Video Game Foresight - The Portable Problem

Video Game Foresight - The Portable Problem

Cell phones are wonderful devices. They allow us to keep in contact with people even while sitting in the car or sipping coffee at the local Starbucks. They also let us do all sorts of crazy things nowadays like map our locations via GPS, get the weather forecast, check our email, and even play video games.

In fact, the mobile phone video game market has been a booming success, and has helped introduce gaming to more casual players. You need look no further than Angry Birds for an example of how well games can do by catering to the casual folks out there.

While this new market has been a great way for tiny one-dollar games to flourish, what does it mean for the triple-A megahits? Mike Capps of Epic Games is a bit nervous, actually. Recently, he made this comment: "I'm more worried that you can get a really good 99 cent game that occupies you for hours and hours on end and how that impacts $60 SKUs." It's a fair point, I suppose. If you can satisfy all your gaming needs for a dollar at a time, why would you pay $60 for a single game?

Video Game Foresight - The Portable Problem

This might not be something we have to worry about at this point in time, but Capps went on to say, "But I do worry about what it means for the next generation of console games. Are people really going to want to spend $60 on a game?... It's not a sustainable business model. I'm not sure how it all ends up."

Someday—and someday soon—triple-A developers are going to have to deal with the fact that their products cost 60 times the amount of similar products found elsewhere.

However, I think this overlooks one important facet of the argument: Mobile games simply cannot do what console games can. For example, the hardware in a mobile phone cannot keep up with that of a console. You can't cram the crisp HD visuals of Final Fantasy XIII or the massive open world of Red Dead Redemption into a phone.

Sure, technology is rapidly advancing, and perhaps someday phones will be able to run the next Call of Duty game without a hitch. But one major problem still remains: Call of Duty games are ridiculously expensive to produce. You simply won't be able to buy Modern Warfare 3 for 99 cents on your cell phone, even if the technology exists to do so. It's just too expensive to produce.

Besides, triple-A games provide experiences that mobile games will never be able to. These are the cinematic experiences you want to enjoy on a 48" HD TV with surround sound, not something you'll want to kill time with while in line at the supermarket.

And there's another thing you won't get on your cell phone: twin sticks. Until someone installs twin sticks on a phone, the console control scheme is going to reign supreme. Take the Xperia Play as an example. This is a phone that's attempting to mimic the twin-sticks format with circle touchpads instead of analog sticks. I actually got to try out the Xperia Play at E3, and I felt it was a fairly lackluster experience. The circle pads just lack the precision and the tactile response that we gamers expect from our controllers.

There is actually a joystick that you can suction onto your iPad so you can have that tactile response while gaming on your mobile devices, but honestly, is this something that's going to replace the beloved twin sticks on our DualShocks or our 360 controllers? I mean, it's a suction cup, for crying out loud.

The hardcore gamer knows which games provide meaningful experiences. We won't be swayed away from Battlefield 3 or Uncharted 3 or Skyrim by Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja.

However, the more clever studios are going to realize the potential of this mobile market. For example, Naughty Dog could make a 2D side-scroller Uncharted game in the tradition of Pitfall for the Genesis, selling it for a dollar or even giving it away for free. Those who get through the game would unlock exclusive bonuses in the next Uncharted game. This has the potential to draw the mobile crowd into the world of Uncharted. Who knows, you might even make some hardcore converts. However, this formula—the mobile game as advertisement for the bigger games—relies on the quality of the product. If the Uncharted side-scroller in the above example wasn't a satisfying gaming experience on its own, it would simply fail to draw people in.

Video Game Foresight - The Portable Problem

My prediction: The mobile market is a rapidly growing market, yet is simply a different world than that of the triple-A games.

Sure, even the most hardcore of gamers sometimes give into the seductive voice of mobile games—I'm a sucker for Red Remover, myself—but these games can't provide the types of experiences triple-A games can. We just keep going back to the $60 console games.

When you invent a phone that comes with a 48" HD screen, a massive hard drive, surround sound, and twin-stick controls, let me know. Until then, I will be playing real games the way they were meant to be played.

By Joshua Wirtanen
CCC Editor/Contributing Writer

*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*

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