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Four key lessons from London’s Mobile Games Forum

We were lucky enough to attend the recent Mobile Games Forum in London, a bustling hotspot of talented game designers, developers, producers and publishers. Amongst the talks from industry professionals were some very interesting tidbits about the future of mobile gaming – we sat through it all and have highlighted some of the key takeaways from the event. Here’s a few things we learned at MGF.

Gamification is the future

Gabe Zichermann, CEO of, certainly thinks so anyway. He anticipates that over the coming years we’ll start to see a new wave of apps that play like games without strictly being games. For example, the language learning app DuoLingo has already proved there is an audience for “gamified” experiences. Despite being marketed strictly as a useful activity, rather than a distraction, it has amassed a whopping 100 millions users thanks in part to its use of gaming mechanics to make the learning process fun and hook users.

By avoiding the conventional gaming categories, you also avoid having to compete directly with the big boys of the industry like Clash of Clans and Game of War. Zichermann makes the point that nearly everything at the top of the Education charts implements gamification to some degree. “This change in behavior happens all the time,” he concluded. “When will it happen to mobile?”

Read more: could gamifying apps disrupt the App Store in the same way Netflix disrupted TV?

Premium gaming has a place on iOS

Despite the incredible popularity and profitability of freemium titles like Clash of Clans, many developers are still fighting the corner for premium gaming on mobile. One such team which has provided some excellent premium games (notably Game of the Year Lara Croft GO) is Square Enix. Head of its Montreal studio, Patrick Naud, says that for those making a game based on an existing franchise it’s a great way of “limiting the risk” involved.

He goes on to note that exposure is fundamental to a successful premium game. A good review from a journalist, or better yet a banner placement in the Editor’s Choice section of the App Store, is a recipe for success. Without being able to rely on ad money or IAP sales, you need a way to convince vast swathes of people to part with their cash up-front for your game. Naud admits this is easier for games working with an existing intellectual property like Tomb Raider – but the successes of smaller games such as Lumino City prove that quality will be rewarded.

Read more: Square Enix on why it won’t be ditching premium mobile titles any time soon

Computers can be artistic

One of the most time consuming, expensive and resource intensive aspects of computer game development is artwork generation. In the world of mobile gaming, developers very often are limited by these factors and are unable to create expansive, ambitious game worlds without a huge team of artists behind them. So what would happen if game designers could outsource all that extra work to an intelligent, creative artwork machine?

For the team at Artomatix, the goal is to “solve the problem of expensive video games artwork” using machine learning algorithms. With skills like texture growth and infinity tiles, computers are able to “actually grow new things” based on a creative input from an artist or designer. The knock-on effect for the mobile gaming industry is twofold, according to the presentation we saw: handing over tedious tasks to a computer will not only mean developers can finish their games quicker, it also makes it feasible for small studios to create huge, ambitious game worlds without worrying about resources. Here’s to a world made by robots.

Read more: could artificial creativity speed up the game development process?

Robots like to play too

Alderbaran Robotics brought along a mechanical friend to MGF London with the intention of demonstrating how robots could be the next big thing for the mobile games industry. Speaker Joan Da Silva shared the stage with Pepper, “the first humanoid robot capable of recognizing the principal human emotions.” Pepper can interact with humans, which means it’s capable of playing physical games which would be impossible on another medium. With a big tablet computer strapped to his chest, Pepper is powered by apps – meaning we could see our favorite game developers creating software for the robot in due course.

Companies like Sphero are already creating app-connected robot toys – if Alderbaran are right and household robotics take off in a big way, how they interact with our mobile phones to create previously impossible gaming experiences could be an exciting opportunity for iOS developers sooner rather than later.