(GOML is merely an opinion piece on whatever the subject may be. It’s an excuse to feel like an old man and yell at the clouds.)
Now, I’ve been playing video games for quite awhile now. One might even say that I’m a “gamer”. So, I was pretty excited back in 2008 when the App Store opened and we were given the ability to play video games on our phones. Sure, I played games like Snake and Pong on my old Nokia, but these were REAL games that you could play!
The first year or so of the App Store was mostly tilt-based games and gimmicks to show off some of the abilities that the iPhone had. They were cool, but still weren’t anything for core gamers. Then around 2010-ish, things started changing. The iPhone 4 and even the 4th generation iPod Touch released. This brought us faster processors and better displays. These devices actually had the power to play something more than just flash games.
This was what I tend to refer to as “The Good Old Days” of the App Store a lot of times. Especially when I’m ranting (like this). This is when we saw dozens of solid mobile titles releasing on the App Store every week and sometimes everyday! Games from companies like Gameloft, Chillingo, Donut Games, Miniclip, Cave, Spacetime Studios, Gamerizon, Pocket Gems, PolarBit, and a bunch more. Even the big dogs were getting in on the action like, EA, id Software, Square Enix, Capcom, etc. The App Store was becoming a place where smaller developers could actually compete with these big Triple-A companies. We were even seeing tons of ports of retro games from consoles of the past coming out.
Gamers were in heaven at this time with every type of game being thrown at them on a daily basis. I remember being glued to sites like TouchArcade and checking the forums every hour to see what was coming out. We would see games release in New Zealand on Wednesday night and I would stay up until 11pm-midnight even though I had to get up early for work, just to download the games when some of them hit the US App Store. And the games were fairly cheap too! Most games were in the $0.99 to $2.99 range. I remember spending 20-30 dollars a week and totally happy with it. Yea, I had WAY more games that I actually had time for, but I never regretted any of it.
Then it happened…………
F2P (free to play) games started creeping onto the App Store. I’m not sure what year it was or what were the first games that started the trend. I think it may have all stemmed from Facebook. There were a ton of browser games going on at that time that were a hit. For me, it was a game called, Gun Bros. by Glu Mobile. It was a top-down shooter that I absolutely loved at the time and had a currency called “Bro Bux” or something like that. It was the only game that suckered me into buying consumable IAPs (in-app purchases).
For a little while, things were ok. Gamers still had a ton of games coming out with only a handful of F2P games being sprinkled in here and there. Eventually, word got around that these F2P developers/publishers were making a killing on their games and eventually companies started changing over. This is when things started getting ugly. You had these bigger companies like EA starting to buy out smaller developers like Chillingo and PopCap. Then we had bigger mobile studios like Gameloft announcing that they were going completely F2P. This is when a lot of the core mobile gamers left.
Since then, mobile games have become almost a joke with the core audience. And they aren’t entirely wrong. Mobile games have become financial spreadsheets with a pretty skin over it. A lot of these games are made with the monetization part first and the actual gameplay later. There’s TED Talks, Power Points, etc. online that show developers/publishers how to milk the customer out of as much money as they can. It’s about player retention. Keeping the player coming back as much as possible. Learning the player’s age, gender, habits and even selling all that juicy info to other companies. It’s honestly sad to see.
Now, I’m not completely against F2P. I think it can be done in a FAIR way. Especially when developers put out a “lite version” of a game. But, FAIR doesn’t seem to be the case in a lot of mobile games. Take right now for instance. F2P is still alive and well, but apparently milking the player for IAPs wasn’t enough. Now, we have subscriptions. A way for developers/publishers to to get even more money out of the player. It’s not like the IAPs and ads went away. These subscriptions were ADDED to an already greedy pay mechanic. And I’m not talking the Apple Arcades and GameClubs. Those subscriptions are actually giving a fair service to the customer. I’m talking the in-game subscriptions.
I go through the App Store every single day and it’s frustrating to see what it has become. Everyone is chasing the exact same thing. If a certain game does well, the next week you’ll see hundreds of the exact same type of game releasing. Like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans clones. Then Fortnite and PUBG got big, so everyone started putting out Battle Royale games. Kids started playing hyper-casual games, now everything is hyper-casual. Everyone trying to jump on whatever trend is popular at the moment. So, most of the time I’m usually searching through hundreds of the exact type of games in the hopes of finding something worth putting in the SNAPP Roundup.
The reason most of these games get big is because there is something unique about them. Something the player hasn’t seen before. And most of all, the game is fun. Somewhere we lost our way. Now, mobile games are made with the almighty dollar in mind and not the user’s experience. And of course this doesn’t go for the entire industry, but it’s a big portion of it. Look at the front page of the App Store right now. The games that are getting the most exposure are the same handful of F2P games that are already raking in millions. We are force fed the same shit week after week. It’s impossible for the player to find something outside of a chosen couple dozen games and even worse for the small developer that’s trying to get their game noticed.
With F2P games and subscriptions not looking like they are going anywhere anytime soon, I can only thank the developers/publishers that still make games with the player in mind. Core mobile gaming may not be like it used to be, but it’s not dead. We still have developers like Colin Lane, Quantum Sheep, AD Game Studio, NooSkewl, FJ Games, Oddrok, Tobias Örnberg, ChinyKain, Orange Pixel, and tons more that are making games for the love of the industry. And we still have bigger publishers like Devolver Digital and Raw Fury still willing to put paid games on mobile. So, make sure to support the developers and publishers that aren’t trying to pick our pockets for everything we have. And make sure to support the websites and YouTubers that showcase these games (Should I put the Patreon link here?) and are trying to keep core mobile gaming alive. AAAARRRGGG! GET OFF MY DAMN LAWN!!