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What’s Driving High-Fidelity Mobile Gaming?

As part of a new Arm-commissioned report by Newzoo, gaming expert Steve Winburn explores the technologies, tools and trends enabling next-generation mobile gaming experiences

High-Fidelity Mobile Gaming

Since 2017, when Arm last commissioned Newzoo to explore gaming trends in mobile, high-fidelity mobile gaming has grown rapidly across all core markets worldwide.

In China, high-fidelity mobile gaming makes up 70 percent of the overall mobile gaming market, up from 42 percent in 2017. In North America and Europe the figure is 33 percent and 37 percent respectively, up 7 percent on 2017.

We refer to mobile games as ‘high-fidelity’ if they feature advanced graphics and/or complex mechanics and gameplay. Popular high-fidelity mobile gaming titles include PUBG Mobile, Fortnite Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile and Honor of Kings. These games were all initially launched on PC and console gamers but have since gone on to become highly successful mobile titles in their own right.

Trends behind the growth of high-fidelity mobile gaming

This surge in high-fidelity PC and console games being ported to mobile is made possible by the current generation of premium smartphones, sporting high-performance processors and graphics chips. In the past, mobile versions of PC and console titles were largely cut-down experiences, built separately to mimic the full experience as much as possible.

Now, it’s far more common to see cross-platform development with mobile games built from the same code and using the same game engine as pc and console titles. Games studio Crytek recently spoke to Arm Blueprint about its experiences porting the Cryengine 3D engine to mobile. 

Large game studios and developers are also recognizing the value of high-fidelity mobile gaming, not only because of the technology but also through the experiences they can bring to bigger audiences. Globally, 94 percent of all gamers play on mobile.

Commercially it makes a lot of sense, with the mobile gaming market generating enormous revenues of $86.9 billion in 2020. That’s 52 percent of the overall gaming market, more than PC and Console gaming revenues combined. Moreover, one stat that always amazes me is that mobile gaming revenues are now greater than global Box Office and record music revenues combined in 2019.

As more game studios and developers target their gaming assets for mobile, they are investing in high quality graphics for mobile. This is in comparison to the early days of mobile where games started out cut-rate and of poor quality compared to console graphics at the time.

In fact, future high-fidelity mobile gaming experiences will be defined by a series of better graphics trends, like better lighting, more complex geometry shading, textures and particle effects, advanced post-processing effects and higher refresh rates. These are all front of mind when Arm designs its premium Mali GPUs.

Arm IP, software and tools support amazing gaming experiences

Arm’s work behind the scenes is vital in enabling amazing mobile gaming experiences, now and in the future. We not only deliver a regular cadence of premium Mali GPUs, like the new Arm Mali-G710, but we aim to deliver a ‘total gaming’ experience through working with leading game engines, studios and developers to optimize the performance of their games on Mali-based mobile devices through new graphics technologies, tools and developer education resources.

Arm Mobile Studio enables fast and intuitive graphics optimizations for game developers that are targeting Mali-based mobile devices with their games. Already, Arm Mobile Studio is being utilized by leading games studios like Wargaming and King to help optimize their gaming content for mobile.

For Wargaming, we integrated Arm Mobile Studio Professional into their CI workflow, bringing great cost savings and performance benefits when it targeted World of Tanks for mobile. King also used Arm Mobile Studio in the development of Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! for mobile, which led to significant performance improvements for the game.

On top of this, we are continuing our work with Unity to provide graphics improvements and resources to high-fidelity mobile gaming developers and their game applications. Bringing smoother, more efficient gaming experiences to the billions of consumers who play Unity-generated content on Mali-based mobile devices.

AI, 5G will have biggest impact on mobile gaming’s future

In the future of high-fidelity mobile gaming, I expect the Box Office to come to mobile, with CG-type quality animation that you see in films on mobile. Ray tracing will be important to open mobile gaming up to these advanced, more realistic graphics.

AI advancements will be highly influential in mobile gaming in the future. Developers will be able to leverage these advanced AI capabilities in their games in more innovative ways. Rather than having a set programmed game, AI will allow the user to develop their own adventure based on how they want to play the game.

Gaming interactions with non-player characters (NPCs) will also be more exciting and convincing, moving away from set scripts and choices and instead having more natural, flowing conversations with NPCs that aren’t programmed into the game. This essentially means more immersive, interactive, and personal mobile gaming experiences.

Making all of these high-quality gaming experiences will be possible thanks to advances in the Cloud and 5G connectivity. The cloud will provide a “gateway” to more performance away on top of high-performance smartphones, while 5G will give the connectivity, latency and bandwidth boost to allow people to enjoy these complex gaming experiences for longer uninterrupted.

Mobile gaming’s endless possibilities

Despite the outstanding growth of mobile gaming in the past few years, I believe that we are still just at the beginning of what can be achieved. Top gaming titles are slowly shifting to mobile devices and in the next five to ten years, I believe that the smartphone will achieve performance that is on par with (or might even blow away) the high-end gaming and graphics cards that are available today.

Combining this level of performance with 5G for ultimate connectivity, CG-level graphics and plug-in controllers, users will be getting a high-end gaming machine that will rival the PC and Console experience today.

Additionally, I believe that the next ten years will see the emergence of true cross-platform gaming, largely thanks to 5G and the Cloud. This means users will be able to experience similar gaming quality and experiences regardless of whatever device they choose. Arm is making this future possible, powering the devices and services that will provide the conditions required for true cross-platform, high-fidelity mobile gaming.

Newzoo Report: High-Fidelity Mobile Gaming

This report explores the evolution and growth of high-fidelity mobile gaming and arrival of cross-platform gaming experiences. It looks at the rise of high-fidelity mobile gaming in key markets and the increasing number of PC and console titles moving to mobile, and how this has been made possible by more powerful premium mobile devices.

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