When I first started writing this article, I wanted to discuss one game per year since the dawn of mobile games that started with Tetris in 1994. To my dismay however, I discovered that this would at least add another 2,000 words to the blog, which would neither make it fully comprehensive and detailed (believe it or not), nor a simple and a quick read.
So, I’ll just be listing the most important games that revolutionized the entire platform and set the bar higher, and maybe one or two games that I really love, since I’m writing this.
Before we dive right into memory lane and start getting nostalgic, let’s remember that mobile devices have gone through an enormous development process and that no one in the early 2000s would have imagined the mobile devices we hold in our hands today.
To be fair, they wouldn’t have imagined most devices we have access to, but let’s keep this to mobile-related tech.
Let us begin…
Although the whole thing started with the release of Tetris in 1994, which is a respectable game in its own right, mobile games didn’t really take off and become an investable asset until the release of Snake in 1997 (and Snake II in 1999) on Nokia phones.
This put Nokia in the forefront of the mobile industry, and the mobile games industry by extension. After hundreds of millions were hooked to the game, the challenge began: what’s the next game that can achieve such popularity? Space Impact (2000) made quite an impact on the scene, but unfortunately, this didn’t last long.
Game Boy was still grabbing most hardcore gamers, who wanted to buy a handheld gaming device, and mobile games only succeeded in upgrading non-gamers to casual gamers. But these casual gamers were in for a treat. With Sonic the Hedgehog (2001) and some other games, colored games entered the market and offered much more than their previous black-and-white ancestors.
This whole move is attributed to the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), but we don’t want to get too technical here.
Things kept progressing on a relatively steady pace with games like Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (2005) and Turbo Camels: Circus Extreme (2006), but nothing mind-blowing came along.
That is until 2007 when Steve Jobs stood on the stage and announced the first phone with a touchscreen; the iPhone. This historic moment, along with the introduction of the App Store a few months before it, shook the market to its core and pushed innovation further.
Perhaps the best company to utilize the potential of the new phone is Rovio Entertainment with its Angry Birds game that they launched in 2009, which might be the most memorable mobile game (don’t forget the younger generation wasn’t around for Snake). This wasn’t just a win for the touchscreen mobile phone, it was a win for the mobile phone as a potential platform for games, a platform to compete with consoles and PCs.
Mobile games kept progressing with better graphics, greater variety in genres, and more interaction, this made them an integral part of the gaming industry. This is apparent as we see more big game publishers (Electronic Arts, Square Enix, and Blizzard to name a few) getting into the game. We might still be waiting for another momentous Stevenote, but we shouldn’t ignore the small steps that are being taken in the industry.
Perhaps the biggest one in recent years is introducing augmented reality (AR) to mobile games with Pokémon Go (I told you I will mention a favorite game of mine). The huge success of Pokémon Go drew the attention other of mobile game publishers to the great potential of AR games.
This wouldn’t be a proper blog to be published here if we didn’t mention MENA mobile games. The myriad of mobile games that have entered the digital markets in this region is akin to an alien invasion, which is the story of some of these games.
However, the new trend now is to localize and publish games in Arabic to gain access to a greater audience.
Arabic mobile games are providing the older generations with the chance to be a part of the “casual” gaming community that they missed in the early 2000s, while giving younger generations a taste of what the future holds for them from video game publishers.
This trend holds great promises to the mobile games market in the region as it is only going to get bigger.