The killer of handheld gaming has no fangs

I admit, the title is misleading, but it works for the post. For a long time now I’ve been told that the mobile gaming is the killer of consoles and that all the handheld consoles will die out because mobile (phone) gaming makes so much money. Well, as I’ve previously discussed, the data isn’t there and this time I’m going to talk about personal experiences with mobile games now that I had to upgrade from an old Nokia to an Android smartie.

The thing is, this post may again be an old record playing the same song. The mobile game market is not in the same category as handheld console gaming. I would argue that this stems from three points; controls, physicality and devices themselves.

The controls of a mobile device, be a pad or a smart phone, are dependant on the screen. This is something that can be gotten around with external controllers, but native games can’t be designed this in mind to a large extent. Games have to use the screen as the main input device anyway, and that creates its own difficulties. Your hand and finger will always be in the way when you use the device to some extent, accuracy is always a question and there’s only so many variations you can do with them. Most games are about tapping or swiping, or are menu driven. Sometimes even combining all of them to some extent. These are limited by the amount of inputs a screen can recognize, which mostly is two in modern devices. Some devices can recognize more, but you if you want maximum user count, you’d optimally design the game to use the lowest mainstream setting to some extent. Let’s not forget that they need to be intuitive, fast to learn and simple.

The whole physical thing is really an extension of lack of separate controllers. Physical button that gives you a feedback when pressed always trumps over an image of a button that reacts visually to your finger. Eye-hand coordination works here just fine, especially if there’s a sound effect to go with. Some applications will also make the phone rumble, but even with that something always feels off. You’re not all that sure if the button was pressed or if the application registered the press until you see some of results on the screen. Everything happens on the screen and outside rumble there is no other option to physically interact with the software to any degree, outside hard resetting when a game locks your whole phone down. Don’t underestimate the power of touching something real. That’s why people buy statues of their waifus.

The third bit is the device themselves. Mobile phones are not dedicated gaming devices and function more like the classic palm computers would. By that extension, the games on smart phones follows the same natural pattern as Flash games do. The only difference is that some Flash games can be controlled with your keyboard, not just with your mouse. The devices themselves lend themselves for gaming, but they are not even the secondary function. Despite modern phones being shit for calling because of their boring slate design and wide as fuck screens, calling is their main idea.

Apps being compared to Flash games isn’t anything negative. It’s just natural. Seeing people still spend numerous hours playing browser games on Facebook and elsewhere, they’re no laughing matter. Sure, the golden age of Flash games and videos are long gone and that certain kind of nearly majestic freedom to do whatever you wanted can’t be realized any more thanks to certain sites pandering to the loud minorities rather than to their userbase and brand.

All that taken into account, a game like Monster Hunter would simply not work on a mobile device. It does not have the input options to work within the game’s design, and changing the game to fit the hardware of a phone would completely revise its gameplay. The same goes the other way as well, despite modern handheld consoles could house the touch controls and all. The content in mobile games rarely manages to stand up to similar level game on a handheld device. Granblue Fantasy, probably the most popular RPG on mobile devices, is ultimately very lacklustre in how much the player plays it. The game’s completely menu driven and story bits are delivered in Visual Novel style. The only actual gameplay is turn-based fighting, which compared to something like Bravely Default falls short in direct comparison between the titles.

However, that sort of comparison would be like comparing to apples to sausages. Sure, both are edibles, but compete in a different fields. The same difference exists between handheld and mobile gaming. I can see myself keep playing mobile games here and there, they’re a good time sink to kill a minute or two. However, when I need to kill more time on the go, like on a train or on the way to the hospital, I’d rather bust out a Vita or something to play something that can deliver a bit more than just few minutes of gameplay. However, the nature of these games are not in the same field as arcade games, despite them sounding like that. Arcade games were their own thing again, something you had to dedicate a coin or two for with some time. For a mobile game, all you really need to dedicate is some finger tapping and you’re golden. In essence, mobile gaming is computer gaming on the go with the closest thing being Flash games.

None of these are a blemish or a negative comment on mobile gaming. It’s just the nature of the beast. It’s no wonder not many apps can stand out from the app stores to any degree. The same applies to games and software on desktop computers. There are more software lost to time than what you can find archived or on sale.

The tales of mobile gaming killing handheld consoles are largely exaggerated.

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