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The History of Mobile Gaming: A Pixelated Past

Aaron Braund in Mobile 31 May 2017
  • We breakdown 40 years of mobile gaming history into a 5 minute read
  • Learn what's in store for the future of mobile 
Mobile gaming: one of the fast growing entertainment mediums around

Let’s be honest: smartphones and tablets have virtually transformed our lives in nearly every aspect. Shopping, communicating, socialising - it’s all been made far more simple by these magical devices. 

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Even gaming has transformed: with an estimated 771,672 mobile gaming apps available to download on the Apple app store, gamers now are more spoilt for choice than ever. But in actual fact, video game lovers have had mobile options for over 40 years now - and today we are going to look back at what mobile gaming was back then, what it is now and what it will be.

Mobile Gaming Back Then: A Pixelated Past

The quest for mobile gaming actually started in 1976 with the Mattel Electronics Auto Race; a basic racer with no screen and LED lights to represent the racer’s position. It was a noble effort and certainly an innovation, but would later be eclipsed by the giants of the 90s. The launch of the Nintendo Gameboy in 1989 heralded a new ambitious era for gaming - a handheld console with interchangeable cartridges that could be taken anywhere. Sega followed up with the Game Gear just a year later and through subsequent years Nintendo continued to refine their mobile masterpiece.

It wasn’t until 1998 when Nokia began to preload Snake onto their mobile phones that we would see our first glimpse of a smartphone led gaming future. These early Nokia phones were by no means smart - but Snake was and still is an addictive game. 


Post millennium, game developers began to flock to the mobile platform, creating ever more advanced games. 2003 was another crucial year for mobile gaming - as coloured screens were finally introduced and Nokia once again attempted to change the world with their N-Gage gaming phone. Unfortunately, the device didn’t pick up much steam, thanks to Sony’s E3 announcement that they were also joining the mobile brigade with the PSP.

But all of these announcements paled in comparison to Apple’s iPhone reveal in 2007; where Steve Jobs literally held the future in his hands. Gamers would still have to wait another year until Apple revealed the final piece of the puzzle: the App Store. It was finally the dawn of the smartphone.

Mobile Gaming Now: Birds and Candy

Almost 10 years later, users can now browse as many as 2 million apps on the Apple app, with almost half of that total comprising of games. If we had to put our finger on a game that really ignited the smartphone gaming craze, then it would have to Rovio’s Angry Birds game - a game that exploded in popularity, spawning 15 other games in the series and even inspiring a hollywood movie. In total, the series has been downloaded a staggering billion times across multiple platforms.

In the present day of mobile gaming, players can enjoy hundreds of quality titles from many different genres. Strategy games in particular have become immensely popular like Clash Royale, where you command your own army and bolster your defences against other player led forces. Puzzle games are also a popular choice among modern mobile players - the fiendishly addictive Candy Crush Saga app has over 17 million downloads on the Google Play store.


Can mobile gaming get much better than this? It’s certainly a great time - but the best is yet to come, especially with the emerging popularity of VR.

Mobile Gaming in the Future: Virtual Awesomeness

Gaming’s next big leap, VR has already found home on platforms like PC and console with devices like the HTC Vive and PSVR already immersing players in alien worlds and experiences. And now it seems mobile is catching up to the craze, with Google spearheading mobile VR innovation.

Google Cardboard already gave us a taste of mobile VR gaming in an affordable fashion, while the recently launched Daydream View builds upon this ambition with a full VR store of games. In the future, we expect VR tech to be even more competitively priced, giving gamers a range of options to enjoy VR titles in the comfort of their own homes. No matter which direction mobile gaming goes in - we have no doubt that it will be an interesting journey.

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The History of Mobile Gaming: A Pixelated Past

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