The Mobile Gaming Revolution

The transformation from console to smartphone and tablet.

By Brian Malina on September 9, 2012

Almost 40 years after the introduction of the world's first home gaming console, the video game industry continues to thrive. Early incarnations started with joysticks at the arcade and at home, but gaming has now shifted to smartphones and tablets.

According to Nielsen, games are the most popular app category in the United States, with the average mobile gamer playing nearly eight hours a month. In honor of National Video Games Day on Wednesday, here’s a look back at the innovations that transformed the gaming landscape and how it’s continuing to change.

First-generation video game consoles, including Magnavox Odyssey and Atari, were introduced in the mid-1970s. Games like Pong and Space Invaders were the first to market. These evolved to become systems like the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sony PlayStation, and popular titles such as Super Mario Bros. and Doom. 

In 1989, Nintendo released the Gameboy, the first handheld gaming device, bundled with the would-be classic Tetris. It was the first step in mobile gaming and was soon followed by other devices like Sega Game Gear. For a number of years handheld gaming was seen as a secondary platform for many developers and gamers. That changed in the mid-2000s. Handheld devices, including Sony PSP and Nintendo DS, incorporated Wi-Fi connectivity, bringing social interactions to the mobile gaming ecosystem.

Now, the landscape is very different. With smartphone use on the rise and set to overtake feature phones in 2013, almost everyone has access to mobile games, making consoles and handheld video game devices less necessary and transforming the gaming landscape.

In April, the latest iteration of the popular Angry Birds game, Angry Birds Space, quickly became the most popular mobile game of all time and was downloaded 50 million times in just over a month. Smartphones have made mobile games more social than ever. Games such as Draw Something and Words with Friends allow people to play and interact with friends or strangers from around the world.

The ability to interact with friends over mobile devices has changed the gaming industry and given birth to an entirely new category.