The Iniquities of Mobile Gaming
The original title for this post was to be “the unfathomable iniquities of mobile gaming”, but when you pause to think about it, it’s hardly unfathomable from the publisher’s point of view. Mobile games are primarily designed to be money syphons, swathed in a superficial veneer of interactive entertainment. If you want a contemporary example, then look no further to the newly released Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. The game capitalises on a popular franchise and quickly introduces a pay wall which hobbles those players who elect not to spend money. What I find “unfathomable” are those who do not consider this an egregious business model and are happy to sink substantial amounts of cash into this pitiful caricature of a game. Sadly, the core demographic for this and many other mobile titles, are the youth market, who therefore may not even be picking up the tab for the game. As a result, irrespective of my and other gamers disdain and subsequent boycott of mobile gaming, these sorts of products continue to be financially lucrative.
My vocal dislike for mobile games if often met with cries of “why worry about something that doesn’t affect you”, which on a superficial level seems like a legitimate question. Well the answer is that games of this type are monopolising the mobile market, stifling innovation and normalising abhorrent business practises. Again because of the age group of core mobile gaming customers, an entire generation of gamers are growing up in an environment where game play is regularly disrupted by pay restrictions. Normalising such practises is dangerous. 2017 saw the console and PC game market try to adopt similar business practises with games such as Middle-earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars: Battlefront II. Mercifully, the consumer push back was sufficient to stall these initiatives but the cultural shift towards “live services” that Ubisoft and other developers frequently reference, shows that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I don’t expect the likes of EA to give up so easily on the dream of bringing the mobile gaming business model to the console and PC market.
In 2016, the mobile gaming market was estimated to have taken $38 billion in revenues, compared to $6 billion for the console market and $33 billion for personal computing gaming. By 2017 the mobile gaming market increased to $46 billion. It’s a market with a broad spectrum of quality. Mobile gaming at it’s best can be as engaging and creative as other platforms. The inherent restrictions of the platform often mean that developers have to think outside the box. Yet a precedence has now been set early on as to how these game finance themselves. In a very short space of time this has gone from being an aspect of game development, to its very foundation with game mechanics being driven by the business model. I argued in a recent blog post that the very definition of a “game” needs to be redefined to encompass the variety of genres and the various different approaches to playing them. However, this evolving perception of exactly what is a game is equally open to negative factors. Hence if we are not robust and vocal in our opposition to the iniquities of mobile gaming, they will simply become the norm for all platforms.