Discussion about
sirijo

Are mobile games becoming unfashionable?

Somewhere between 2004 (release of the original DS) and 2011 (3DS) I found that my habit for mobile games had altered. I went from training Pokémon on the bus to blasting marbles around in Peggle. It was a natural shift and whilst my portable Nintendo still saw new experiences come along they came along alot less than my trusty old Gameboy Advance during its hey day.

However as time went on the things I was playing on the go seemingly became less original and I felt that every new app I tried was pushing me to fork over money to speed this up or get more of that. That's not to say that some standouts didn't make themselves apparent with Tiny Wings and Ridiculous Fishing stealing away some serious hours. However overall I found that I stopped playing games on the go.

Then I got a 3DS and suddenly I'm buying most of the major games for it (between Pokémon Y and Animal Crossing New Leaf) which means I've started putting some of my console or PC gaming time aside to bust out the little handheld alongside games of Mario Kart during lunch at the office. This is just my experience (although a couple of my friends have admitted the same) and it makes me curious: could we see mobile and handheld games swing in and out of fashion? Much like changing styles of clothes (if bowties can make a comeback then so can dedicated handheld systems) or do the majority of gamers think they will never pick up a handheld console again?

TLDR: Have people who used to play handheld games before the rise of mobile games switched back (like me) or will mobile games reign king for the foreseeable future?

sort by

17 replies
Omegaultra

In my opinion, mobile gaming is the future. If you look at the new apple A7, its ability to push graphics have already surpassed the ability of the 3ds. With majority of people owning a smartphone capable of playing advanced games and most handheld gamers especially having a smartphone capable of playing these advanced games I dont see how handhelds can compete without special features like the vita and ps4 with the streaming option which sounds good in practice (I havent tried myself). Think about the amount of people who have a smartphone vs the amount of people who have handheld systems. Yea, the audience for mobile gaming is much more vast. The only obstacle left that I see in the mobile gaming Universe is Making amazing AAA titles for mobile gaming platform like handheld games and getting gamers to fork out 40ish dollars from the get go like they would on a handheld system. When that habit is developed in the smartphone community (if it ever does) I think it will usher in the end of the handheld gaming systems for good.
4 like dislike
sirijo

Whilst I definitely agree this is the case for the majority of consumers I still wonder whether this is the case for dedicated hardcore gamers. I do think price is a barrier at this point and that handheld hardware evolves at a much slower pace but just because the latest greatest phones and tablets can produce eye watering games like Infinity Blade doesn't mean their gameplay is also on par.

Let me use Crash Bandicoot as an example. The original PS1 classic is available on the VITA through PS1 backwards compatibility and in theory (just in theory!) could be ported to the 3DS just fine. That game is infinitely more playable, can requires more fine input from the user and is ultimately more fun than practically every platformer on any of the smartphone stores (one button gameplay!).

It is my opinion there is a space for both.
2 like dislike
dave

This is something that's fascinating to look at. When you compare the relative performance gains between console generations vs mobile devices, it's crazy! The consoles are static over time (obviously -- hardware only changes once every few years) and then make huge leaps between generations. Meanwhile, mobile performance has exponential increases, constantly!

NVIDIA says that mobile graphics performance will surpass console performance sometime in 2014. That's insane. And exciting.

0 like dislike
Omegaultra

Yes looking at the graph it would appear that way but you have to also consider that it will be an inverse exponential function so it will slow down drastically as it gets closer. You also have to consider that the pc line is referring to desktop pc performance. laptop computers perform close to but definitely slower than their desktop counterparts and yes mobile chips are rapidly gaining on the laptop mobile processors. But as laptop chips will never match their desktop counterparts, mobile phone chips well never match performance of a laptop and gaming consoles roughly are along with the performance of the laptop chips around 3-4 years into their life. Thus saying in my opinion I do not believe that mobile phone chips will ever be more capable then a console in terms of a graphical situation. Who knows, maybe if graphical capabilities on a pc become exponentially greater each generation again me may see mobile chips outpace consoles. At this point in time the idea of doubling performance every few years has gone.
1 like dislike
dave

My biggest gripe with mobile gaming right now is this trend of every studio doing "free-to-play" games and then aggressively pushing IAP (in-app purchases). It takes the fun out of games and forces developers to tune a game for whales (people who spend the most amount of money) over tuning a game for fun.

That's really my biggest turn off right now for mobile games. When I see something that says "free (offer in-app purchases)," I tend to ignore it unless there are rave reviews by friends. There are some genuinely awesome mobile games out there though -- my favorite is the XCOM Enemy Unknown iOS port. You basically have the AAA console quality title available on a phone or a tablet. That's huge!

P.S. I will give all my money to someone who fully ports Civ IV or Civ V to tablet.

Disclaimer: I had a gig with a mobile gaming company in the Bay Area for a year and a half. It was a lot of fun and provided some interesting insight into how publishers and developers design mobile games.
3 like dislike
frankspin

"My biggest gripe with mobile gaming right now is this trend of every studio doing "free-to-play" games and then aggressively pushing IAP (in-app purchases)"

This really never bothered me until recently when I downloaded Tiny Death Star. I was so excited to have that game come out and build my own Bitzen driven Death Star, except it's nearly impossible to progress without spending real money. The earlier Tiny * games had a decent balance that allowed you to progress fairly far before IAP really became almost necessary to move on, but Tiny Death Star is different. The first upgrade alone is worth $25 bux which in the few hours I've played have only managed to accumulate $14 bux.
3 like dislike
slickwilli

You must pay $0.99 to unlock the rest of this post.
4 like dislike
sirijo

I definitely agree that some games can come to mobile (in the case of XCOM I haven't tried myself due to ropey reviews for iPad 2 users) but for some types of games you cannot beat analogue inputs.

With the recent controllers sdk available to iOS devs it will be very interesting to see how many hardware manufacturers and how many mobile game developers work towards growing that.
1 like dislike
dave

I'm excited for this too. You can't beat analog input for certain types of games. Both sports and FPS type games are particularly frustrating, since your hands are covering half the screen as you try and play the game with the virtual joysticks.
0 like dislike
groovechicken

I have been a big fan of portable consoles since the original GameBoy. I got hooked on Angry Birds and one of the bubble games a few years ago, but it was killing the usefulness of my phone by draining the battery and leaving me stranded. I currently have a handful of games installed on my phone, but haven't played any of them. Meanwhile, I continue to turn to my 3DS XL almost every day on my lunch break. Amongst people who call themselves gamers, I really can't see portable, dedicated consoles going away anytime soon. At least until battery technology improves to the point where we get a week per charge (a.k.a. never).
2 like dislike
Met

Which is essentially why I have an iPad; I mainly use it as a portable gaming console.
2 like dislike
sirijo

I remember watching a friend scramble to find some batteries so that we could trade Pokémon (he didn't have one of those third party battery packs at the time).
0 like dislike
frankspin

I remember scrambling to find batteries just to play through one stage of Sonic on my game gear.
1 like dislike
sirijo

But it was in color!
2 like dislike
frankspin

I don't think they're becoming unfashionable but I think there was a big lull in handheld gaming during the last generation and that just happened to be alongside a surge in smartphones. I believe now that the 3DS is in stride and the Vita is getting better understood (PS4 streaming is seriously killer), these devices will have a surge back.

I'll admit that Ridiculous Fishing, Tiny Wings, Kami, and some other games are ally enjoyable to play but they're specific to a touchscreen. I just don't see some of the popular titles on the 3DS or Vita translating over to mobile very well; and as discussed before Nintendo has no dire reason to port Pokemon or even new titles to mobile www.engadget.com­/discuss­/nintendo­-is­-doing­-just­-fi....

My desire to get into portable consoles is just the fact that I miss gaming with a controller a lot, and I just feel the titles offer a lot more connection. Sure I may knock out a few hours on my phone trying to perfect a level in Kami but there is something about getting involved in a depth of story that Nintendo or Sony can deliver. I am yet to find a game on mobile devices that can really offer any kind of depth of story as an Uncharted, Last of Us, or Bio-Shock. And while indie games are all over on mobile I just don't think many can fully stack up or deliver in the same way as they can on a PC or portable console; sidenote, Jeb alluded to the Vita getting a PC port of Minecraft and not the Pocket edition!!!

What is interesting in all this as I sit here and type this is out is where the hell is Microsoft? They arguably have one of the biggest and most popular consoles in the US, yet they aren't doing much to bridge the console to mobile beyond stuff like SmartGlass. I think the fact that Sony is coming out of the PS4 gate with Vita integration will play a huge part in the potentially dominating again if marketed correctly.
1 like dislike
sirijo

I do wonder if Microsoft looked at the handheld market and the sales difference between the DS family and the PSP one and thought 'not yet, were still fighting to be #1 in the living room'.
1 like dislike
cass

I wouldn't say that it's one or the other, I mostly play the games that are better suited for the device it's on.

I'll play a game like Plants vs Zombies on my phone because it works really well with a touchscreen. I'd never want to play a Mario or fighting game on my phone because the controls would be terrible. For games like that, I'd still pick up my 3DS.
1 like dislike