Entertainment on the Go: The Ever-evolving World of Mobile Apps

Caifu Magazine | by Caifu Global


James-Hursthouse-230xIt’ s clear to anyone not living in a cave that in the modern world we are increasingly tied to our smart phones. Not just for communication, but everything from getting emails, listening to music, watching TV and playing games.

CAIFU talked with James Hursthouse CEO of Vancouver based Roadhouse Interactive about the future of mobile apps and what it might mean for personal entertainment.


What currently is the most popular entertainment app generally?

Games are the most popular apps on smartphones.  Industry analysts App Annie shows that games make up 85% of the $41.1 billion total gross revenue generated from mobile app stores last year.

Is entertainment the driver of mobile apps or is it general purpose?

Entertainment is a major driver of mobile app usage.

How does the Asian market differ from North American tastes when it comes to apps, if at all?

There are many differences between the Asian market and North American market when it comes to apps.  In the gaming space, we see that consumers have different preferences in terms of art style, game play, and overall user experience.  This is why when you look at the top grossing charts across different countries in Asia, you don’t see the same games listed in each country. Asian gamers tend to be willing to spend more on mobile apps on a per player basis, with the highest average revenue per player being witnessed in games in Japan and Korea.


Will people continue to expect free apps or will they begin to see value in apps that offer more complexity/features?

I think that with so many free apps out there, some of exceptional quality, it’s hard to think of a return to a premium or pay to download model. Games companies have become adept at 'freemium’ business models, where consumers are able to pay in game to accelerate progress, play more frequently than the free game allows, or purchase vanity items. We are also seeing an increase in the amount of advertising in games, with brands and IP holders increasing the number of ads delivered through mobile games. In some cases, ad revenue alone is sufficient to make a game quite profitable, which means that companies can continue to deliver high quality product for free. I think with the smaller installed base of VR (virtual reality) devices, though, we will see a re-emergence of premium content / pay to download, but that will also eventually be replaced by a free to download model as the installed base of devices reaches critical mass.


When talking with an app developer what do you like to hear?

We like to hear a balance of creative passion with an understanding of the commercial realities of the industry. Having said that, this is a creative industry, and so the spark of creativity and innovation should always come first.

Can and will mobile games become as complex with console games?

I would argue that they already have.  Certainly game experiences on the latest tablets and smartphones outstrip the console titles of the PS1 and original Xbox already in terms of graphical and audio fidelity. Console and PC games such as the Final Fantasy and Grand Theft Auto series have all been ported to mobile, and many free-to-play mobile games arguably have even better production value and quality as these games.  The limitation is in the hardware, and the challenge with mobile game developers is to find the balance between delivering a rich gaming experience while not taking up half your phone’s memory and eating up too much of your battery and data while you play.  As these things progress from a technology standpoint, there is no reason that mobile devices can’t plug directly into a large screen and deliver that type of console experience. Of course, the console guys are going to continue to push the envelope and so we’ll be in an ongoing arms race – and that’s great for gamers and consumers who will have more choice when it comes to great game experiences.

How much entertainment could people conceivably consume through mobile apps (reading, TV, movies, games, other)?

The real answer to that question is 100% – all of it! Mobile is a delivery channel not a device – mobile devices can plug into TV’s or turn into movie projectors, increased screen resolution means the same level of fidelity as the best e-readers, better audio hardware rivals standalone music players. You can plug your mobile device into a VR headset and have a fully immersive VR experience.

How dependent are mobile apps on the future of smart phone technology?

In terms of games, it’s not only technical wizardry that makes a great game. Some of the best games don’t begin to test the limits of what the technology can do already. But obviously, there is a limit to how much appetite people have for buying a new device simply to load their email a tiny bit faster, or render a spreadsheet. Games are a key driver of technology adoption, and there will always be games companies that want to exploit the power of new devices. In some ways, I’d say the future of smartphone tech is more dependent on what games companies want to do than the other way round.


How closely do app developers keep abreast of developing telecom technology?

If you mean in terms of devices, we are generally very aware of what is going on and how it affects us.

How closely do you work with Asian partners (if at all) in developing apps?

I have traveled to Asia at least 6 times just in this past year.  We have been in close discussions with a number of partners in the region.

What are some of the major stumbling blocks ahead for the industry?

With bigger development and marketing budgets from the bigger gaming studios, we have seen user acquisition cost skyrocket, which makes things very difficult for independent studios with limited resources.

How far has app development come in the past five years, and where will it be in the next five?

To see how far development has come, just try downloading any app that was released five years ago and have not been updated, and compare it to the rich selection of games and apps nowadays that can deliver a seamless entertainment experience both online and offline.  As mentioned above, we can expect an increase in adoption rate for VR devices over the next 5 years.