Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On The Go: Mobile Gaming

Right now, I'm waiting for my chest to unlock in a game called "Clash Royale," which involves you creating a "deck" to battle opponents and protect your castles from invasion in a span of 2-4 minutes. It's a mobile game (for smart phones/devices only) that goes with the "Free to Play" platform; meaning, you can completely and totally play this game for free, but they offer in game purchases to help speed up progress.  These purchases can range from $1 to $100, depending on how fast you want to progress.

So, for the chest I'm currently waiting on, which takes a total of 3 hours to unlock by the way, I could instead spend the in game currency of gems to unlock it instantly, which starts at 18 gems.  A bundle of 80 gems is only a buck, but you'll find that you can blow through gems rapidly since chests drop after each of your wins against other players.

Now, I'm not a fan of the "Free to Play" platform based on the words used to describe it.  "Free to Play" should mean exactly that; no costs, no fees, no penalties for not spending money, etc.  I would much rather a game be forthcoming on how much it'd like for me to spend and ask outright.  I understand that this is a tactic used to gain more money over the course of time, but still, I feel that a company should either put a price tag on their game up front or relabel it as "Free to Start."

Unfortunately, there are a slew of games for Android and iOS devices that follow this format.  Some are incredibly frustrating and unwelcoming to newcomers, in my opinion, such as the big brother the Clash Royale, Clash of Clans.  If you're just starting out, you can easily find yourself getting ransacked by bigger and tougher players...the in game ranking works in such a way that a player that has made a lot of upgrades to his characters/weapons can drop down to lower levels, making his potential attackers & defenders more easy to handle.  That's just one I'm very familiar with; looking through the main page and top pics sections on either market you'll find that every other game is that way.

I'm sure that this is not a big issue for most casual gamers, which is the intended market for these games.  They're made with little more in mind that to occupy a few minutes of your time and to try and grab a couple bucks here and there.  Sadly, there are few games that cater to someone like me; I want to play games on the go and take up an hour or more (especially when I'm waiting in a line somewhere...double especially at the DMV.) There are several that fit the bill, such as Five Nights at Freddy's, Final Fantasy (pick a number,), and Shadowrun Returns, but options are, for the most part, limited.

What I would like to see is an app market on both Android and iOS that embrace gamers such as myself.  I currently own a Nintendo 3DS and play a horde of games that require more than 5 minutes of your time (Pokemon is an obsession of mine, as well as Monster Hunter, Zelda, and Super Mario Bros 3.)  These types of games are challenging, offer tons of replay-ability, and, in some cases, are very enjoyable to play with a group of friends.

I propose that the mobile gaming market take some time and learn the successes of mobile game systems such as the 3DS and PS Vita.  There's obviously a market for it, otherwise people like me wouldn't be sold on buying a $200 console to carry around in addition to the cellular device I can't function without.  To continue to grow, and to stay competitive, the mobile game market needs to cater to core gamers and offer up new and in depth experiences.  Now, I know that's dependent on the developers and not Google (Android) or Apple (iOS,) but I think they could nudge things in the right direction (maybe drop a few subtle hints at the next conference, Apple?)

I'd personally would like to see not just games that appeal to core gamers, but some hardware and accessories to go with it.  Right now, I have an off brand controller that works via Bluetooth to play mobile shooters (Shadow Gun is pretty sweet...if you have the time, I suggest you give it a try!)  but it doesn't quite feel's not as comfortable as, say, a PS4 or Xbox One controller, and I can definitely tell that the device is made from cheap parts; at times, I think that I'm going to break a button from normal operation.   My dream would be for Google to make a Nexus 7 that comes with a great controller...imagine if Asus or Motorola were to handle that!  From my experience, they have the chops to make that a reality.

I would ditch my 3DS altogether if I could have a rich experience on my Android device as I do on my 3DS.  With the current treads in gaming, though, it seems that my 3DS is getting games that are similar in appeal as mobile games, which I don't want to see at all.  If anything, Nintendo should stick to its old strategy and just make solid, quality games that are exclusive to their platforms and continue to drive their sales.  If, however, Nintendo wants to get away from making mobile hardware and go straight to mobile gaming for Android and iOS, I know a guy that has a few good ideas that could set them apart from the competition!

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