The mobile game is one of the fastest growing sectors in the industry, and it just keeps getting bigger. It generated $93.2 billion in 2021, accounting for more than half of the gaming market. With the rise of mobile games, major publishers are taking notice. Players like Take-Two and Xbox Game Studios have recently made major mobile game acquisitions, betting on continued growth.
An important driver of this growth is that technology is catching up with ambition. LTE had the speed for gaming, but mobile gamers could experience latency issues that made massively multiplayer gaming somewhat frustrating and unresponsive. The same goes for cloud gaming, which allows gamers to enjoy console or PC games by streaming them. Cloud gaming requires the network to do the heavy lifting – normally the console’s work – which makes network latency critical in order to ensure low input lag and responsive controls.
5G networks from vendors like AT&T aim to solve this challenge, giving mobile gamers access to optimized connections that allow them to fully enjoy games. Specifically, AT&T is opening mobile games to new audiences by only including subscriptions from Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce NOWand optimizing its 5G and Fiber networks for gaming on the go, ensuring low latency and consistent frame rate performance.
How 5G Improves Mobile Gaming
While mobile gaming experiences now come into their own with the power of 5G networks, it wasn’t always like this.
A big blocker for mobile games used to be hardware – but not anymore. Early Android and iOS phones lacked the processing power and power efficiency to deliver AAA gaming experiences. Those days are long gone and nearly every mobile device on sale today can power high-fidelity titles.
5G also solves what has until now been a big problem with mobile gaming: connectivity. Cellular networks of the past simply couldn’t meet the demands of mobile multiplayer. Multiplayer games like Fortnite, PUBG Mobile, NBA 2K, and Call of Duty: Mobile all require split-second precision, which has typically chained gamers to Wi-Fi. a fast, reliable cellular connection optimized for low latency. So when you click, the reactions are almost real-time, even when playing against your friend in Atlanta while sitting on the beach near Los Angeles.
5G also makes cloud gaming on the go possible, and with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, over 100 console and PC titles can be streamed directly to a mobile device. From massive hits like Halo: Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 to the latest indie darlings like Tunic, these games once reserved for playing at home can now be played wherever the player wants. For some games, like the classic Banjo-Kazooie platformer, the mobile device is all the player needs thanks to a full suite of touch controls.
NVIDIA GeForce NOW works the same way, allowing subscribers to stream a constantly updated list of games by tapping into a high-end remote PC in the cloud. It also includes touch controls and any PC game that supports XInput is compatible with the virtual controller. (AT&T also offers priority subscription to GeForce now for six months to those who sign up with AT&T 5G.)
NVIDIA has also partnered with Fortnite developer Epic Games for a closed beta new mobile-style touch controls for the hugely popular Battle Royale Fortnight, bringing the popular game back to Android and iOS devices via the GeForce NOW service. Nvidia is also working with AT&T to continually improve the cloud gaming experience on 5G.
Console vendors and game streaming sites are also getting in on the action, allowing gamers to access their in-game games from browsers and mobile devices. Examples include PS Remote Play for PS4 and PS5 owners, where the player can connect to their console from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection or using mobile data, and steam link for fans of the popular gaming platform.
These services show how publishers and developers can partner with 5G network providers like AT&T to target mobile gamers with high-fidelity experiences using cloud-based hardware.
A world of possibilities
The line between mobile games and PC and console games is starting to blur. Designing for 5G can enable mobile studios to attract new players and create innovative gameplay. We’ve seen a hint of what’s possible when studios tie network connectivity into a core feature of a game: Pokemon Go’s Adventure Sync allows players to record stages without having to log into the game, giving them rewards as soon as they restart the game. This is just one example, and honestly, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Offloading advanced computational functions and rendering to the cloud could enable smarter AI agents, deeper augmented reality experiences, or more complex gameplay in the future. For example, compatible devices could scan an entire room and create an on-screen gaming arena on the fly. Or imagine an AR shooter that lets players across the country team up against enemies in the virtual world, all with near-zero latency. Additionally, cloud processing enables lower-grade devices to run games they otherwise couldn’t, potentially opening the door to new groups of gamers in new and underserved markets.
Ironically, we might also see the revival of old ideas. When the PS Vita was launched in 2011, a version was available with 3G connectivity. While innovative, the connectivity then fell short of supporting seamless experiences. With the improvements brought by 5G, we could see a resurgence in portable gaming devices with cellular connectivity. The recently released portable Valve Steam Deck lets gamers access their Steam accounts to play thousands of games on the go, but it’s only compatible with Wi-Fi at this time. If a 5G version ever emerges, the potential could be off the cards.
Mobile gaming should no longer be cataloged
When the words “mobile game” are spoken, the conversation tends to shift to one of two things: simple puzzle games with crushed confections or sophisticated game mechanics designed to squeeze money out of pockets. people. That reputation is certainly deserved, but today’s mobile gaming scene is much different than it was when that reputation first emerged, with a genre of games offering fuller, richer experiences that hold their weight against to the best console and PC games of the time.
Developers are starting to realize this, revealing more and more games for mobile devices. Square Enix, for example, created an entire battle royale themed around the recent remake of the all-time classic Final Fantasy VII, while Blizzard Entertainment is building a new Diablo experience from the ground up for phones and tablets. Yesterday’s network problems are solved with 5G, and as it is, mobile gaming can fully flourish in the medium it was always meant to be. AAA console gaming experiences on mobile devices were once laughable. Now they are inevitable.