Pioneering Features of Mobile Poker Apps:
Widespread developments in gaming can be difficult to trace. New trends, technology, and innovations emerge almost imperceptibly, and suddenly spread throughout the entire gaming world. For most of these developments, there are not clear, definitive origins. When we look closely however, it becomes clear that mobile poker apps have been at the forefront of a number of major advancements in modern gaming.
We mentioned in-app purchases among the most compelling features of mobile games in an article earlier this year. While this feature is now part of all kinds of different games, however, one can make the argument that poker apps were among the first ones to embrace it. By nature, a real-money poker app requires that players “buy in,” so as to have cash at stake. Even in most free-to-play poker apps however, players have long had the option of buying additional play-money chips to use. This was true long before the term “in-app purchase” even became common.
Hosted Multiplayer Games
Part of the modern multiplayer gaming phenomenon has been that gamers have grown used to the idea of setting up their own conditions. That is to say, rather than only participating in multiplayer games, players can organize their own “arenas,” invite the players they know, set the rules, and so on. Naturally this process looks different in different games, but some of the first examples of customizable multiplayer circumstance we saw were in poker. Just this year, an article on some of the best ways to play online poker with friends cited long-standing services like PokerStars (among others) that allow players to organize their own virtual poker rooms and tournaments. Options like these helped to set the stage for multiplayer gaming as we know it today.
We mentioned the idea that poker helped to popularize in-app purchases. But it’s also worth noting that in-game cash systems were helped along by poker apps as well. That’s not to say these apps were the first to involve fake money. Even old Super Mario and Zelda games involve golden coins that can be collected and put to use. But early poker apps emphasized in-game budgets and bankrolls in a way that felt real, even when no actual, real-world cash was at stake. They helped to get people used to the idea of in-game money management, which is now an important aspect of all sorts of role-playing and adventure video games.
Here, once again, we aren’t suggesting that poker apps were the very first games to include an idea. Some level of character customization dates back even to some of the earliest arcade fighter games. But some of the most popular, long-running poker apps do have fairly expansive in-game avatar options, and this undoubtedly helped to set the tone for what is now a common feature. The character creation concept is part of all kinds of games today, and while this is not necessarily because of poker apps, it is fair to look back at the best poker apps as some of the best early examples of where this sort of feature was headed.
Virtual Reality Adaptation
It’s a little early to make this claim definitively, but we might ultimately look back at poker apps as some of the earliest to be successfully adapted to VR as well. Games presenting poker in virtual reality were among some of the first high-grossing games the medium welcomed. And while they were not based directly on existing mobile games, they played very much like versions of the same concepts. Depending on where VR gaming goes in the next few years or even decades, we may consider poker apps to have been vital parts of the category’s foundation.
Again, gaming trends are usually hard to track to exact origins. But in all of these ways poker apps have had a greater influence than most likely realize. The impact is interesting to look back on, and also gives us reason to pay closer attention to this category moving forward.