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The rise of mobile technology has changed the whole gaming landscape. That’s something most people are aware of, as mobile has risen to 60 percent of the overall market, generating almost one and a half times as much revenue as PC and console put together. Sure, most mobile games are free to download, but when you consider that about 84 billion games were downloaded in 2021, even if only one percent generates revenue, that is still almost a billion transactions.
No industry can afford to stand still. There are about half a million mobile games out there, and probably many more if you add privately made games. From this, it is a given that gaming studios are working day and night to bring new games to market without delay.
But where would you guess these businesses are located? The USA? Japan? The Republic of Ireland? All of these have thriving tech sectors that include some talented game creators. But the Australian market is leading where these others are following.
Early adoption and tech readiness
Taking a punt and investing heavily in what might be a short-lived craze takes courage, confidence and a certain special type of risk appetite. Australians are famous for their love of gambling – we will talk more about how that impacts the type of games coming out of Australia in a moment, but it means Australian businesses tend towards an ethos of taking chances and seizing opportunities.
That’s well and good conceptually, but businesses also need to be tech-ready. That is to say they need the knowledge and infrastructure to take mobile games through every step from conceptualization through development and testing to marketing and distribution. Australia scores high here, too.
Australia’s overall tech sector generates well over $100 billion each year. That makes it the third highest contributor to Australia’s GDP. The rapid growth and success of Australia’s burgeoning tech industry is partly through showing sound judgement on which areas to jump upon, and partly down to the nation’s overall tech readiness.
This latter factor is a topic all of its own, and is not one we will dive into here at any length. Suffice it to say that tech readiness is exemplified by a range of internal and external factors, including human capital, regulatory environment, technological infrastructure and a couple of other points that make a market the ideal hotbed for rapid development.
In on the ground floor
When you combine tech readiness with early adoption, you can leverage some impressive first mover advantage, and that is what several Australian indie businesses have done. Perhaps the most impressive example of this principle in action is Hipster Whale. The Melbourne studio’s most famous creation is Crossy Road, an endless runner version of the arcade classic Frogger.
The game was released on iOS and Android in late 2014 and in the first three months, it was downloaded 50 million times. Those are Words With Friends type numbers, and given the sheer volume of games appearing on the market every month, it is highly unlikely we will ever see anything quite like them again.
Casino iGaming – a business paradox
We briefly alluded to the stereotypical Australian fondness for a wager earlier. Gambling games constitute one of the fastest growing niches of the gaming market. iGaming generated around $60 billion last year, and is growing at a CAGR of almost 12 percent. Industry statistics show that real money pokies in Australia are, by some margin, the most popular gambling games, outdoing other forms like blackjack, craps or roulette. Even better, this is a market that Australia understands more intimately than most. Pokies have been part of the landscape since the 1950s and companies like Sydney-based Aristocrat have been making them for the past 70 years and are still going strong.
The problem is a regulatory one. Australia’s iGaming businesses are constrained by laws that prohibit them from offering their games online. It means that this is one area in which Australian tech firms are falling behind the rest of the world, despite having both the expertise and the local demand. Little wonder, then, that there is plenty of lobbying taking place for a change to the current online gambling laws in Australia.
Looking ahead to mobile gaming tomorrow
iGaming is clearly a special case whose evolution will depend on regulatory circumstances. More broadly speaking, mobile gaming technology continues to evolve, and Australian businesses are at the heart of that evolution.
Areas like game engine development, iOS and Android compatibility and leveraging the potential of related technologies like AR and XR will all contribute to taking mobile gaming to the next stage of its evolution. Australia’s tech-readiness places it in an ideal position to continue taking a leading role.