Can Anything Save Mobile Gaming In 2015?

Mobile

There's a lot of excitement around the games to come in 2015 in most spaces... except mobile gaming. There's a lot that's broken around mobile games, and not a lot of solutions in sight.

I recently had to set up a new iPhone 6, and rather than doing what I've done for years by grabbing my iPhone backup from iTunes and restoring as a new image, I decided I'd start afresh. At the time, I figured it was a good move because the image I'm talking about dates all the way back to the iPhone 3G, which is an absolute eternity in gaming terms.

One of the big decisions I had to make as a result of that was picking which games to throw onto the iPhone 6. This wasn't so much an issue of outright storage space, as I've long held that there's little point in buying the entry level storage tiers, but more keeping things sensible in game terms. After that many years, there was a lot of clutter to contend with.

When I'd finished, I stepped back to look at the games that I'd selected to install on my iPhone 6, and a single thought struck me.

There wasn't much "new", or for that matter "innovative" sitting on the phone at all. Yes, there were newer titles, such as Crossy Road, but that's just a twist on the endless runner concept, so it went into a folder along with games like Zombie Tsunami, Tiny Wings, Giant Bouder Of Death and Canabalt.

Similarly, many of the games that I chose to install were titles that have more than a few years on them already, if they'll still run. That's a different kind of problem, but it's undeniably irksome that, for example, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 no longer loads under iOS 8 at all.

This got me to thinking about what had happened in mobile gaming in 2014, and what was likely to happen in 2015. The more I thought, the more depressed I got.

Don't get me wrong. I love gaming. Always have, and always will, and the ability to pull a smartphone out of my pocket and play a little Bioshock, Goat Simulator, Raiden or Kingdom Rush isn't something that I take lightly.

It's just that the market has spoken, and what it's spoken doesn't bode well for mobile game development into the future. Free to play with IAP elements predominates the charts, and any time that a "full price" title comes out — full price in this case often only equating to a few dollars — there's an outcry over developers overcharging for games.

Meanwhile, of course, console games still hover anywhere from $50-$100 as new releases, and even on the more discount-prone PC side of the fence, we all go nuts when there's a Steam sale and titles are available for under $10. I don't entirely buy the "but mobile games are casual and simple and should be cheaper" argument, partly because it's entirely feasible to put "full" game experiences onto mobile devices. But only if people will pay for them.

So what happens is that there's a rush towards two things. Firstly, endless clones. Iteration in and of itself isn't automatically bad. Consider all those endless runners I mentioned previously. I'm happy to play each and every one of them, even though they're all just iterations on a core theme.

The problem with endless clones is that they clutter up app stores with very little imagination. Want proof? When Flappy Bird — a game, for the record, that I never really cared for — went off market in 2014, the clones were endless. The clones were tedious. The clones also spoke to a genuine lack of originality in game design, because it was easier to make an object flap between pipes than come up with a new concept that'd probably be buried underneath that self same endless cavalcade of Flappy Bird clones!

The other problem, and it's not a new one, is the heavy push for free to play. 2014 only saw F2P for mobile gamers get worse in my opinion, with everyone pushing for time-based games that aggressively pushed IAP in favour of actual gameplay. Consider what EA did with Dungeon Keeper, for example. I love Dungeon Keeper as a game, and I'd pay EA real money right now for an actual "full" copy of the game. But the IAP destruction of Dungeon Keeper made me both upset and angry.

So what's the solution? I'm not sure there is one.

It'd be nice to think that somebody will come up with, for want of a better term, the next Minecraft for mobiles. A game that redefines the landscape and the pricing model such that developers are actively encouraged to think, take chances and create compelling gameplay experiences.

Instead, I fear, we'll probably just get the same old games, endlessly cloned and sold to us for "free" with timers that make IAP all but an inevitability. Was that what anybody really wanted?


Comments

    Not seeing it's users as piggy banks, and delivering a decent gaming experience would be a great start.

    sadly I see myself as part of the problem here. While I do stay away from games with IAP, I don't want to spend $15 on a game for my cell phone. I still want the highest quality games I can get, but for some reason the price point on my phone impacts my decision in a much different way then on a console or PC.

    Sooo..... do we have to save the mobile gaming industry?

    I'm just, curious.

      Only in the west it seems.... the people over in Asia love their mobile stuff =P And they have decent titles not the half assed attempts supposedly "bigger" western publishers seem to throw out on a regular basis..

    Maybe Gamers and Journalists should stop worrying about particular industries and just let them evolve on your own.

    I mean, every time they've come out and said something is dead it turns out to bit be true; PC Gaming, Nintendo, Virtual Reality ans SEGA are just a couple of examples.

    Mobile gaming is still a new platform, but in reality. It's been around since the old Nokia 3310 with snake. Just because there is no 'killer app' (like a Halo or Destiny) doesn't mean no one plays games on the devices.

    Seeing how it's "evolved" in the space of a couple of years is scary.

    Pay To Play is frigging scary. It's not gaming. It's waiting to game.

    Let me pay X amount of money so I can happily play this game for any period of time without being stopped because I don't have the appropriate amount of anything to get more whatever to progress.

    The biggest issue with mobile gaming is the ability to find the gems amongst the garbage. Once you can, overcome that, there really is no issue.

    Touch screen gaming lends itself well to a smaller variety of game styles than other control systems, that is the reason why endless runner type games dominate, the simple control schemes required are perfect for the platform. But 2014 was a fantastic year for mobile gaming. Ignore any game that limits how you play unless you fork out up to $129.99 for IAP, I'm yet to experience a decent game from those. But Crossy Road, Wave Wave and Framed all hit the mark perfectly. Crossy Road is another endless runner, but far more innovative in both gameplay and business model than any before it. It has, hands down, the least obtrusive IAP system of any decent mobile game. No competition. Wave Wave is an excellent twitch game (another great mobile genre) which has a fixed price for full content. Framed is an absolute breakthrough in design and execution, perfectly using the touch screen to full effect. Again, a premium priced game but worth every penny.

    It's a different market to any we have seen in gaming before, and so young that it is certainly not in its final form. I personally look forward to what 2015 will bring!

    I don't understand this article. A long, pessimistic tirade... that opens up with a picture of two wonderful mobile games released this year... and a paragraph that mentions a third! Hearthstone was just released in mobile platforms, too!

    Things are fine. Nothing needs "saving". Unethical, money-grubbing companies will keep churning out shameless clones of other games or rehashes of tired formulae that are heavily P2W and that rely on scientifically-proved addictive behaviour conditioning, yes. But people who love games and have a clear vision and goals will also keep making wonderful, beautiful, fun games. Same as the previous year and the years before. In fact, I'd say that we're in general in a better position that back in 2013.

    I'd rather games that have a limiting demo then cost money for the full version rather than pay to play games.

    Last edited 02/01/15 6:29 pm

    "Saving"? Mobile is big business in the asian markets. It actually has big pubs directing significant resources to creating games over there and not the half assed cash cow "lets watch timers" like in the West but actual decent F2P stuff.

    Perhaps maybe if the "AAA" publishers here in the west would stop assuming that stupid timer based releases w/ no gameplay at all "is the way to go" in the platform instead of looking at what works and what doesn't maybe the stigma of mobile in the west will eventually be cleaned up.

    And I'm just sitting here on my Nvidea Tablet... 8 miles from home.

    It's funny that you ask if there is a solution, considering that you seem to already know what the problem is. Firstly, you've used an image from Monument Valley, a game that's incredible in terms of both gameplay and art direction. The only "problem" with it is its relatively high price, which is still cheap compared to games on any other platform. The solution to the problem of shitty F2P games crowding out good games that cost a few dollars is simple: don't download those shitty games, and support the developers who are willing to try selling better games at a higher price. Apple and Google also need to do something about the way apps are rated on their stores too; way too many of the top games are only there because people have paid shady companies to flood the stores with fake reviews.

    The other big issue, the endless clones, would be solved if people just stopped buying those clones. You said yourself, you're "happy to play each and every [endless runner], even though they’re all just iterations on a core theme." If you consider the clones a problem, you need to start by upping your own standards and refusing to buy games that don't actually add anything to the old, overused formula.

    You may have noticed that the solutions to both problems are essentially the same: stop spending money on crap games and rewarding lazy developers. The fact that people continue buying (and apparently enjoying) the garbage we see filling mobile app stores seems to imply that people actually like those games, and that the majority of people are fine with having a bunch of really terrible games on their phones. Basically what I'm saying is that even though I don't like the state of the mobile gaming industry, and neither do you, plenty of other people apparently do, so maybe it doesn't need fixing. We can just stick to games like Monument Valley (or whatever you enjoy) and ignore the rest.

    Man, what were you playing on mobile platforms on 2014? Because between 80 Days, Device 6, Monument Valley, Framed, Hearthstone, Threes!, Hitman Go, République, and recent releases like Papers Please, or FTL, or all the Telltale Series!

    I mean, if anything in last year went good, that's the mobile gaming.

    I think the answer is something like Crossy Road.

    - The core gameplay is free
    - The IAP purchases are for something superficial that doesn't change the core gameplay
    - There is a system that allows you to bypass the IAP completely, but takes time or you can watch ads.
    - Video ads are not obtrusive, and have been added in a way where players actually want to watch them

    I've seen a bunch of the youths I know actively turn away from living on their phones be it, social media, taking photos of everything and gaming. That is the bigger issue more so than the games themselves for the industry.

    Missing, or not emphasizing a very important point: PlayStation Now (and future services that follow this model).

    Before articulating a rebuttal, watch my detailed explanation: Video Game Publishers Superseding Console Manufacturers

    or

    Mobile Gaming Taking Over the Video Game Industry

    Both on YouTube under Win or Wince.

    Alternatively, read the article below:

    On the previous blog the topic up for voting was Bait and Switch Video Game Trailers. I have to admit, the tally was closer than I thought it was going to be. But, regardless, the result was a WINCE.

    So, listen up video game marketing executives: stop trying to fake us out. Or, eventually, that Niagra Niagara Falls of money you've been enjoying will slowly turn into a languid faucet drip.

    Okay….this article will be pushing the boundary of analytical projections in the realm of video gaming….even more so than usual.

    What I’m about to propose is likely a new idea to some, if not most. Yes, that even includes you sixteen year old with a self-proclaimed Ph.D in Life, and a Masters Degree in Trolling. And, yes, even you major video game news outlet journalist.

    Today, the topic up for voting is the possibility of Game Publishers Superseding Console Manufacturers.

    Let that sink in for a second.

    Now that the gasps and chuckles are out of the way, let’s take the next step in understanding how this is possible.

    First off, take into account that the main purpose of video gaming hardware is to process video game software. That’s step one.

    Step two is equally simple. The power of the video game industry could very well be passing into the hands of video game publishers. Up until now, console manufacturers held most of the cards. Without a video game system to run video games, those discs and cartridges would be little more than ancient, slimy, rotten plankton formed into neat little rectangles and shiny circles.

    Some of you might be wondering: is this guy against game consoles? Quite the opposite. Consoles are dedicated devices, for dedicated gamers--and I, am a dedicated gamer. But emerging technology is nothing if not fickle. And fickle in this context implies fast changing and unpredictable. With that said, the one element that can be counted on is this: if there’s a cheaper way for publishers to distribute video games, in a playable form, they’ll pursue it.

    Sure, some licenses may play a role for a number of years to come on consoles, but eventually those licenses will expire.

    So, when game publishers begin to see ways to deliver, or stream, their games to devices gamers already have, why wouldn't they jump at the opportunity? Especially if that means buyers will have more cash, to spend on more games, having saved hundreds of dollars not needing to buy video game consoles.

    Do I even need to mention the fact that publishers would be reaching more people as well as profiting more revenue?

    Enter stage right: smart devices.

    Whether it be a smartphone, USB media streamer or smart television there’s no shortage of software capable devices set to take the place of consoles.

    We might need to start getting used to the phrase: Gaming as a Service (GaaS), or some iteration of the term.

    Sure, this depends on a couple key points. First, gamers need to have a solid internet connection to either stream or download games. But let’s face it: mobile communication companies and cable providers have been blazing that trail fervently over the past decade. Within the next, the safe bet is that network access will be quick, cheap and as common as electricity.

    The main hurdle, then, turns into data rate costs. Okay, this one is a bit trickier. Though, I’d imagine as the landscape of mobile technology becomes more robust with competition from the burgeoning Chinese mobile smartphone market, prices should both decrease with services increasing.

    In the case of cable providers….well, I’ll leave that deliberation up to the comments section.

    For those of you who didn't catch the episode of Win or Wince, Mobile Gaming Taking Over the Video Game Industry, I mentioned how future smart devices could likely sync with Bluetooth controllers, effortlessly. Case in point is the recent news of PlayStation Now being streamed to Samsung televisions. This has potential to become the norm of many models of future televisions, smartphones and tablets--just like how Netflix, YouTube and Hulu can be found on so many televisions today.

    So, maybe it’s more accurate to say that console manufacturers are poised to lose out to

    publishers and smart device manufacturers. In any case, I hope that I've painted a detailed enough picture of what the future of gaming is likely to shape into.

    While Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are unlikely to disappear from the video game industry entirely, I’d imagine that they are already planning a business model focused solely around game development and publishing. Just like how earthenware clay jars ceased being the vessel wine was delivered in to consumers, so too will consoles phase out as the way we enjoy our Call of Duties and Mario Brothers. If not for cost alone, then maybe for material resource conservation.

    Hey all, regarding saving the mobile gaming industry - all it takes is a return to the old ways of creating products and selling them - ie make a good product, treat the customer sensibly and promote the product in a reasonable way. The problem is that people want a quick buck rather than taking the slower route of methodical progress.

    By the way - i've got an app that hopefully goes someway to addressing this issue by having a free, lite cut down version with no ads and a full paid version which obviously does more....try it here (lite version) - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lloydm.geoswordlite - Star Dancer "Cinematic Space Battles For Mobile" - think Risk in space with 3d battles.

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