Dedicated mobile gaming devices were all-the-rage when I was growing up. My friends and I would race to the playground after school to link our devices (via cable) so we could engage in virtual battles.

It looks like those days may be coming to an end. Instead of linking dedicated mobile gaming devices to each other, gamers are using “smart” devices to play games that are shorter and more social.

This trend is causing a decline in devices that are dedicated to mobile gaming, causing game developers for these devices to adjust what content they put in their games and how they distribute them.

Why are traditional mobile games disappearing?

The games we loved growing up were designed to be played on mobile gaming devices that demanded your attention for long periods. Gamers were expected to spend their time hacking through the latest role-playing game that could last a few hours.

Games developed for smart devices aren’t as taxing on our attention. They are meant to be played for minutes instead of hours. Instead of blasting through Pokemon, gamers can race through two or three puzzles of Angry Birds in ten minutes.

Smartphone games also cost less to develop. Whereas a  dedicated mobile game costs a couple hundred thousand dollars to create, a well-developed smart device game will cost a quarter of the price (Rovio spent $125,000 developing Angry Birds). Furthermore, a developer designing a game for a dedicated device has to worry about manufacturing and shipping costs, whereas companies like Rovio have no such worries.

Development costs are seen on the market. Dedicated mobile games can average between $25 and $40 per game, while games developed for smart devices can be sold for under $10 or even for free (usually supported by ads).

What can traditional game developers do to keep up?

All is not lost for traditional game developers. The game franchises we love can have a second life on smart devices. Advances in technology have allowed tablets and smartphones to have graphics capabilities equivalent to dedicated mobile gaming devices, making it easier to port games over.

Traditional mobile games can also keep their higher price tags without worrying about being undercut by smart-optimized games. Infinity Ward capitalized on smart devices with the release of “Call of Duty: Zombies.” Originally designed as an add-on for “Call of Duty: World at War,” “Zombies” was released to smart device app stores for $10 (the game is now available for $4.99, still well above the average price for games in the App Store).

Games developed for dedicated mobile gaming devices also need to tap into social gaming the way that smart-optimized games do. Traditional mobile game developers can take a cue from their console brethren and offer gamers badges and in-game rewards that are viewable by those they game along with.

Shorter games for smart devices are here to stay, but there is still room for traditional mobile games to have a piece of the pie.

Bryan Saxton is an intern at Weber Shandwick and supports the agency’s work in gaming and technology. Follow him on Twitter @bryansaxton.

Photo courtesy of ilamont.com.

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