Tobold's Blog
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Mobile games growing up

The #1 on the iOS app charts this week is Fortnite, despite the fact that the game only runs if you got an invite from Epic. The pull is that except for the control scheme the game is equivalent to the PC / console version. Likewise Civilization VI exists in a mobile version equivalent to the PC game, and Final Fantasy XV on mobile is also rather close to the console version. Meanwhile PC and console games are getting closer to mobile standards regarding their business models, if you consider lootboxes.

There appears to be a huge demand to play AAA games on the go. It is one of the explanations frequently cited to explain the huge success of the Nintendo Switch console, in spite of obvious battery life problems of the concept. But the Nintendo Switch as a mobile device at least still has the same JoyCon controllers, which works a lot better than just a touch screen for some games. I wouldn't be surprised if we would see alternative controllers that can be connected to Android and iOS mobile gaming platforms in the future.

There are still some issues to resolve on the way. Civilization VI is $60 on Steam, but there are various deals to get it much cheaper; I personally paid $12 as part of a Humble Bundle Monthly. On iOS Civilization VI costs $65, and the best deal ever was the introductory half price. With the PC version having more options in the form of DLC, as well as user-made mods from the Steam Workshop, paying more for the somewhat less mobile version doesn't look attractive. Final Fantasy XV is better, the Steam version costs $50, while the "pocket" mobile version is $20, and you can try for free or just buy some of the chapters if you want. As much as people might like the idea of mobile AAA games, the full price of a console game is very high compared to the usual price level of mobile games.

However the main attraction of high-priced AAA games is that they tend to be "pay once, play forever". Some companies believe that when porting games to a mobile platform, they should rather use the business models of mobile games, sometimes to a rather exploitative extent. The Sims Mobile is only playable in short bursts, until you run out of energy; then you either need to wait for hours for the energy to restore itself, or spend real money to advance with prices that make the highly expensive The Sims DLC look cheap (The Sims 4 isn't on Steam. The Sims 3 from 2009 is, and still has $550 worth of DLCs listed.)

Part of the reason that mobile platforms are catching up to the PC is that the period of fast development of PC graphics appears to be over. My 3-year old graphics card (Geforce GTX 970) in my 4-year old computer is still playing every game at good frame rates. I used to have to change PCs every 2 years to keep up. And as Final Fantasy XV pocket edition shows, you can downgrade graphics for mobile platforms and customers won't care all that much, as long as the gameplay is good.

In summary, I do believe that there is a trend towards more AAA games on mobile platforms. And as long as that happens at reasonable prices, I'm all for it.

In most aspects of life, despite being close to sixty years old, I consider myself to be averagely up to date. The glaring exception is mobile gaming. I don't realy get it, particularly when the platform is a phone. I can always think of so many more interesting and absorbing ways to spend my time when I'm out of the house than to stare at a 5" screen and poke some tiny buttons. Then, I think, it's probably that I'm not really all that interested in games to begin with. RPGs always seemed to me to be an extension of my lifelong habit of reading rather than anything related to the concepts I associate with "games".

Perhaps I need to seek out mobile games based around the written word...
Couple of points:

1. You may have missed the fact that Humble have a special offer for Humble Monthly subscribers of 67% off Civ Vi DLC until 19th March. You should have gotten an email about it.

2. Given that mobile devices are becoming powerful enough to play full price AAA games I wonder if this will squeeze consoles out of the market. The Switch is a hit because it offers console power in a mobile device but if an IPAD does the same thing why do you need a console?
PC gaming is probably less at risk in the short term because of the enthusiast nature of PC gaming at least until PCs themselves become extinct.
@mbp: No I didn't miss the Civ VI DLC, got the four DLC for a bit over €9. Now I'm just waiting for Humble Bundle to have a special offer for Rise and Fall. :)
Bluetooth joy vond for Android and apple? Sign me up.

Two hundred million people play one mobile game in a month. Isn't that more than play all Western PC Games?

While on-the-go is certainly an appeal, IMO another draw is that a declining minority of gamers in the world own a PC. (/rant and at times it feels like none of them have up-to-date drivers and DLLs.)

"the main attraction of high-priced AAA games is that they tend to be "pay once, play forever" is more the appeal/marketing rather than the reality. I.e. the gaming companies talk about 25%-75% revenue described with some euphamism like recurring or microtransaction. So when gamers refer to full-priced games, the $60 is not the full price, $60 is the MSRP; the typical customer spends closer to $100.

"Ubisoft's 'player recurring investment' revenues outpace digital game sales"

TakeTwo: "“We've said that we aim to have recurrent consumer spending opportunities for every title that we put out at this company. It may not always be an online model, it probably won't always be a virtual currency model, but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board," Zelnick said"

Interesting point about graphics cards. I know new, powerful cards are out and always improving, but I also haven't seen much about them being developed for. Possibly due to cost, inflated by the demand from crypto-miners?

Either way, I've also got a 970 - my first Nvidia in over a decade - that's at least four years old, and together with a crazy amount of RAM, it's also carrying my significantly weaker CPU over the line for most new games that I theoretically shouldn't be able to run, let alone run on high.
You do see Steam users complaining that games on Steam are converted from mobile. This is often a complaint about graphics rather than pricing models. (Personally I find the PC experience much more comfortable - I don't mind if the graphics are mobile standard.)
While I am now on the verge of buying a new PC, I managed to use my old one for everything I've wanted to play for something like 8 years. I'm glad that hardware has seemingly plateaued, paying $1200 for a new rig every 2 years was a completely absurd requirement. Even now, the new systems I'm looking at are sub $1000.

On mobile gaming, gaming on my phone made very little sense to me until Pokemon Go. Visiting imaginary places and creatures out in your neighborhood is really neat. It's honestly the first gaming experience that felt well and truly new to me since my first MMO. Judged purely as a game it's pretty simple and repetitive. But the way it tricks you into processing the world around you differently is really interesting.
I am sorry but I can't find the appeal of most mobile games when they've got a counterpart on my PC. Playing (any) videogame on my 24" with keyboard, mouse and great audio goes beyond anything else. Fortnite needs to be played on a big screen with decent controls in my opinion.
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