When we look at gaming, we’ve come a long way from the confines of arcades or home gaming systems with basic pixelated graphics. We now have all types of games, at any time, in the palms of our hands. And not only just to play but to also stream and strategize.

According to market research firm Newzoo, gaming is expected to generate $148.1 billion in revenue this year, with about half coming from mobile, and more than 2.4 billion gamers worldwide. By the end of 2021, analysts expect mobile will own 60% of the market, leaving PC and consoles to divvy up the other 40%. This month, Google announced Stadia, a first-of-its-kind gaming platform for both streaming and playing on the go. This is a growing industry that isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

But with this massive growth comes the need for developers to change their thinking to meet the needs and expectations of consumers. Mobile gamers are highly opinionated and dedicated, leading the gaming industry to shift from the traditional “developer controlled” model to one that is more audience-focused. Here are three ways gaming companies can refocus on community to ensure that all consumers are tapped into their mobile games.

Customization blurs IRL and game life

According to a New York Times study on the psychology of sharing, 68% of people share on social media to give others a better sense of who they are and what they care about. With the rise of mobile gaming, this same behavior can apply to players as they express themselves in-game on the same mobile devices they use for social media. Beyond the traditional leaderboards of the past, gamers share their successes in-game with victory dances and personalized celebrations. Choreographers are even suing Fortnite for stealing victory dance moves, showing the blurring lines between IRL and in-game personas. The concept of a gaming avatar isn’t new, but today’s self expression extends further. Avatars are no longer a way for gamers to pretend to be someone else in-game, they are becoming an extension of your real and digital self. It’s important for game developers to pay attention to social and digital behaviors to give mobile gamers similar customization options and ways to share their successes with their human and digital communities.

Gaming is global, and masters are emerging

Gaming is trendier than ever before, and as the industry’s positive perception continues to grow, so are dedicated player communities. According to Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, nearly 70% of Americans are proud gamers, with most of them playing on smartphones. Gaming is being embraced on a global scale, which means that gamers and developers have a unique opportunity to own the cool entity that they’ve built. Celebrities like rappers Drake and Travis Scott and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster have jumped on the gaming trend, and Smith-Schuster wrote the piece on Ninja for Time’s 100 Most Influential People this year. Gaming celebrities are emerging and being celebrated as masters of the gaming world. These people are even emulating the experience of social media influencers, scoring sponsorships and wearing top brands like Gucci and Balenciaga, as viewers pay attention to their outfits and recommendations in-game and on social media. Past stereotypes about gaming ‘nerds’ are a thing of the past, and this is a global, dedicated and sought-after community that game developers should fully embrace, since it’s only going to continue to grow.

Foster a team mentality and two-way communication

With the development of in-game communication portals, players are building meaningful relationships with one another — reflective of those fostered on sports teams and in the military. Developers of games like League of Legends, Fortnite, and PUBG have created in-game community forums, but players want a way to connect with like-minded players not only in the game but in real life, leading to the rise of platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and now Stadia. Viewership on Twitch has surpassed that of major cable networks like CNN and MSNBC. And while Twitch is predominantly used for PC-gaming, we’re seeing this happen in mobile gaming as well with apps like Bunch, which allows gamers to play together through video chat on a smartphone. This is rooted in our human behavioral instincts to establish communities revolving around similarities. Make your players feel a sense of community and belonging, and they’ll be dedicated fans forever.

As the continued, explosive growth of mobile gaming gains traction, game developers need to continue to update their systems, find new mainstream players and build teams to keep people engaged to make the future of mainstream gaming a reality.

Kate Wolff is SVP of Client Service at relationship marketing agency RQ, where she works to connect brands with key people of influence honestly and authentically. 

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