Android Gaming Scene: Which Direction, and for Which Audiences?

Android Gaming Scene: Which Direction, and for Which Audiences?

One brief glance at the top applications in Google Play reveals that games are the most popular category of applications. What is it about Android that makes it such a seemingly compelling gaming platform? How do the games compare to games on other platforms?

What is the future of gaming on Android? To answer these questions, we’ll need to take a look at the various categories of games found on the Android market.

Casual Games

You can’t explain this.

Many of the most popular games on Android fit into the casual games category. These games are addicting, lightweight, and typically require minimal interaction from the user — some are about actually waiting. A large number of these games are puzzle oriented games, with brief and replayable gameplay. Some of the most well-known examples in this category are titles such as Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and Hill Climb Racing.

There are many reasons these casual games are so successful on Android. The most important reason is that they are designed with the smartphone experience in mind, typically from the ground up. Casual games are usually mentally challenging, rather than technically challenging. They rely on simple touches or slides as their sole means of input, yet they manage to be engaging and still allow you to feel in control. Some of these games excel in that last point, with gaming mechanics that are surprisingly complex and allow for many possibilities despite having just a couple of commands.

The lightweight gameplay these casual games offer is another great selling point. These time-killers are the kind that can be played in those spare 5 minutes while you are waiting for the bus, an appointment, or a class to start. The focus here is replayability. The games deliver content in bite-sized pieces, and it’s super simple to try again if you fail. Games that shine in this regard are Super Hexagon and Flappy Bird.

When Flappy Bird went down on iOS, people were willing to pay thousands for phones that had it installed. And I still don’t get it.

Speaking of Flappy Bird, this one in particular is a great example of just how viral these android games can become. Originally developed for iOS, Flappy Bird was brought to Android due to demand. Within a week of being posted to the Google Play store, it became the most downloaded application on Google Play. It was reported the developer of the game was raking in $50,000 per day in its prime. Viral success stories like this drive developers to emulate and also to push the formula. Yes, it does lead to a lot of clones, but it also leads to many innovative ideas.

“Hardcore” Games

Not all games on the Play Store are designed for the casual gamer. There is an ever-increasing influx of games targeted towards a more hardcore gaming experience. These games usually feature advanced 3D graphics that remind us more of console games than a phone’s (certainly not the Snake we loved on our Nokias back then!). The Google Play Store has everything from first person shooters like Dead Trigger 2 to Racing games like Real Racing 3.

Most reviewers consider this a benchmark. You shouldn’t, it has an FPS lock!

Why would someone want to play a hardcore game instead of a casual game? Hardcore games offer captivating gameplay that can be extremely immersive. More sophisticated graphics are used for the same reason they are used in console: to enhance realism and immersion. Each generation our phones are performing better at processing graphics, allowing developers the freedom to push the boundaries.

Put this to practice.

This boundary-pushing is specifically what attracts users to hardcore Android games. When we get a new phone, we want to show off what it can do. Hardcore games can be a more compelling way to demonstrate the raw power of your brand new flagship phone than an abstract algorithm. Benchmarks are fun, but playing a 3D first person shooter on your phone with decent framerates is far more impressive and informative of actual gaming prowess.

Hardcore games also tend to incorporate more advanced multiplayer support into their games. From PvP to co-op modes and leaderboards, there are plenty of opportunities to scratch the competitive itch many gamers have. Many of these aspects can now be added relatively painlessly thanks to Google’s Play Games Services. APIs allow developers to accomplish the multiplayer aspects of their game by utilizing a common framework, these libraries are a good indicator of Google’s commitment to ensuring that Android is a viable gaming platform.

Experimental Games

Android has also found itself becoming the playground for developers to create concept games that push the boundaries by exploring new technologies and concepts in gaming. These are the types of games that you won’t see on other gaming platforms. The best example of this is Ingress, an augmented reality MMORPG created by Google / Niantic Labs. It sounds like the upcoming Pokemon Go application will be a more modern take on this idea.


That’s millions of childhood dreams coming true.

Another popular venue for these experimental games is in the virtual reality space. Google created Cardboard, an affordable solution to turn just about any Android phone into a virtual reality headset using cheap materials. You can play virtual pong with Proton Pulse. You can experience just how immersive virtual reality is with the creepy Sisters horror game. With consumer VR headsets like the Oculus Rift expected early next year, Android is sure to remain a popular cheap alternative.

A different perspective on mobile gaming.

Developers are also creating concept games that challenge our assumptions. Monument Valley is a good example of this, with its forced perspective gameplay that manages to surprise and delight you each time you figure out the trick to a new puzzle. The truly unique gameplay this game offers is certainly refreshing.

What’s next?

Look for increasing hardware specs to continually drive developers to push the envelope and design more graphically impressive games. Google’s Play Games Services will continue to evolve and continue striving to make it easier for developers to create better games.

Live broadcasting is one of the latest sensations to hit the gaming scene, and Android has left gamers in the dark so far. No need to fear: YouTube gaming, the brand new video game streaming platform, will be adding Android streaming. Google’s Play Games app will implement this and allow us to livestream our favorite Android games. Will this catch on as much as live streaming PC games has? It’s certainly closing a gap that exists between the two platforms.

With these advances, Android is poised to become one of the most successful gaming platforms. Its success is fueled by the diverse selection of games with lightweight interfaces. As Google continues to support Android game development we are sure to see more innovative games coming in the future. And with the push for Android TV in the living room, we can only expect developers to cater towards console-hybrid mobile gaming experiences much more.One thing is certain – mobile gaming isn’t leaving anytime soon.


Do you game on Android? What kind of games do you play, and where do you see Android gaming going?

About author

Corey Feiock
Corey Feiock

Is a software engineer with a passion for Android. He loves writing Android apps that utilize new technology, from IR blasters to Chromecast and Android Wear. Corey also discusses the latest Android news as a member of the XDA/Android podcast team.