, gloat about their victories, and much more. Many classic smartphone games like “Scrabble” and “SongPop” have facilitated this through text chat windows.

However, more modern online mobile games have real-time voice functionality to increase engagement and improve game play. With voice chat, users can have a natural conversation without ever taking their fingers off the controls.

Modern companies like Agora.io are making it even easier for game developers to add real-time voice chat functionality to their games. The Agora for mobile games platform requires just a couple of lines of code. The easy-to-implement technology is already a part of popular modern mobile games like “Werewolf,” “Snake Off,” and “Xiaomi Mi Combat.”

As the mobile gaming industry continues evolving, we can only guess what the sector’s future might hold. Game developers will watch the trends closely to make sure they’re on the cutting edge of this fast-paced industry.


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