May 11, 2016
The past few years have seen the mobile gaming market to morph and grow in ways no-one expected. Next-gen consoles are not only competing with each other, but also with mobile devices. But many games have been trying to bridge this gap. So is it really possible? And how?
As the mobile platform has emerged as a huge gaming world in itself, it makes logical sense to bring the console experience we all know and love to our pockets. But has this really worked? When Dead Trigger 2 emerged as a free zombie FPS, it managed to bring stunning visuals to your mobile phone. However, how well did the FPS controls work with a touch screen? Not great. Sure, it works better on tablets. But on a smartphone, your fingers cover half the screen. And with a tablet, you have the problem of holding your tablet whilst using both hands to control. It’s not ideal.
The emotional attachment that hardcore gamers need in their hours of gaming cannot be provided on a small screen. A big display is essential to becoming truly absorbed into a virtual world. I have never really lost myself in a game of Temple Run. I mean sure, I become irate and stressed every time I fall to my death, but I will never be truly immersed in a 5 inch screen; which is relatively big as far as handheld devices go, aside from tablets.
And then there’s mobile games bringing their popularity over to other platforms, whether that be the console or PC. The potential is great, due to the abundance of digital downloads, and holds a lot of promise for smaller developers to get attention on major platforms.
For instance, let’s take a look at the colossal success of Candy Crush Saga. It initially began on King’s own website, as the company has existed for a decade already. With the transition to Facebook games, they found a lot of popularity there. But of course, the PC and Facebook platform aren’t as accessible as the tablet or smartphone; which is why they made the transition. These sorts of simple games render themselves very well to mobile devices, as sneaking in a few games on the bus or whilst waiting in a queue is ideal. The differing success between the mobile and PC variants shows how the public react to different environments.
Angry Birds is possibly the biggest success story. It has become its own franchise, spawning multiple sequels, and it’s own brand of merchandise and toys for children. It even has a movie in the works, alongside it’s own cartoon TV show called Toons. Angry Birds: Star Wars is set to hit next-gen consoles. But is this the kind of experience we really want from our shiny new machines? They’re capable of so much more. Angry Birds was made available on consoles, but personally, I found their price pretty outrageous. It was reportedly available to download for $50. For a mobile game. Which was 79p on the UK Google Play. What did we get for these prices? Well their press release stated that from the mobile versions, they managed to “maintain these core features while introducing new play and interface elements exclusive to each system.” Well that does sound amazing! Right? It’s these kind of practices that prevent games from making the transition from mobile to console.
Consoles are no longer all about AAA adventures; there’s room for light-hearted mobile games on the big screen. But if Rovio are going to push this kind of pricing, it’s just not fair on anyone. For it to become a real success, it needs to be offered at a much lower price. Say, £2.99. When a game costs a mere 79p on mobile, it seems ludicrous to charge up to 30/40 times that for a console edition. Just take the mobile version, upscale it to 1080p (or 4K in the future), add a few features in and a reasonable price and voila; I’m sure it would sell pretty darn well. Whoever is paying the current prices isn’t doing the rest of us a favour by encouraging these practices. Whether you class this transition from mobile to console as a success or not, is up to you. However, even if they have found a place on consoles, I’m sure most gamers do not welcome these prices.
There’s a lot of work to be done for bringing mobile games to the living room. Indie games have found a home on mobile consoles, such as Terraria or Minecraft. And with indie games finding a home on the PS4 and the new Steam Machines, they could transition between mobile and home gaming quite nicely. However, they are usually fairly simplistic experiences, suitable to any situation, so calling them a “console” game as such is debatable. Yet there is no questioning that indie games are just as fitting to your lounge and console as anywhere else. Their boundary crossing isn’t too difficult.
What is difficult, is bringing the highly polished AAA experience to handheld devices. The PS Vita has attempted this, and has succeeded, with titles such as Uncharted and Killzone gaining a lot of praise on the mobile device. Despite this, the platform has not been widely accepted, as the Game Boy once was. It has been struggling, but perhaps with PS4’s cross-play it will find a new lease of life. If this proves anything, it’s that console gaming on the move does not appeal to the majority. Cross play will manage to merge console gaming with a mobile device; but the PS Vita is not something everyone has, at least yet. It also relies on a decent internet connection thus far. Could similar gaming tablets like the Wikipad come out and change our minds about how we game outside of the home?
What’s my opinion on the matter do you ask? Well, I am a big fan of a lot of big franchises out there, and love playing the most adventurous and mind-blowing adventures to date. So surely I’d like to see them on my mobile, right? Well, maybe not. I’ve had GTA: Vice City on my phone, which I thought would keep me entertained for months. How wrong I was. I barely touched the game, instead opting for titles such as Plants vs Zombies 2 and Clash of Clans. I am so addicted to these bite-sized gaming experiences on the move, and even at home when I have a spare few minutes, and would rather delve into the sandbox GTA-style game when I’m at home. What else is popular on consoles? The FPS. And that is something that struggles on a touchscreen. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like AAA games to succeed on mobile platforms, I really wish it would.
I would love to play expansive games on my phone. But there is a psychological block on playing a game on my phone too extensively. One game on Sonic Dash or checking my Springfield on Tapped Out is enough. Battery life is a key issue, as if I played for more than 20 minutes, I’d find my battery life has halved. This needs to be addressed before console gaming finds a home on mobile devices. As far as tablets go, I think console games could find a home here. With controller support announced by both Google and Apple, there is certainly scope for better controls. I would happily plug my tablet into a TV or buy a stand, if a decent controller is widespread, and games worthy of this were available. It could at least prove to be an alternative to consoles, even if they do not make the transition themselves.
There is still a barrier between mobile and console gaming; yet this is sure to change in the coming years. If you had said that smartphones would challenge mobile and home gaming systems ten, or even five, years ago, people would think you’re crazy. But now it is a different landscape entirely. Technology will continue to evolve, and it is likely we see more console-like games come to mobile devices. But mobile games will definitely find a home on consoles shortly, as entertainment apps have. They will provide short bursts of entertainment for many fans who don’t want to delve into a three hour romp of the latest Assassin’s Creed. They are already popular on current consoles, yet I foresee there is a more promising future ahead, if pricing is addressed.
Perhaps the next-gen consoles will play home to more than just traditional games. Game developers just need to become accustomed to what console gaming is all about. Consoles are not restricted by controls, battery life, or physical size. Second screens, or companion apps, could be the key to combining mobile gaming with the console. For mobile gaming to succeed, the console doesn’t necessarily have to suffer.