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Our New Mobile Overlords


Mobile Gaming is new, portable, bite-sized, cheap and easily accessible.

Of course gamers hate it.

Whether you like it or not, mobile gaming is here and it is going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

If history is any indication, this is to be expected. Every time the barriers of entry into the world of gaming are lowered, or a new console gets announced, there is a combination of brief excitement and cautious optimism followed the inevitable, immediate backlash from many who believe themselves firmly entrenched in the “gaming scene.” Every console generation has its war between systems (if you’re still arguing about the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, though, just stop – seriously), new innovations are treated as jokes (although we were totally right about the Nintendo U-Force) and predictions are wildly made about what the new technology can and will do. Then there are the computer gamers who twiddle their thumbs and wait for consoles to catch up to their superior builds and grumble about getting inferior ports of console games (which admittedly has some merit). Then, there are the handheld gamers who have long made do with less powerful machines and have traditionally preferred shorter playtimes. There have also been periods of waxing and waning public interest for all these traditional platforms for the past 30 years, but this is the first time a new challenger has threatened to impede on all platforms of gaming and *gasp* perhaps get new people into playing videogames.

Enter: mobile gaming. Whether you like it or not, mobile gaming is here and it is going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Many of us do not really see the appeal of iPhone games, or even owning an iPad when we could spend hundreds of hours in Tamriel or Azeroth and shooting our friends in a game of Call of Duty or Battlefield on our massive monitors and even bigger televisions, but there are a ton of people out there who do. The fact is that the people who see the appeal are right to do so.

The fact of the matter is that portability and instant gratification are the name of the game today. We want what we want and we want it delivered right now! There is no better example of that kind of cultural shift in thinking than the smart phone. Able to access the internet at the push of a button and resting right in our pockets nearly every waking hour of the day, the smart phone is many people’s most important possession for maintaining a connection with the rest of the world. Whether a person wants to update Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, find directions, listen to music, or set an alarm clock – we now have one device that can take care of all of that and it fits in our pocket as the ultimate utilitarian tech device. It’s only natural that because we spend so much time with our phones, we are going to want to play games on them – and that’s where the problem starts.

Cellphone applications barely existed five years ago. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that people thought the idea of sending a text message from your phone was a stupid idea when you can use a phone to, you know, actually talk to people.

To go from next to no knowledge of programming for phones to what we can do on them today should be celebrated, but there are still some very rough patches out there.

First of all, the huge popularity of the market has led to some developers doing their best to attempt to inject the market with whatever product they can as quickly as possible. Open up the iPad or iPhone App Store and you will find tons of sketchy-looking and sketchier playing games for low prices. The analog analog (Yes, I meant to do that. Wordplay!) would be walking into GameStop and trying to find the good games in the Wii section. With a platform that’s immensely popular and the barriers of entry to get a product onto the virtual shelves relatively low, there are going to be plenty of people who try to sucker the public and their desire for entertainment.

It’s silly and stupid to judge a platform just because a lot of mediocrity is found (and sometimes enjoyed) along with the good stuff.

To make matters worse, not only are there countless completely terrible games available for mobile gamers but there are outright thefts of other games designed to trick potential customers into thinking that the game being offered is the real thing. This has happened with Ironhide Game Studio’s Kingdom Rush and Wolfire Games’ Lugaru; even an 18-year-old’s first game, One and One Story, had its Flash code stolen and reposted to the App Store by a pirate. There are dozens and dozens more examples of this kind of brazen behavior. In fact, the easily most recognizable mobile game, Angry Birds, has been accused of copying its game mechanics from Crush the Castle.

Not all is lost. All it takes is being scammed a few times by buying terrible games for a person to realize that maybe it’s worthwhile to do a bit of research. Providing reviews and highlighting decent, worthy games will help separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s not a complete no-man’s-land; there are good apps out there. In fact, there are even some that push the limits of the technology on which they run and look damn good doing so.

There will always be shovelware and bad games regardless of the platform. Just imagine if everybody judged PC gaming based off Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing or the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis because of Shaq-Fu. It’s silly and stupid to judge a platform just because a lot of mediocrity is found (and sometimes enjoyed) along with the good stuff. Would you judge all of music because Nickelback is famous and the Insane Clown Posse has a following? I mean, I would, but a decent, rational human being shouldn’t.

By now, the astute reader probably has noticed that I have been mostly silent regarding what are perceived to be the biggest competitors to mobile gaming: the Vita and 3DS. Many wonder what the point of using a mobile device to play games when they already own a PSP, DS, 3DS, or Vita. The iPad has sold more than 55 million units (as of December 31, 2011 – so that’s not even counting this year and the record 3 million iPads sold over the first weekend the iPad 3 was available) units and iPhone alone has sold more than 250 million units (as of Q1 2012). That’s not even getting into the other platforms that can be tapped for the mobile market. The DS did well, selling 151 million units and the PSP sold a respectable 71 million, but those are being phased out and their replacements, while doing well enough, are not going to reach the levels of iOS capable platforms. Couple that with the costs to develop for the traditional hand-held console compared to mobile devices and the staggeringly high user-base already embedded in the iOS system, and you can see which way the wind may be blowing.
Right now, it might make some sense to ridicule mobile gaming and its glut of poorly crafted games with wonky controls. Give it time, however, and some developers willing to truly make more “killer apps” that utilize the platform in a way that works best for it.

Why don’t you open your heart to our new mobile overlords? Resistance is futile.

This article was written by Joe Riska who writes for HalloweenCostumes.com, a company that carries everything from zombie costumes to food costumes.

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