From Snake to Clash of Kings: The Evolution of Mobile Games So Far
Two decades is a long time. In twenty years a child becomes a man, a bottle of wine becomes vintage (and very expensive), and a car becomes a veteran. But two decades means an eternity in the world of technology. In twenty years the tech landscape of our world has changed radically, taking us from bulky phones to wearables, from dumb programs to machine learning – and close to artificial intelligence. And two decades of mobile gaming evolution has taken us from Snake to the Vegas Palms Android casino app, offering players a complete casino experience right at their fingertips.
The mobile phones of the 1990s were very different from what you know today. First of all, they had very small screens, even compared to the “dumb” phones used today. And their capabilities were basic, too. My first handset, a Nokia 2110, was among the first to be able to send text messages. Playing games on the go was science fiction back then – at least until 1997 when Nokia’s 6110 was released.
“Snake” was the first mobile game to be a major success. It was very simple compared to what we are used to today, with basic controls and an easy to learn gameplay. But it was a massive success, especially because it was a multiplayer game – two Nokia 6110 users could play against each other through an IrDA port (the predecessor of Bluetooth). Humble as it was, “Snake” was a very important milestone in the development of mobile games: it was the first to show that phones could do more than just make calls and send texts.
Color screens, downloadable applets
The “camera phones” of the early 2000s were halfway between today’s smartphones and the “dumb” handsets before them. They had color screens with higher resolutions, they had cameras, they had music players built into them, and they were capable of running Java applets built by third parties. But these new features were their greatest weakness when it comes to gaming: their limited hardware capabilities, as well as their small screens, made them a less-than-ideal choice for playing on the go. Still, titles like Tetris and Arkanoid, and even some more elaborate ones like Prince of Persia, found their way to them.
The post-iPhone era
All this changed when Apple released the first true smartphone, the iPhone, in 2007 – two decades after “Snake” was first released. The phone was instantly re-defined – from a handset built with the purpose to communicate it has suddenly become a pocket-sized computer. And as such, it has deviated mobile games into a completely new direction, too. And Android, thanks to its wide availability, has brought its new capabilities to the masses. What followed was a quick growth of the smartphones’ processing power, the emergence of new ways to play on the go, culminating in the mobile games we love to play today.