The rumor mill is abuzz with news that FromSoftware’s award winning open world take on their hardcore souls-like action RPG format, Elden Ring, has a new franchise entry in the works. Crucially, however, it is not being developed for console, nor is it under the direct purview of FromSoftware. Rather it is the product of a licensing deal and 16% stake buy-in of the Japanese studio by mobile development giant Tencent.
However this collaboration is seen by many as opening new avenues for collaboration between the mobile and console gaming sectors. In light of this, what key things can it tell us about the state and immediate future of mobile gaming in 2024?
Concentrated Industry Investment
Of course this decision by Tencent to acquire a stake of FromSoftware speaks to the expansive ambitions of mobile developers who are increasingly eager to align themselves with major triple-A console franchises. All told, today over half of all the wider games industry’s annual revenues derive from mobile titles – a figure thought to be in the range of $150 billion.
There are numerous reasons why the mobile sector has proven so lucrative in recent years. For example, the legacy online casino market has increasingly pivoted towards optimizing its experiences and platforms for mobile browsers and devices, acknowledging the sector as its major growth area into new markets. In light of this, dedicated platforms have increasingly established themselves focused around furnishing mobile and desktop gamers alike with competitive casino bonuses and welcome offers for us with leading gaming platforms.
Elsewhere, the rise of the freemium monetization model, free-to-play and the success of microtransactions and loot boxes have made the sector able to continue generating income off individual products. Finally, with 86% of the world’s population owning a smartphone, this represents a much higher theoretical ceiling than that offered by console games.
Mobile Esports Isn’t Everything
Without a doubt, in recent years it has been the mobile esports sector that has caught the most headlines and attracted the most widespread investment. It is easy to understand why – the past 4 years have presided over the so-called ‘esports boom’, an explosion of mainstream excitement and interest around the world of competitive gaming that has resulted in it becoming a crossover phenomenon and the world’s fastest growing sport.
And while League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and VALORANT have understandably led the scene’s charge into mainstream awareness, esports on mobile has quietly come to show the greatest promise. After all, while desktop esports require powerful and expensive gaming computers to play and access, anyone can jump on a mobile esport title with any relatively modern smartphone.
Furthermore, mobile esports’ greater focus on accessibility has led to prominent titles like Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Garena’s Free Fire enjoying massive success, especially in Asia. This is so much so that mobile titles are now crowding out legacy PC games on esports’ top played charts, a trend that shows no sign of slowing.
However what this Elden Ring project suggests is that it’s not simply competitive gaming that is attracting serious investment and attention on the platform. Rather, the wider sector is seen to be coming of age as a legitimate and primary venue for top tier gaming. After all, smartphones are growing more powerful each day, and current devices are capable of running games at a resolution and graphical fidelity akin to some eighth generation console games.
Future Big Name Tie-Ins Likely
An Elden Ring mobile franchise will further validate mobile gaming in the eyes of the industry and the public alike, which can lead to unpredictable outcomes. Who knows, before long we could see a version of World of Warcraft ported to mobile devices, or even headline first-party franchises like Halo or Forza Motorsport finding their way to mobile devices in the coming years.
After all, with advancements in cloud gaming continuing apace, people are already becoming habituated to the experience of playing triple-A current-gen console titles on their mobile devices, and the industry is thought to be consistently trending in the direction of greater and greater non-local play.
Perhaps a future iPhone or Samsung Galaxy will ship with in-house cloud gaming, offering subscriptions to leading titles and developers. In such a scenario, you could well find yourself playing Elden Ring 2 on a smartphone before long.