Mobile gaming is 'over', says Atari founder Bushnell

"There's no money" in crowded mobile game platforms

In a claim that swims against the tide of industry consensus, respected Atari founder and BAFTA Fellow Nolan Bushnell has claimed the mobile games ecosystem is now on borrowed time.


In an interview with AllThingsDigital, Bushnell appeared to surprise the journalist and PR team in his company when he said: "The game business reinvents itself every five years. The last five years have been the days of mobile gaming and shortform gaming, exemplified by Rovio with Angry Birds and Zynga with FarmVille. And that is over."

Elaborating, Bushnell suggested that vast ocean of content on mobile services (like Apple's App Store) means that risk is high, chances of discoverability are low, and eventually most investors will walk away.

"All the money's out," he said.

"Do I really want to do a mobile game that's one of 300,000, where discoverability is everything? You really have to have a little more sizzle on the steak. I would rather be one of 100 apps for Google Glass than one of 300,000 for iOS and Android."

Bushnell's claims come in the wake of a tirade of industry comments suggesting that the opposite is true: that mobile games will thrive and it is the console business that is doomed.

It appeared that the longevity of mobile games were a determining factor in Bushnell's hypothesis: "Most games, by their nature, have a half-life of two years or less. It's the outlier that has a half-life that's longer than that," he said.

"But that doesn't mean that the marketplace is synchronized. So you have the early adopters coming into something, and they soon encourage the more timid to come in. It broadens the group. But players' engagement is not lengthened."

Elsewhere in his interview, Bushnell discusses fostering future entrepreneurs and the path that tech businesses must take.

One such observation: "You try to minimise failure, but at the same time, if you're not willing to try things that are inherently risky, you're not going to make progress."

In November, Bushnell had riled Nintendo fans by claiming he was "baffled" by the Wii U.