Last week, Pokémon Go took the gaming world by storm. The augmented reality title has players armed with smartphones hunting streets, parks, rivers, landmarks and other sites for monsters. The free app, based on a Nintendo title that debuted 20 years ago, has been adapted to the mobile age by Niantic Labs. It is being credited for reinventing MMO (massively multiplayer online) gaming as we know it.
However, the game’s success is not entirely surprising. After taking some time to reach mobile platforms such as cell phones and tablets, there has been a sudden rise in MMO gaming with titles such as Clash Of Clans, Heroes Of Incredible Tales, Gods Of Rome, Olympus Rising and Monster Strike, among others, gaining immense popularity and topping charts across app stores. Here is the low-down on the trend.
What is a mobile MMO game?
Simply put, an MMO game is one that supports multiple players at the same time via the internet. This form of gaming has been popular on personal computers and video game consoles for a while, and, with time, it has made its way to smartphones and tablets.
MMO titles are popular among PC gamers. Today, it is worth $19.8 billion or 60% of the PC game market. But, as the Internet becomes more accessible and device capabilities improve, players and developers across the world are warming up to the mobile-game market. That would explain why, for the first time in 2016, mobile gaming is predicted to take a larger share than PC with $36.9 billion, which is up by 21.3% globally, according to research firm Newzoo. “High-speed Internet connections are enabling concurrent game plays on users’ devices. Developers are also enthused by the capabilities of mobile devices and their high-quality graphic cards, and are creating console-quality titles for mobile devices. These two factors, coupled with the convenience of playing from anywhere, are fuelling the growth of MMO games on mobiles worldwide,” says Manish Agarwal, CEO, Nazara Games.
From RPGs (role-playing games) and MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) to shooters, multiple titles have gained popularity lately. “The best part of MMO is that there is something for everyone. The younger generation enjoys strategy titles that they can play with like-minded gamers, while the slightly older generation enjoys playing MMO games on their mobiles that they grew up playing offline,” says Bhavin Pandya, founder and CEO — Play Games24x7, adding that Indian titles such as Teen Patti by Ultimate Games and Rummy by RummyCircle are popular MMO games catering to this segment in the country.
Agarwal believes that real-time titles, strategy-based action games and shooting games tend to be more successful, as “you can form clans. These clans lead to higher engagement and are more fun”. “Mobile MMO games are the future, and will lead to a spurt in sport games on mobiles. This would transform them into a mass phenomenon from a niche phenomenon,” says Agarwal.
But it is not all fun and games. Kaustubh Shah, 24, a marketing professional and an avid MMO gamer, says there is scope for improvement in India. “When Pokémon Go went viral, I was excited to try the game, just like players from across the world. However, it needs a phone with a good battery life, enough memory, great GPS capabilities and high-speed Internet. My device was fine, but the infrastructure wasn’t. This caused multiple lags and made the gameplay frustrating,” he says. Experts agree that the infrastructure needs to improve for mobile MMO games to become a mass reality in India. But there is hope. “With the roll-out of 4G, one should start seeing the advent of mobile MMO gaming here, as a section of Indian gamers already has devices that are built to handle these titles,” says Agarwal.