As a self-employed game developer, I mostly do programming, game design, and graphic design when the games require it. After college, I worked for five years as a Flash developer making advertising mini-sites and mini-games. In my spare time, I created Trainyard, an iPhone game. It eventually ended up being successful enough to allow me to quit my job and do game development full time.
Developing games for mobile is very different, versus developing for web. There’s a smaller amount of screen real estate. People are also playing mobile games in different places, for different reasons; the games need to work in very short sessions. There are different types of gamers (casual, on-the-go gamers vs. traditional serious gaming communities), differentiated between that contextual shift. I don’t know if that divide is actually growing, or if it’s just a perception. Serious gamers will still play casual mobile games on the go, for example.
The one major factor driving change in the iOS gaming and mobile development industry is money. There’s a large push towards free-to-play games, which is caused by the fact that they simply have the potential to make much more money than paid games. However, many independent developers are still sticking to paid games. Once a paid game develops a following, they can actually raise their prices and be quite successful.
It’s hard to tell how the industry will look in the next ten or twenty years—especially when you consider that Apple’s App Store only happened six years ago! That said, I think there will be a huge push towards virtual reality. It’s going to change everything.
For those of you who want to go into game design, the most important thing is to have a passion for games and games development. It really needs to be something you enjoy spending time doing in your spare time. The formal education you have isn’t nearly as important as a good portfolio.