Opinion: Publishers Won’t Quit Until Mobile Gaming is Legitimate

It’s just a matter of time before mobile gaming takes over. Are you a bad enough dude to survive?

Please note: This is my opinion. But you should heed my words and know that I’m not any happier about it than you are. Publishers are hell-bent on making mobile gaming the future.

Mobile gaming—for better or worse (I’m guessing worse)—is impending. It’s the future. And we can either accept it and try to make the most of it, or we can fight it kicking and screaming, lock ourselves in our game-shelters with a years-long supply of retro cartridges and ignore the upcoming onslaught. But make no mistake. Publishers are determined to make the mobile-pocalypse real.

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When I expressed these thought on Twitter, I got bludgeoned by angry gamers. I wasn’t really surprised by the rage, but I was a little surprised by how much of it was directed at me.

Listen, ghetto fam: I don’t like it either. I can’t say I’ve ever been fully engaged in a mobile game at all. Even the times I’ve tried to play classic favorites via emulator feel gross and weird on mobile. But in an effort to make money, major game publishers are pushing their major franchises over to mobile platforms. And we all know why, right? Because kids.

Most of my readers are mature gamers. Well, I mean we’re older. Not necessarily more “mature.” I’m 37 (for now) and was raised in the old-school of gaming. I learned to play by setting aside time for games and plopping my butt down in front of a screen with a wired controller that prevented me from going too far. Back then, gaming was anything but mobile. It was stationary.

Game Boy color - mobile gaming of the past
When I was a kid this was as mobile as it got. Photo by Fezbot2000 on Unsplash.

Yeah. Most of my readers probably had that experience growing up. You sit and play, and when you’re done, you turn it off and leave. Or watch Ninja Turtles. It was a ritual for us. A rite of passage.

Kids these days (darn kids) don’t have anything close to that experience.

Today, everything is mobile (unless it’s a 30-year old hunk of plastic) and the next generation of gamers will have no attachment to that sacred ritual of gaming. They play in the car for 15 minutes. They play in line in the lunch room for 5 minutes. They come home and play for an hour. Most adult gamers I know would not be into that. Even though there’s no real reason to hold onto that gaming ritual, for many of us, the ritual itself is an integral part of the gaming experience.

Let’s look at mobile gaming from a publisher’s point of view.

In ye olden tymes, a video game made money once. No paid DLC, no loot boxes or pay-to-win. You bought a game and forced yourself to like it, even if it sucked, because you were stuck with it. Or you just rented (like me) and would try all weekend to make yourself like the game you chose and either make yourself play a crappy game all weekend, or give up and go outside to play. Either way, publishers made money off each game one time only, and then it was a mad dash to make a sequel for more money.

Today, games—and most especially mobile games—make money over and over again.

Loot boxes in mobile gaming
Everyone hates loot boxes. Except game publishers.

We all hate loot boxes and micro-transactions, and fortunately, they seem to be going out of fashion. But publishers are not lost on the fact that there is still tons of money to be made on free mobile games, whether they earn money by releasing serial content, overpriced hats and aesthetic crap for in-game characters, or other transactions they haven’t invented yet. And yeah, with so much money being made, micro-transactions will never disappear completely. They’ll always be there in one form or another, fouling up what could potentially be a fine gaming experience.

Those micro-transactions, macro-transactions, whatever publishers can dream up, are an absolute gold mine! And nobody is more down to spend your money on a free mobile game than—yep, you guessed it—your kids.

There’s no way publishers are going to leave mobile gaming alone. No way in hell. They’re making more money with free-to-play mobile games than they ever made from traditional releases. Wait and see: mobile gaming is going to be more and more prominent. Mobile gaming will be inescapable.

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And you know: where Nintendo goes, the industry follows. And even though the mobile games Mario Kart and Dr. Mario did not derail the industry like some thought, Pandora’s box is now open and holy crap, we’ve got Call of Duty, Forza, Pokemon, Gears of War, Dead Cells (soooo good!) and (for crying out loud…) Castlevania. All for your mobile device.

All of this ranting and I haven’t even gotten to the killing blow.

But then again…

I had great faith in Stadia. Remember all the publishers that signed off? Bethesda, Gearbox, Wizards of the Coast, Projekt Red, Ubisoft, THQ, Bungie, Bandai, Square Enix… All those pubs were promised at launch.

And you may not even consider Stadia a mobile platform. But it is. Stadia is the most mobile platform we’ve ever seen. And honestly, Stadia gave me hope that the mobile-gaming future is going to not suck. That much.

The biggest problem with mobile gaming has always been the style of those two-bit “games” that are little more than progressive spending platforms.

Developers have never given mobile games the same treatment they’ve given “full-release” games because they can’t. Hardware limitations, screen resolution, lack of good controllers are just a few reasons mobile games have gotten the cartoony kid-glove treatment they have. Stadia tried to remove those limitations.

With streaming gaming, your mobile device doesn’t have to be a gaming console. It’s just  a monitor. If you plug your PC into your phone and use it as a monitor, is that mobile gaming? If you plug your mobile device into a big-screen monitor and play with a controller, is that mobile gaming? Maybe. 

Streaming gaming will redefine what “mobile gaming” even means.

While Stadia was a “monumental flop“, it does not spell the end of the mobile-pocalypse. There is too much money to be made by bridging the gap between mobile and hardcore gaming. Yes, Stadia’s lack of success may very well have shown us how incredibly stubborn established gamers (the ones with dollars to spend) are, and it may well have been a rebuke against publishers trying to force mobile gaming on us. But they won’t stop.

But I believe there’s hope. I would really like to think that as developers and publishers realize that they have to take a totally different approach to mobile gaming if they want to attract mature gamers, too, they will start to make mobile games better.

That cheesy, ugly, cartoony, half-assed look that currently defines mobile gaming will improve until the line between what makes a mobile game different from a traditional game will disappear. All games, no matter how hardware-intensive will be equally mobile. They’ll all just be… video games.

Yes, mobile gaming is the future. At least, major publishers are going to try to make it so. My argument is simply this: The future might not be so bad.

Peace,

–GG

 

Written by Steven Long

Steven is a professional marketing writer, author, and hopelessly ghetto gamer. He also owns this site, so you'd better just chill.

3 comments

  1. Stadia gamer here…I do not agree that Stadia is a flop already. Given that you mentioned Castlevania SoTN, that game came out in year two of the Playstation 1 and that 1997-98 timeframe was when the Playstation started to take off. I was one of those people who bought Final Fantasy VII along with my brand new PS1 at the time. I can’t put SoTN down anymore and I already got the Android version because it’s awesome & it’s my all-time favorite PS1 game that I’m still playing even today.

    I have told people on the Stadia Reddit forum to wait until the 2021 Holidays before determining whether Stadia has succeeded or failed. Another reason to wait is the coming 5G coverage of mobiles whose download speed and upload speed would make videogame streaming viable and mobile gaming as the replacement of traditional consoles.

    Good article except for the Stadia is a monumental flop part. The Stadia app already passed 1 million downloads and I think iOS isn’t far behind if that hasn’t happened. I’m telling people that the days of traditional consoles are numbered (I’m 40 and have probably played at least as long as you have done in your lifetime).

    1. Thanks for reading. I started writing this before Stadia came out and that part was more like, “Stadia’s gonna take over the world! Watch out, nerds!” The “monumental flop” was a quote from the linked article.

      If you’ve got faith in Stadia, I’ll wait and see. I really expected it to shake up the gaming world, so I suppose it still could.

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