Mobile gaming had a spectacular year in 2016 with the release of Pokémon GO, Clash Royale and others that brought the industry to a new level. Now the industry is poised to have another amazing year, with Apple’s subscription policies and technologies such as mobile VR poised to make big impacts. [a]listdaily speaks to a panel of industry insiders and experts to find out what big changes might be ahead for mobile in 2017.

“With ever increasing smartphone penetration of the nearly 7.5 billion global population, mobile gaming will only continue to grow in 2017. Much of the growth will continue to be fundamentally driven by the launch of the next set of megahits (likely to reflect some innovation in the thousands of mobile game apps launched every week) and incredible mobile game growth across APAC and emerging markets. Further revenue gains will be driven by big brands recognizing the need to reach consumers on mobile more than ever. Wild cards for 2017 include breakouts in mobile eSports equivalent to League of Legends and/or a mobile game phenomenon on Facebook Messenger.” – Terence Fung, chief strategy officer, Storm8

“I expect to see more exploration of real-time PvP, eSports, and location-based gameplay in mobile. As an extension to the potential emergence of a location-based trend in gaming, I expect to see more mobile game design built around the natural use patterns on mobile phones and tablets. The industry has already honed in on short session, one-handed gameplay, and other form-factor customization to better serve the mobile audience, but there’s still a lot of exploration left to better build gaming experiences that are truly tailored to consumers’ use patterns on a mobile device.

“I also have to call out mobile VR as an emerging platform that will continue to build momentum and possibly change the landscape in 2017. This is likely to be a year when at least a few studios start generating noteworthy revenue from mobile VR titles. I expect to see Google’s Daydream mobile VR platform continue to build momentum, and also expect to see mobile VR innovation from Facebook’s Oculus, which recently re-organized around separate divisions for mobile VR and PC VR.

“This continued platform investment in mobile VR is likely to yield a larger addressable market and commercial opportunity for game developers as the year progresses. To be clear, it’ll still be early days and I expect very small revenue compared to the overall mobile market, but I do expect to see the industry make major strides here in 2017.” – Chris Akhavan, chief revenue officer, Glu Mobile.

“Based on how mobile gaming evolved last year, I’m expecting a lot more niche games to be more successful. A large part of the last two years was dominated by Supercell, Machine Zone and King—games that could attract a large audience through brute marketing force and great products. But I see that base becoming a lot more homogeneous, so I think we’ll see a large number of subgenre games to appear in 2017 to cater to the tastes of advanced mobile gamers. It’s very similar to how music and movies evolved in the past. It’s not happening as much on console because it’s so difficult to distribute in that world, but it will definitely happen on mobile gaming.

“My second prognosis is that user acquisition the customer life cycle management will become a lot more complicated and challenging. In my opinion, retention is the new goal, not so much user acquisition. That’s what these folks (publishers) will focus on—retaining loyal customers and not relying on random downloads and installs which will never translate into real business opportunities.” – Piyush Shah, chief product officer, InMobi

“One of the most interesting and impactful developments that we see is alternative distribution. Mobile games will increasingly be distributed outside of the traditional app stores, as a download or played directly in the cloud. Netease in China is famous for this, but we also see a similar trend in Southeast Asia and the integration of games in messenger apps in the West could start to play a significant role in 2017.

“Mobile games may be well placed to become the soccer of eSports. One major reason soccer has become a global sport is that it is simple to play, cheap to get started in, and can be practiced nearly everywhere. So, while console and PC are the equivalent of an expensive elitist sport like fencing, which requires the player to spend heavily on equipment before they can even play, the low barrier of entry for mobile games may prove ideal when it comes to democratizing and opening up eSports to a mass market. Crucially, however, the speed with which mobile eSports become mass market depends on the region. China and Southeast Asia will likely have the early adopters in this regard. Already, around one-quarter of the top 100 grossing Android games in China have organized events or tournaments in the region, showing how mobile-first countries will take to the idea quickly. Countries like Germany (where PC is relatively dominant) and the UK (where the console rules) will be slower to embrace mobile eSports. In this context, mobile will drive viewers to eSports through the mobile web or apps such as YouTube, Kamcord, Mobcrush or Twitch, meaning that business opportunities for game companies lie in partnerships, sponsorships and advertising.” – Peter Warman, CEO, Newzoo

“Companies will refocus on factors outside of branding that are critical to the long-term success in mobile. Pokémon GO monthly revenue is declining rapidly because of problems with long-term player retention. I predict similar challenges for Super Mario Run after a first month of high revenue and downloads. The game’s premium business model will limit the per-player and long-term revenue. This year was the year major companies like Nintendo learned how to bring their brands to mobile and make a big splash. Next year will bring a refocus on the pillars of mobile success, long-term retention and monetization. I think we will see more games released with big branding, but more thought and development will have been put into the deeper metagame.” – Patrick Walker, VP of insights and analytics, EEDAR