There was a time where you could be understood for thinking mobile gaming was the future of video games in general. Technically, one could make the argument that mobile gaming has existed as we know it since the first handheld consoles released in the late 80s and early 90s, the most famous of which is the Game Boy. Of course, there were also embedded games like Snake and Tetris included on early mobile phones. However, the smartphone age undeniably ushered in something different, and this is when the phrase “mobile gaming” really took off. Gone were the days of clunky consoles and cartridges when you could quickly download game apps to your phone. Games on smartphones were colorful, addictive, and some even promised to nearly match home consoles in terms of graphical process. It seemed like mobile games were in a position where they could influence the entire medium.
Then there came a time where you could be forgiven for thinking mobile games were largely cynical cash-grabs. It didn’t take long for the concept of microtransactions (paying small amounts of real money for in-game rewards) to find their way into the market. They seemed harmless to many at first, but some saw the potential danger these transactions could have on addictive personalities from the beginning. Now that these practices have made their way into traditional console games, they’re garnering more negative attention and are even being accused of encouraging child gambling.
Like any medium, mobile gaming can be used to extract profits at the detriment of the consumer, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Surely the greatest minds in the best mobile app design can strike a compromise between profitability and the exciting potential of the early mobile market, and this is where ultimate innovation comes into play.
Augmented Reality Games (AR)
Virtual Reality is still in its infant stages, and it is currently too expensive for many average gamers. Thankfully, Augmented Reality is available to essentially anyone who wishes to engage, and it continues to be built upon. One of the earliest examples of AR can be traced to Niantic’s game Ingress. This was a niche game that was often compared to Capture the Flag. It essentially presented players with a map of their surrounding area with points of interest on the screen. Players would then travel to these locations in the real world to complete missions and advance in the game. While it did develop a solid fanbase, it would be nothing compared to Niantic’s next AR adventure.
Pokémon GO should need no introduction. This game has been an absolute social phenomenon that allowed players to experience the childhood dream of actually going outside and catching Pokémon. The game basically uses the phone’s camera to take a video of the surrounding world, and classic Pokémon characters are projected on the image to catch. There’s more depth to it than that, of course, but the game is a fantastic example of AR’s potential to change how we use mobile devices to interact with the world on socializing. It’s also been praised for its fair use of microtransactions, proving that it’s possible to create a wildly successful mobile experience without taking advantage of players.
Up until now, the eSports scene has been dominated by PC and console gaming, but it looks like many are anticipating mobile platforms to take the spotlight in the near future. Mobile devices are improving their performance at a rate that other devices can’t match. Couple that with the fact that many competitive games are now being tailored to play on mobile, it’s not hard to see why this seems like a safe bet.
Mobile is also becoming a more tempting platform for developers in general. Since phones are so much more widespread than other devices now, it’s not hard to imagine developers of competitive games wanting to embrace the market more. This would also be good for the eSports business as a whole, as greater inclusion of a new platform means more fans tuning in.
Respect for the casual player
Now that mobile gaming has started to shake off the stigma once associated with “pay to win” practices or forcing players’ progress to a halt until they pay up, they’ll need to keep the goodwill flowing. Popular mobile games like Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes and Hearthstone have successfully adopted free-to-play (or some call it “free to start”) models. This allows users to play a basic version of the game for free before the option of buying more content if they like the game enough to invest. Developers will need to think carefully moving forward about how they can make their games profitable without being accused of taking advantage of their player base.
Mobile games are certainly in a position to reclaim their former glory. Here’s hoping they manage it.