You can play Alto’s Adventure on your Mac now

You can play Alto’s Adventure on your Mac now

Everyone’s favorite endless, serene snowboarding game just made the leap from mobile to the Mac App Store. Available now for $9.99, Alto’s Adventure for Mac is a desktop port of the side-scrolling snowscape game that’s won hearts and accolades since it first hit iOS in 2015.

Earlier this year, the team behind Alto’s Adventure introduced a second game, Alto’s Odyssey, which trades the first game’s snowy terrain for sand and sun while maintaining its charm. If you’ve already spent some time with Alto’s Odyssey, the Mac version of the classic is a good reason to circle back.

The game’s serene setting and blissed out music make Alto’s Adventure eminently replayable, even if you’ve already sunk tens of hours into lengthening your scarf in an infinite procedurally generated snowy world dotted with charming villages, dramatic slopes and many, many things to trip over.

If you’ve yet to dive into Alto’s Adventure, and we really recommend that you do, the Mac version is probably a good starting place. For everyone else, progress in the game syncs across devices through iCloud, so it’s a good excuse to push a little further into one of the most thoughtful, pleasant mobile game experiences to date.

And while you’re hanging out in the Mac App Store, don’t forget to update to Mojave — Apple’s latest desktop operating system is available now.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Apple will require all apps to have a privacy policy as of October 3

Apple will require all apps to have a privacy policy as of October 3

Apple is cracking down on apps that don’t communicate to users how their personal data is used, secured or shared. In an announcement posted to developers through the App Store Connect portal, Apple says that all apps, including those still in testing, will be required to have a privacy policy as of October 3, 2018.

Allowing apps without privacy policies is something of an obvious hole that Apple should have already plugged, given its generally protective nature over user data. But the change is even more critical now that Europe’s GDPR regulations have gone into effect. Though the app makers themselves would be ultimately responsible for their customers’ data, Apple, as the platform where those apps are hosted, has some responsibility here, too.

Platforms today are being held accountable for the behavior of their apps, and the data misuse that may occur as a result of their own policies around those apps.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for example, was dragged before the U.S. Senate about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where data from 87 million Facebook users was inappropriately obtained by way of Facebook apps.

Apple’s new requirement, therefore, provides the company with a layer of protection – any app that falls through the cracks going forward will be able to be held accountable by way of its own privacy policy and the statements it contains.

Apple also notes that the privacy policy’s link or text cannot be changed until the developer submits a new version of their app. It seems there’s still a bit of loophole here, though – if developers add a link pointing to an external webpage, they can change what the webpage says at any time after their app is approved.

The new policy will be required for all apps and app updates across the App Store as well as through the TestFlight testing platform as of October 3, says Apple.

What’s not clear is if Apple itself will be reviewing all the privacy policies themselves as part of this change, in order to reject apps with questionable data use policies or user protections. If it does, App Store review times could increase, unless the company hires more staff.

Apple has already taken a stance on apps it finds questionable, like Facebook’s data-sucking VPN app Onavo, which it kicked out of the App Store earlier this month. The app had been live for years, however, and its App Store text did disclose the data it collected was shared with Facebook. The fact that Apple only booted it now seems to indicate it will take a tougher stance on apps which are designed to collect user data as one of their primary functions going forward.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

The World Cup led to a record-breaking number of app downloads and consumer spend in Q2

The World Cup led to a record-breaking number of app downloads and consumer spend in Q2

The second quarter of 2018 was another record-breaker for mobile app downloads and revenue. According to a new report this week from App Annie, there were over 28.4 billion app downloads worldwide across both iOS and Google Play in the quarter, up 15 percent year-over-year. That number is even more remarkable because it doesn’t include reinstalls or updates – only new app downloads. In addition, consumer spending in apps was up 20 percent year-over-year to reach $18.5 billion across iOS and Google Play combined.

This is the most money spent in apps compared with any other quarter before, the report notes, topping the prior quarter’s record-breaking $18.4 billion in app revenue, and 27.5 billion downloads.

Much of the download activity in Q2 came from Google Play.

On its app marketplace alone, global downloads topped 20 billion, up 20 percent year-over-year and widening the gap between itself and iOS by 25 percent points to 160 percent. (See below).

This massive download growth is attributable largely to India, says App Annie .

The country was the biggest driver of download growth year-over-year in both absolute values and growth in market share. Indonesia also played a big role in Google Play downloads.

Meanwhile, the U.S., Russia and Saudi Arabia saw the largest growth in iOS downloads.

In particular, Google Play app downloads included growth in categories like games, video players and editors, and – not surprisingly, given the World Cup – sports applications. And on iOS, Sports apps were also the largest driver of global iOS downloads, followed by Finance and Travel apps.

The impact on the 2018 FIFA World Cup on sports app downloads was also highlighted last month by Sensor Tower, whose own analysis found that new installs of the five leading live TV on demand apps offering channels with the World Cup grew 77 percent during the first week of World Cup coverage, compared with the three preceding weeks (excluding the NBA Finals period).

Sports streaming service fuboTV saw the largest impact, growing at a whopping 713 percent and adding 309K new users in the U.S., while Hulu saw the smallest impact at 18 percent growth.

Single network apps grew, too, this earlier report said. FOX Sports downloads increased by 95x for the same period, while Telemundo Deportes En Vivo grew 444x, for example.

App Annie added that the top 3 sports apps in Android in the U.S. during the first three weeks of the tournament were Telemundo Deportes (#1), FOX Sports GO (#2), and FOX Sports (#3), in terms of average megabytes per user – an indication of users’ live-streaming activity. The apps were also new entrants to the top 10 list of apps by total time spent, compared with the three weeks directly prior.

In the U.K., over 6 million hours were spent in the top 10 sports apps on Android during the first 3 weeks of the World Cup, up 65 percent from the 3 weeks prior.

The World Cup also had an impact on consumer spending in apps in the quarter.

Sports apps on iOS were the third largest contributors to absolute growth in consumer spend and in market share in Q2, while Entertainment and Productivity apps were numbers one and two, respectively. In-app subscriptions for both Sports and Entertainment apps drove the consumer spending increases.

On Google Play, Games, Social, and Music & Audio apps saw the largest download growth, quarter-over-quarter.

However, despite the downloads and consumer spending in sports and TV apps, the charts of the top 10 apps by worldwide downloads and consumer spending look a lot like they usually do – with Facebook apps dominating the top 10 by downloads (Messenger, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram were the top  4).

And the top 10 apps by spending were still largely those subscription-based entertainment services like Netflix, Tencent Video, iQIYI, Pandora, Youku, and YouTube.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Apple’s App Store revenue nearly double that of Google Play in first half of 2018

Apple’s App Store revenue nearly double that of Google Play in first half of 2018

Apple’s App Store continues to outpace Google Play on revenue. In the first half of the year, the App Store generated nearly double the revenue of Google Play on half the downloads, according to a new report from Sensor Tower out today. In terms of dollars and cents, that’s $22.6 billion in worldwide gross app revenue on the App Store versus $11.8 billion for Google Play – or, 1.9 times more spent on the App Store compared with what was spent on Google Play.

This trend is not new. Apple’s iOS store has consistently generated more revenue than its Android counterpart for years due to a number of factors – including the fact that Android users historically have spent less on apps than iOS users, as well as the fact that there are other Android app stores consumer can shop – like the Amazon Appstore or Samsung Store, for example. In addition, Google Play is not available in China, but Apple’s App Store is.

Last year, consumer spending on the App Store reached $38.5 billion, again nearly double that of Google Play’s $20.1 billion.

As the new figures for the first half of 2018 indicate, consumer spending is up this year.

Sensor Tower estimates it has increased by 26.8 percent on iOS compared with the same period in 2017, and it’s up by 29.7 percent on Google Play.

The growth in spending can be partly attributed to subscription apps like Netflix, Tencent Video, and even Tinder, as has been previously reported.

Subscription-based apps are big businesses these days, having helped to boost app revenue in 2017 by 77 percent to reach $781 million, according to an earlier study. Netflix was also 2017’s top non-game app by revenue, and recently became ranked as the top (non-game) app of all-time by worldwide consumer spend, according to App Annie’s App Store retrospective.

Many of the other all-time top apps following Netflix were also subscription-based, including Spotify (#2), Pandora (#3), Tencent Video (#4), Tinder (#5), and HBO NOW (#8), for example.

And Netflix is again the top non-game app by consumer spending in the first half of 2018, notes Sensor Tower.

Game spending, however, continues to account for a huge chunk of revenue.

Consumer spending on games grew 19.1 percent in the first half of 2018 to $26.6 billion across both stores, representing roughly 78 percent of the total spent ($16.3 billion on the App Store and $10.3 billion on Google Play). Honor of Kings from Tencent, Monster Strike from Mixi, and Fate/Grand Order from Sony Aniplex were the top grossing games across both stores.

App downloads were also up in the first half of the year, if by a smaller percentage.

Worldwide first-time app installs grew to 51 billion in 1H18, or up 11.3 percent compared with the same time last year, when downloads were then 45.8 billion across the two app stores.

Facebook led the way on this front with WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook and Instagram as the top four apps across both the App Store and Google Play combined. The most downloaded games were PUBG Mobile from Tencent, Helix Jump from Voodoo, and Subway Surfers from Kiloo.

Google Play app downloads were up a bit more (13.1 percent vs iOS’s 10.6 percent) year-over-year due to Android’s reach in developing markets, reaching 36 billion. That’s around 2.4 times the App Store’s 15 billion.

Despite this, Apple’s platform still earned more than double the revenue with fewer than half the downloads, which is remarkable. And it can’t all be chalked up to China. (The country contributed about 31.7 percent of the App Store revenue last quarter, or $7.1 billion, to give you an idea.)

Sensor Tower tells TechCrunch that even if China was removed from the picture, the App Store would have generated $15.4 billion gross revenue for first half of 2018, which is still about 30 percent higher than Google Play’s $11.8 billion.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

iOS App Store has seen over 170B downloads, over $130B in revenue since July 2010

iOS App Store has seen over 170B downloads, over 0B in revenue since July 2010

The App Store has seen over 170 billion downloads over the past decade, totaling over $130 billion in consumer spend. This data was shared this morning by app intelligence firm App Annie, which is marking the App Store’s 10th Anniversary with a look back on the store’s growth and the larger trends it’s seen. These figures aren’t the full picture, however – the App Store launched on July 10, 2008 with just 500 applications, but App Annie arrived in 2010. The historical data for this report, therefore, goes from July 2010 through December 2017.

That means the true numbers are even higher that what App Annie can confirm.

The report paints a picture of the continued growth of the App Store over the years, noting that iOS App Store revenue growth outpaces downloads, and that nearly doubled between 2015 to 2017.

iOS device owners apparently love to spend on apps, too.

The iOS App Store only has a 30 percent share of worldwide downloads, but accounts for 66 percent of consumer spend, the report says.

But this isn’t a complete picture of the iOS vs. Android battle, as Google Play isn’t available in China. App Annie’s data is incomplete on this front as it’s not accounting for the third-party Android app stores in China.

China today plays an outsized role, as App Annie has repeatedly reported, in terms of App Store revenue, even without Google Play. In fact, the APAC region accounts for nearly 60 percent of consumer spend – a trend that began in earnest with the October 2014 release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in China.

But when you look back at the App Store trends to date (or, as of July 2010 – which is as far back as App Annie’s data goes), it’s the U.S. that leads by a slim margin. China has quickly caught up but the U.S. is still the top country for all-time downloads, with 40.1 billion to China’s 39.9 billion; and it has generated $36 billion in consumer spend to China’s $27.7 billion.

iPhone users are heavy app users, too, the report notes.

In several markets, users have 100 or more apps installed, including Australia, India, China, Germany, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and France. The U.S., U.K., and Mexico come close, with 96, 90, and 89 average monthly apps installed in 2017, respectively.

Of course the numbers of apps used monthly are much smaller, but still range in the high 30’s to low 40’s, App Annie claims.

The report additionally examines the impact of games, which accounted for only 31 percent of downloads in 2017, but generated 75 percent of the revenue. The APAC regions plays a large role here as well, with 3.4 billion game downloads last year, and $19.3 billion in consumer spend.

Subscriptions, meanwhile, are a newer trend, but one that’s already boosting App Store revenues considerably, accounting for $10.6 billion in consumer spend in 2017. This is driven mainly by media streaming apps like Netflix, Pandora, and Tencent Video, for example, but Tinder makes a notable showing as one of the top five worldwide apps by revenue.

Thanks to subscriptions and other trends, App Annie predicts the worldwide iOS App Store revenue will grow 80 percent from 2017 to $75.7 billion by 2022.

And while the App Store today has over 2 million apps, it has seen over 4.5 million apps released on its store to date. Many of these have been removed by Apple or the developers, which is why the number of live apps is so much lower.

The full report with the charts included is here.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Google’s Duo and Cisco’s Webex Teams among the VoIP apps pulled from the China App Store

Google’s Duo and Cisco’s Webex Teams among the VoIP apps pulled from the China App Store

Earlier this week, it came to light that Apple had removed a number of VoIP-based calling apps from the App Store, at the request of the Chinese government. The apps had been using CallKit, Apple’s new developer toolset that provides the calling interface for VoIP apps, freeing up developers to handle the backend communications. China’s government asked developers, by way of Apple, to remove CallKit from their apps sold on the China App Store, or they can remove their apps entirely.

Notices Apple sent out to the developers were first spotted by 9to5Mac, who shared a snippet from of one of the emails.

The email states that the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) “requested that CallKit be deactivated in app apps available on the China App Store,” and informed the developer they would need to comply with this regulation in order to have their app approved.

The regulation only impacts apps distributed in the China App Store.

We understand that the apps can still use CallKit and be sold in other markets outside the region.

Apple is not publicly commenting on the matter.

The pushback against CallKit is another means of discouraging people from developing or using VoIP services in China, without having to go so far as to ban the apps directly. It wouldn’t be the first time China has cracked down in this area. In November, Microsoft’s Skype was also pulled from the Apple and Android app stores.

The government also last year ordered VPN apps, which help users route around the Great Firewall, to be pulled from app stores – another order with which Apple complied.

Other social media apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook, are also disrupted at times, and newspapers’ apps like those from The NYT and WSJ are blocked, too.

According to data pulled by app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, two dozen apps with CallKit had been removed during the week prior to the news reports.

That list, along with the date removed and publisher name, is below:

Sensor Tower notes it’s possible that there are other apps removed from additional stores, but doesn’t have that data.

In addition, this list only includes those apps that have been downloaded enough times to rank in the top 1,500 of an app category at some point – beyond that Sensor Tower wouldn’t pick it up. But an app that wasn’t ranked would have had so few downloads that the impact of its removal would be minimal.

Nevertheless, you can see list includes a few well-known names, including Cisco’s Webex Teams and Google’s Duo video calling app, among those from other operators and VoIP calling providers.

The full text of Apple’s email is below:

From Apple
5. Legal: Preamble
Guideline 5.0 – Legal

Recently, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) requested that CallKit functionality be deactivated in all apps available on the China App Store. During our review, we found that your app currently includes CallKit functionality and has China listed as an available territory in iTunes Connect.

Next Steps

This app cannot be approved with CallKit functionality active in China. Please make the appropriate changes and resubmit this app for review. If you have already ensured that CallKit functionality is not active in China, you may reply to this message in Resolution Center to confirm. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) call functionality continues to be allowed but can no longer take advantage of CallKit’s intuitive look and feel. CallKit can continue to be used in apps outside of China.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

iOS 11’s new App Store boosts downloads by 800% for featured apps

iOS 11’s new App Store boosts downloads by 800% for featured apps

When Apple launched its new App Store in iOS 11 back in September, it aimed to offer app developers better exposure, as well as a better app discovery experience for consumers. A new study from Sensor Tower out today takes a look at how well that’s been working in the months since. According to its findings, getting a featured spot on the new App Store can increase downloads by as much as 800 percent, with the “App of the Day” or “Game of the Day” spots offering the most impact.

The app store intelligence firm examined data from September 2017 to present day to come to its conclusions, it says.

During this time, median U.S. iPhone downloads for apps that snagged the “Game of the Day” spot increased by 802 percent for the week following the feature, compared to the week prior to being featured.

“App of the Day” apps saw a boost of 685 percent.

Being featured in other ways — like in one of the new App Store Stories or in an App List — also drove downloads higher, by 222 percent and 240 percent, respectively.

The numbers seem to indicate that Apple is achieving the results it wanted with the release of its redesigned App Store.

Over the years, Apple’s app marketplace had grown so large that finding new apps had become challenging. And developers sometimes found ways to bump their apps higher in the top charts for exposure, leaving iPhone owners wondering if a new app was really that popular, or if it was some sort of paid promotion.

The iOS 11 App Store, on the other hand, has taken more of an editorial viewpoint to its app recommendations. While the top charts haven’t gone away, the focus these days is on what Apple thinks is best — not the wisdom of the masses. Apple has applied its editorial eye to things like timely round-ups of apps; curated, thematic collections; as well as articles about apps and interviews with developers. Apple also picks an app and game to feature daily, so the App Store always has fresh content and a reason for users to return.

The end result is something that’s more akin to a publication about apps, instead of a just an app marketplace.

What’s most interesting, then, in Sensor Tower’s report, are what sort of app publishers Apple has chosen to feature.

Apple had touted the App Store changes would be a way to give smaller developers more exposure. But if you’ve popped into the App Store from time to time, you may have noticed that big publishers — not indies — were having their apps featured.

In fact, an early report about the App Store revamp criticized Apple for giving big publishers too much attention. It said that apps from brands like Starbucks and CBS, or game makers like EA and Glu, weren’t exactly hurting for downloads.

But Apple’s favoring of big publishers is only true to a point, says Sensor Tower.

It found that 13 of the top 15 featured publishers (by number of features) had at least one million U.S. iPhone downloads since the launch of the new App Store last September. It’s not surprising that Apple wants to highlight these publishers. Many of them, and particularly the game publishers, have multiple popular apps. So when their apps get an update or they have a new release, consumers pay attention.

Apple, of course, wants to capitalize on that consumer interest because it shares in the revenue app publishers generate through things like paid downloads, in-app purchases and subscriptions.

However, Apple isn’t only giving the limelight to large publishers, says Sensor Tower.

It also found that 29 percent of the apps it has featured since the launch of the revamped App Store were from publishers who had fewer than 10,000 downloads during that time.

“While it’s clearly the case that big publishers are more likely to receive the largest number of features, small publishers still very much have their chance to benefit from a feature on the App Store,” said Sensor Tower’s Mobile Insights Analyst, Jonathan Briskman.

Though Sensor Tower’s published report focused only on the iOS App Store, it’s worth noting how it compares with Google Play.

Getting a featured spot on Google’s app store isn’t as impactful, the firm tells TechCrunch. The largest week-over-week increase to the median it saw there was only around 200 percent.

Image credits, all: Sensor Tower 

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

U.S. iPhone users spent 23% more in apps in 2017 than the year before

U.S. iPhone users spent 23% more in apps in 2017 than the year before

Games, dating apps and streaming services contributed to a rise in consumer spending in iPhone apps last year, according to new data from app store intelligence firm, Sensor Tower. The firm found that U.S. iPhone users spent 23 percent more on in-app purchases in 2017 than they did the year prior – or, an average of $58 per active user was spent on in-app purchases, up from $47 in 2016.

To be clear, this is only on purchases made within an app using Apple’s in-app purchase or subscription mechanisms. It’s not tracking e-commerce purchases – like things users bought in Amazon – or payments made to service providers in an app like Uber or Lyft.

Games were the largest category of consumers spending in 2017, accounting for roughly $36 of the $58 spent per device; or 62 percent of the spending. That’s a 13 percent increase over 2016’s $32 spent.

It’s no surprise that the biggest driver of iPhone spending is games.

The category typically outweighs all others in terms of revenue, not only for paid downloads, but for the ongoing purchases of things like virtual goods, unlocking levels, in-app currency, and the other extra features that mobile games offer. And because people play some types of games for long periods of time – like MMORPGs – they have many opportunities to spend on in-game items.

So while it’s notable that in-app spending in games is up by a few dollars, year-over-year, the more interesting trend is the rise in in-app spending generated by Lifestyle apps and subscription-based streaming services.

Specifically, outside of games, Entertainment apps – which includes streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, etc. – grew 57 percent year-over-year to reach $4.40 in consumer spending per device. That makes it the largest category of spending outside games.

Music is also another big category for spending, up 8 percent year-over-year to $4.10. Much of what people are paying for in a music app is a subscription for the premium tier of the service, as with Pandora or Spotify. If this category was combined with Entertainment – which is also growing thanks to subscriptions – you’d see that streaming services are now a big factor contributing to the overall rise in U.S. consumer spending in iPhone apps.

But subscriptions to other types of services are growing, too.

Lifestyle apps, led by dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, grew 110 percent from 2016 to 2017 to reach $2.10 in iPhone consumer spending per device.

Spending in social media apps was up by 38 percent, to $3.60 thanks to things like in-app tipping (e.g. Live.me, Periscope, YouTube Gaming), subscriptions (e.g. LinkedIn memberships), and other activity (e.g. call credits in Skype).

Twitch has oddly categorized itself as a “Photo & Video” app, in case you’re wondering where it fits in.

While Sensor Tower’s published report focused on iPhone consumer spending, the company tells TechCrunch that Android spending on Google Play was much lower last year.

“We estimate that for each active Android device in the U.S. last year, approximately $38 was spent on Google Play – on and in apps – so about $20 less than iOS,” said Sensor Tower’s head of mobile insights, Randy Nelson. “That tracks with the disparity in revenue generation we see between the stores outside the per-device level,” he added. “Android users generally spend less on or in apps, Google Play generated about 60 percent of the App Store’s revenue last year in the U.S.”

However, he pointed that Android users have more than one official store to buy from – like the Amazon Appstore or Samsung Store, for example. Some apps also choose not to monetize directly through Google Play, which is an option not permitted on Apple’s App Store.

The increase in consumer spending isn’t the only significant trend Sensor Tower spotted.

iPhone app installs in the U.S. were up nearly 10 percent from 2016 to 2017, with users installing an average of 4 more apps in 2017 compared with the prior year.

Games, again, were a big source for installs, followed by Photo & Video apps, Entertainment apps, Social Networking and Utilities.

In total, users had installed an average of 45 apps on their iPhone apps in 2017, the firm found.

Correction, 4/13/17, 1 PM ET: users have installed 45 apps over the past year; that’s not the number of installed app; the post has been updated with clarified wording. Apologies for the confusion. 

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Mobile gaming is having a moment, and Apple has the reins

Mobile gaming is having a moment, and Apple has the reins

It’s moved beyond tradition and into the realm of meme that Apple manages to dominate the news cycle around major industry events, all while not actually participating in said events. CES rolls around and every story is about HomeKit or its competitors; another tech giant has a conference and the news is that Apple updated some random subsystem of its ever-larger ecosystem of devices and software .

This is, undoubtedly, planned by Apple in many instances. And why not? Why shouldn’t it own the cycle when it can — it’s only strategically sound.

This week, the 2018 Game Developers Conference is going on and there’s a bunch of news coverage about various aspects of the show. There are all of the pre-written embargo bits about big titles and high-profile indies, there are the trend pieces and, of course, there’s the traditional ennui-laden “who is this event even for” post that accompanies any industry event that achieves critical mass.

But the absolute biggest story of the event wasn’t even at the event. It was the launch of Fortnite and, shortly thereafter, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on mobile devices. Specifically, both were launched on iOS, and PUBG hit Android simultaneously.

The launch of Fortnite, especially, resonates across the larger gaming spectrum in several unique ways. It’s the full and complete game as present on consoles, it’s iOS-first and it supports cross-platform play with console and PC players.

This has, essentially, never happened before. There have been stabs at one or more of those conditions on experimental levels, but it really marks a watershed in the games industry that could serve to change the psychology around the platform discussion in major ways. 

For one, though the shape of GDC has changed over the years as it relates to mobile gaming, it’s only recently that the conference has become dominated by indie titles that are mobile centric. The big players and triple-A console titles still take up a lot of air, but the long tail is very long and mobile is not synonymous with “casual gamers” as it once was.

I remember the GDC before we launched Monument Valley,” says Dan Gray of Monument Valley 2 studio ustwo. “We were fortunate enough that Unity offered us a place on their stand. Nobody had heard of us or our game and we were begging journalists to come say hello, it’s crazy how things have changed in four years. We’ve now got three speakers at the conference this year, people stop you in the street (within a two-block radius) and we’re asked to be part of interviews like this about the future of mobile.”

Zach Gage, the creator of SpellTower, and my wife’s favorite game of all time, Flipflop Solitaire, says that things feel like they have calmed down a bit. “It seems like that might be boring, but actually I think it’s quite exciting, because a consequence of it is that playing games has become just a normal thing that everyone does… which frankly, is wild. Games have never had the cultural reach that they do now, and it’s largely because of the App Store and these magical devices that are in everyone’s pockets.”

Alto’s Odyssey is the followup to Snowman’s 2015 endless boarder Alto’s Adventure. If you look at these two titles, three years apart, you can see the encapsulation of the growth and maturity of gaming on iOS. The original game was fun, but the newer title is beyond fun and into a realm where you can see the form being elevated into art. And it’s happening blazingly fast.

“There’s a real and continually growing sense that mobile is a platform to launch compelling, artful experiences,” says Snowman’s Ryan Cash. “This has always been the sentiment among the really amazing community of developers we’ve been lucky enough to meet. What’s most exciting to me, now, though, is hearing this acknowledged by representatives of major console platforms. Having conversations with people about their favorite games from the past year, and seeing that many of them are titles tailor-made for mobile platforms, is really gratifying. I definitely don’t want to paint the picture that mobile gaming has ever been some sort of pariah, but there’s a definite sense that more people are realizing how unique an experience it is to play games on these deeply personal devices.”

Mobile gaming as a whole has fought since the beginning against the depiction that it was for wasting time only, not making “true art,” which was reserved for consoles or dedicated gaming platforms. Aside from the “casual” versus “hardcore” debate, which is more about mechanics, there was a general stigma that mobile gaming was a sidecar bet to the main functions of these devices, and that their depth would always reflect that. But the narratives and themes being tackled on the platform beyond just clever mechanics are really incredible.

Playing Monument Valley 2 together with my daughter really just blew my doors off, and I think it changed a lot of people’s minds in this regard. The interplay between the characters and environment and a surprisingly emotional undercurrent for a puzzle game made it a breakout that was also a breakthrough of sorts.

“There’s so many things about games that are so awesome that the average person on the street doesn’t even know about,” says Gray. “As small developers right now we have the chance to make somebody feel a range of emotions about a video game for the first time, it’s not often you’re in the right place at the right time for this and to do it with the most personal device that sits in your pocket is the perfect opportunity.”

The fact that so many of the highest-profile titles are launching on iOS first is a constant source of consternation for Android users, but it’s largely a function of addressable audience.

I spoke to Apple VP Greg Joswiak about Apple’s place in the industry. “Gaming has always been one of the most popular categories on the App Store,” he says. A recent relaunch of the App Store put gaming into its own section and introduced a Today tab that tells stories about the games and about their developers.

That redesign, he says, has been effective. “Traffic to the App Store is up significantly, and with higher traffic, of course, comes higher sales.”

“One thing I think smaller developers appreciate from this is the ability to show the people behind the games,” says ustwo’s Gray about the new gaming and Today sections in the App Store. “Previously customers would just see an icon and assume a corporation of 200 made the game, but now it’s great we can show this really is a labor of love for a small group of people who’re trying to make something special. Hopefully this leads to players seeing the value in paying up front for games in the future once they can see the craft that goes into something.”

Snowman’s Cash agrees. “It’s often hard to communicate the why behind the games you’re making — not just what your game is and does, but how much went into making it, and what it could mean to your players. The stories that now sit on the Today tab are a really exciting way to do this; as an example, when Alto’s Odyssey released for pre-order, we saw a really positive player response to the discussion of the game’s development. I think the variety that the new App Store encourages as well, through rotational stories and regularly refreshed sections, infuses a sense of variety that’s great for both players and developers. There’s a real sense I’m hearing that this setup is equipped to help apps and games surface, and stayed surfaced, in a longer term and more sustainable way.”

In addition, there are some technical advantages that keep Apple ahead of Android in this arena. Plenty of Android devices are very performant and capable in individual ways, but Apple has a deep holistic grasp of its hardware that allows it to push platform advantages in introducing new frameworks like ARKit. Google’s efforts in the area with ARCore are just getting started with the first batch of 1.0 apps coming online now, but Google will always be hamstrung by the platform fragmentation that forces developers to target a huge array of possible software and hardware limitations that their apps and games will run up against.

This makes shipping technically ambitious projects like Fortnite on Android as well as iOS a daunting task. “There’s a very wide range of Android devices that we want to support,” Epic Games’ Nick Chester told Forbes. “We want to make sure Android players have a great experience, so we’re taking more time to get it right.“

That wide range of devices includes an insane differential in GPU capability, processing power, Android version and update status.

“We bring a very homogenous customer base to developers where 90 percent of [devices] are on the current versions of iOS,” says Joswiak. Apple’s customers embrace those changes and updates quickly, he says, and this allows developers to target new features and the full capabilities of the devices more quickly.

Ryan Cash sees these launches on iOS of “full games” as they exist elsewhere as a touchstone of sorts that could legitimize the idea of mobile as a parity platform.

“We have a few die-hard Fortnite players on the team, and the mobile version has them extremely excited,” says Cash. “I think more than the completeness of these games (which is in and of itself a technical feat worth celebrating!), things like Epic’s dedication to cross-platform play are massive. Creating these linked ecosystems where players who prefer gaming on their iPhones can enjoy huge cultural touchstone titles like Fortnite alongside console players is massive. That brings us one step closer to an industry attitude which focuses more on accessibility, and less on siloing off experiences and separating them into tiers of perceived quality.”

“I think what is happening is people are starting to recognize that iOS devices are everywhere, and they are the primary computers of many people,” says Zach Gage. “When people watch a game on Twitch, they take their iPhone out of their pocket and download it. Not because they want to know if there’s a mobile version, but because they just want the game. It’s natural to assume that these games available for a computer or a PlayStation, and it’s now natural to assume that it would be available for your phone.”

Ustwo’s Gray says that it’s great that the big games are transitioning, but also cautions that there needs to be a sustainable environment for mid-priced games on iOS that specifically use the new capabilities of these devices.

“It’s great that such huge games are transitioning this way, but for me I’d really like to see more $30+ titles designed and developed specifically for iPhone and iPad as new IP, really taking advantage of how these devices are used,” he says. “It’s definitely going to benefit the App Store as a whole, but It does need to be acknowledged, however, that the way players interact with console/PC platforms and mobile are inherently different and should be designed accordingly. Session lengths and the interaction vocabulary of players are two of the main things to consider, but if a game manages to somehow satisfy the benefits of all those platforms then great, but I think it’s hard.”

Apple may not be an official sponsor of GDC, but it is hosting two sessions at the show, including an introduction to Metal 2, its rendering pipeline, and ARKit, its hope for the future of gaming on mobile. This presence is exciting for a number of reasons, as it shows a greater willingness by Apple to engage the community that has grown around its platforms, but also that the industry is becoming truly integrated, with mobile taking its rightful place alongside console and portable gaming as a viable target for the industry’s most capable and interesting talent.

“They’re bringing the current generation of console games to iOS,” Joswiak says, of launches like Fortnite and PUBG, and notes that he believes we’re at a tipping point when it comes to mobile gaming, because mobile platforms like the iPhone and iOS offer completely unique combinations of hardware and software features that are iterated on quickly.

“Every year we are able to amp up the tech that we bring to developers,” he says, comparing it to the 4-5 year cycle in console gaming hardware. “Before the industry knew it, we were blowing people away [with the tech]. The full gameplay of these titles has woken a lot of people up.”

Source: Mobile – Techcruch