Why mobile gaming is broken (and how to fix it)

Why mobile gaming is broken (and how to fix it)

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I recently started downloaded and testing all the free games the App Store recommended.  After playing many of them, I began to notice a pattern.

The Problem

The problem for mobile gaming lies in the free model.  If the game is free, the developer has two choices: fill it with annoying in-app purchases and ads or provide very little content.  One of the most common models is to make everything take a long time to complete, and then provide some currency that will speed it up (crystals, anyone?).  Then the game helpfully provides a "get more crystals" option, using, of course, real money.  For instance, Createrria, by Incuvo is free, and has a relatively interesting concept.  The idea is that you can create your own games by using their numerous elements.  Then you can share your creations with the world.  The problem?  Virtually nothing is actually free.  I went in to the Create mode, where you create your own games.  After waiting for an extremely long loading time, it displayed my options.  Nearly any element, save for primitives like dirt and walls, cost "crystals".  And crystals cost, you guessed it, money.

The Cause

Why did this happen?  Before the mobile device explosion, games cost 15 to 50 dollars, and contained rich story lines and complex worlds.  So did mobile devices ruin games?  Not necessarily.  The real problem, it seems, is the App Store.  Both the App Store and Google Play store contain a mixture of all kinds of apps and games, many of them free.  Among all the free or 99 cent apps, a 15 dollar game looks expensive.  Even though that's cheap.  So developers are pushed to release games for a dollar or less, because that's what people expect.  As a result, most games come out with a very limited world, not much new gameplay, and a freemium model.  Endless runner games come to mind.

The other cause is the mobile part of mobile gaming.  A lot of times, a mobile gamer is just looking for something to do for a few minutes.  This leads to simpler games with not many changes.  But for someone looking for an actual engrossing game, many games become quickly boring.

Fixing Mobile Gaming

What can be done?  One possible solution would be to separate "Apps" from "Games".  If games were only found in, say, a Game store, then paid ones would look less out of place.  Then developers could make full mobile games, and release them for 15 to 25 dollars.

Mobile gaming is broken.  Most developers only release endless runners or weak platformers.  It can be fixed, but it will take time.  Otherwise, developers may just give up on making good games.



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