Defying gravity: What’s next for me, you, and the rest of the games industry

Last week, I took time out to look back at the last eight years of my career – eight years that, primarily, were spent as Pocket Gamer.

During that time, I transitioned from a Java game reviewer, to an iOS reviewer and staff writer, news editor, deputy editor and, then, in 2012, editor of PocketGamer.biz.

From the cherished position of peeking out from behind my laptop – either resting on the table of a flash independent coffee shop in Manchester (which, coincidentally, is where I’m writing the words you’re reading now) or perched perilously on the tips of my knees at some event or other around the globe – I watched the mobile industry change rather dramatically.

I always used to joke at the end of each year at Pocket Gamer that, when reviewing the articles from the previous 12 months, the topic of conversation seemed to change so wildly from one week to the next. Companies, trends or issues that drove the headline in January and February, for instance, would feel positively archaic by the time March and April rolled into town.

Covering mobile was never dull, although it feels like that era of initial excitement – the idea that, on iOS and Android, anything was possible – appears to be long over. The winners were declared a long time ago and the likes of King, Supercell et al are household names. Don’t despair, however. What’s coming next will make the last few years look positively mundane.

insta_keith

As I tried to suggest in my final piece for Pocket Gamer, ‘mobile’ gaming is dead. The idea that mobile games exist in their own little pocket universe any more is long gone – for better or worse, they’re now firmly part of the wider games scene, and the walls that once kept certain sectors of the industry distinct from others have been firmly broken down by the advance of technology. From the birth of tablets to the recent flood of wearables and virtual reality, just what constitutes what is or isn’t ‘mobile’ is firmly up for debate.

My take? We shouldn’t even have that debate. Whether from the point of view of a developer, a gamer, or even a games journalist, the idea that playing a game on your iPhone is somehow fundamentally different to taking on your PS4 is nonsense: the type of games may differ, the way you play them and for how long, but the reason is universal. You want to be entertained.

In the years ahead, we’re going to see more and more IP that spreads itself across multiple form factors – games on Xbox One that link up with titles on your smartphone, Morpheus games on PS4 that tap into a release you’ve been playing on your Android-based smartwatch. More so than at any other time in the industry’s history, games are changing at pace and – if I’m still to be in employment in a year or so’s time – the way the media covers it has to change too.

So, this is me stepping out on my own. Though I’ve technically always been freelance, I’m now open to all offers, all ideas, all concepts. I’m enjoying writing about the games industry more than I have at any other point in my eight years in this job, namely because I have a far more rounded view on just how it works. In the last year I’ve been a consultant on a couple of releases from a major player, giving me a much better grasp on how the games we all take for granted come into being. I’ve (finally) made use of the PR degree I have and dabble in some light public relations and community management work. I’ve advised folk on how best to utilise social media and I’ve drunk a lot of coffee.

For me, I feel a little bit like someone has turned the gravity off. All the staples, the dependables that I once held onto in all areas of my life are now floating around in space. It’s both a truly frightening and exciting time, but the good news is, I’m not alone.

If you work in the games industry or cover it in any capacity, then you’re right there with me. So, grab onto the nearest object and brace yourself. Everything you thought you knew about games is changing, and I don’t think any of us will be heading back down to Earth any time soon.

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