Apple's footprint in the video game world is getting bigger. And that could be good news for the company's bottom line.
Gaming makes up the lion's share of the mobile software world, with consumers buying games more frequently than any other type of app. And with the recent launch of the large screen iPhone 6 Plus and Thursday's expected introduction of a souped-up iPad, Apple could become an even larger player in the category.
"[Gaming] is more important than people realize," said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Securities. "We think that apps are an incredible business for Apple over the long term. It's the fastest growing and highest margin business for Apple today."
In the fourth quarter of 2013, games made up more than 75 percent of all app spending, according to analytics service App Annie. And in the second quarter of 2014, mobile gaming revenue in the iOS App Store was up 70 percent versus the comparable 2013 figures.
Schachter estimates Apple sold $7.5 billion worth of app-based games in 2013—and expects the category to be growing at between 40 and 50 percent this year. But the increased processing and graphical power of the iPad and the iPhone (along with growing screen sizes) could send that number much higher in the years to come.
"By and large, those were pretty lousy games on small screens," he said. "And as phones get better and processors improve, the quality is only going to improve."
Game publishers are equally excited about the future of gaming on Apple's devices. Frank Gibeau, executive vice president of EA Mobile, said he is especially excited about the features of the iPhone 6 Plus.
"One key takeaway is that with the retina display and the improved processor, combined with the Metal [graphics] capabilities and 128 GB of memory, that gets you to a device that's on part with next generation consoles," he said. "That's moving perfectly into our strike zone."
Legacy publishers in the video game industry have been a bit slow to fully embrace mobile gaming. But as the numbers climb, Schachter said he expects that to change their minds.
He points to Activision-Blizzard , which has historically stood on the sidelines of mobile until earlier this year, when it launched "Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft" for the iPad on Apple's app store.
The company had initially guided for $100 million in revenue from the game, but it could surpass that.
"Hearthstone has been exceeding all of our expectations," said Michael Morhaime, president and CEO of Blizzard Entertainment on an earnings call in August. "We're not ready to provide a new specific number but we're very excited about the long-term prospects."