by Julia Kitzinger
July 26, 2016

Are mobile games outpacing online games? Certainly not. In fact, three current trends prove that online games are on the verge of a comeback. The longevity and continued development of existing online games, together with new cross-platform and multi-device games, promise a successful future for the online games market. Reliable global payment solutions help companies to monetise their games sustainably and ensure their financial success.

The games industry is extremely fast-paced. Technical progress and the intense creativity of games developers ensure that the status quo never lasts for long. Online games experienced a genuine boom in the mid-2000s. The free-to-play model, previously only established in Asia, helped online games to conquer the western market and shake up the online games industry. Now, established games companies are setting trends alongside young, dynamic companies such as Bigpoint, Gameforge and Goodgame Studios.

Widespread internet access for households and modern payment systems have enabled companies to make games available for free, with opportunities for generating turnover limited to optional microtransactions. This is where Wirecard comes into play. We support games manufacturers such as Goodgame Studios, Gamigo/Aeria Games and Wargaming with rapid and reliable global payment solutions.

There is a new rivalry between online and mobile games

Facebook games were only a short-lived trend. A paradigm shift was then evident with the advent of the iPhone and the Apple App Store. The first Apple smartphone was launched in 2007. Soon, mobile games became the App Store’s biggest revenue driver. Since then, games such as Supercell’s “Clash of Clans” and King’s “Candy Crush Saga” have captivated a market of millions – and developers are laughing all the way to the bank.

The boom of Pokémon Go shows that the growth potential of mobile games is far from exhausted. Since July it has seemed like half of the world is in a gaming frenzy, in an endless pursuit to catch virtual pocket monsters in the real world. It is the first mobile game to provoke so much furore in the mass media. Pokémon Go has even made it into the news bulletins of the world’s major TV stations. All the signs point towards continued growth for mobile games.

In terms of classic online games, things have been relatively quiet over recent years. Developers of such games face a number of challenges: the increasing number of games and games providers increases competitive pressure. User acquisition costs, or the overall cost of acquiring a new gamer, have increased over the last three years, in some cases ten-fold. At the same time, it seems that certain segments of the market have already reached saturation. Games developers are compelled to improve efficiency and consolidate. The rapid rate of recruitment in the early years has stagnated, and employees are now being let go again.

Have mobile games won their battle against online games? I don’t think so.

Let’s look first at the obstacles to market entry: mobile games rely on Apple and Google – or their app stores – which act as a sort of gatekeeper, whereas online games can be released online at any time. Increasing competition, soaring distribution costs as well as inflated overhead costs and structures are making life hard for online and mobile games providers alike. The two sub-markets face the challenge of consolidation. Both segments can continue to successfully co-exist, just as the boom in free-to-play games in the mid-2000s did not wipe out the market for classic PC and console games.

 Three trends show: the future for online games is promising

1. eSports as a growth driver

eSports – competitive online gaming – is quickly becoming a popular “sport” and already has millions of players. Large tournaments like “The Grand Finals” of World of Tanks, “ESL One” and “The International” have seen halls and stadiums filled with thousands of fans. At the same time, millions of viewers around the world watch via a live stream.

This means that the market is attractive for sponsors and allows professional leagues and teams to be built. Teams such as VfL Wolfsburg and Schalke 04 in Germany have already started to put together their own teams. eSports are no longer lagging behind traditional sports in terms of spectators and revenues. Two of the most popular games in the world, League of Legends and Dota 2, are free-to-play online games.

Since being founded, Wargaming has also focused on online games with a competitive character. World of Tanks has a loyal community of gamers. Here, the free-to-play concept comes into its own: gamers do not feel obliged to part with their money, but rather are keen to support the developers of their favourite game. In this context, Wirecard acts as a reliable partner for Wargaming by assuming the payment processing for part of the game portfolio.

Another success story of the eSports sector is Warface, the free-to-play shooter from Crytek. It has captivated millions of gamers around the world, and is particularly popular in Russia. eSports thrives on a constant supply of new online games – which bodes well for the online games market.

2. The appropriate device for every location

The target market for online games is large. In addition to eSportsmen and regular gamers, the number of casual gamers remains significant. A few moves in Goodgame Empire during your lunch break are a lot quicker on PC than with a smartphone. However, mobile phones are the favoured playmates for those travelling by bus or train.

Games developers are factoring in gamer habits more effectively. No matter whether it is a cross-platform game or a browser/smartphone native game which users can access via a single personal account: gamers can build their castles, tend to their fields or fight their virtual battles at any time. Cross-platform games require the correct device mix. For quickly checking your game status, smartphones are unbeatable. But as soon as a gamer wants deeper, multifaceted gameplay, the internet is the first port of call.

3. Longevity of online games

In MMOs (massively multiplayer online games), gamers are represented by virtual characters which they lovingly create and then train over several hundred hours. Over this extended period, the gamer develops a strong bond with their avatar. What’s more, if the gamer has actually invested money in their character, they will remain loyal for longer. Because of the time spent playing them, MMOs are best suited to PCs and laptops.

Our client Gamigo offers two online MMOs with years of online success behind them: Dragons Prophet and Fiesta. Behind each of these games there is a loyal community of gamers in constant dialogue – sometimes even in real life. It’s like being part of a club or society: Once you are a member and have made friends, it’s much harder to leave. This is why online games are so long-lasting. It remains to be seen whether mobile games have a similar level of longevity.

Online games are far from a short-lived fad – they are here to stay

So, what can be taken away from this? Online games are far from a short-lived fad from the 2000s – they are here to stay. Whether eSports, casual gamers or MMOs for core gamers, there is a wide range of online games for every target market. The continued development of existing online games, and growing offer of new ones, means that the future is bright for the online games market.