With the introduction of the Nintendo Switch console, it got me thinking about mobile gaming and how far we have come. I can look back to the days when I would play Snake on the Nokia 3310 like EVERYONE else on the planet did, and now compare it to the days when people spend over 4 hours a day on their phone between social media, games or just texting.
When I was a child I loved to waste my time playing Snake on my mother’s Nokia, with a simple interface and no depth it's surprising that the game became as popular as it did. Then came the Smartphone with the touchscreen technology, new gameplay mechanics were created ushering in a new era of mobile gaming. Angry Birds and Clash of Clans became worldwide phenomenons making billions and creating a whole universe of spin-offs.
However, it has been 17 years since Angry Birds first came onto the App stores and there has been little change in the marketplace since then. It seems that most games on the mobile market are either updates, sequels or clones which is something that has really disappointed me in the last few years. I of course can’t speak for everyone as these games are still popular with millions of downloads and turning new startups into massive studios.
I have seen the technology inside mobile phones develop over the past few years from the technology we had 17 years ago to liquid cooled, quad core CPU super phones capable of running programs significantly more complex than what we have. The gaming industry has always been built on innovation with each company creating a game that can out sell every other, but it seems that mobile gaming has not used this method.
The marketplace for mobile games reached its peak in 2009 and since then games have stopped evolving and focused on mechanics the company knows will be successful. This has caused gaming to be split between “casual” and “hardcore” gamers, with the “hardcore” gamers seeing mobile games as too simple or lacking depth and the “casual” gamers seeing the console games as far too complex for them to enjoy.
This “rant” came from a recent experience of mine, where I spent several hours on the Android Play store searching for a game I could really enjoy the experience similar to the games I would play on my console or PC but failed to find anything other than a port of an older game. It seems ports are the only possible option for mobile games with depth but these can be poorly made or not designed for the mobile platform creating a bad player experience.
With the new announcement of the Nintendo Switch, I hope that the future of mobile gaming will change to a more mixed “hardcore” and “casual” focus to create games that work for both audiences.
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