Why is it that, while sitting precariously on the cusp of the most advanced generation of console gaming ever seen, developers have suddenly chosen to return to the gaming stone age and invest in mobile gaming? Of course, I’m not talking about mobile hits like Angry Birds or Temple Runner. No, I’m dumbstruck by far bigger names. Ubisoft recently announced a mobile Prince of Persia title; the next Halo game, Spartan Assault, is going to be on iOS and Android; and even Battlefield 4 makes use of tablet and phone functionality in the most extraneous manner possible. The Wii U has been out for months, and the PS4 and Xbox One are only months away, so why haven’t developers caught on that mobile is a waste of time?
Allow me to rephrase that. Holistically speaking, mobile gaming is immensely profitable and an effective method of distributing games to the masses. That being said, why are name-brand franchises like Halo and Prince of Persia being tarnished by mobile releases? Surely, Ubisoft and Vanguard Games don’t expect fans of the core series to jump on their tablets and smartphones after pining away to get their hands on Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame or Halo: Spartan Assault.
All of this is to say nothing of Battlefield’s situation. DICE’s E3 2013 presentation announced the celebrated return of the series’ fan-favorite Commander mode, and with it, the news that many of the mode’s functions will be accessible via tablet. Their BF4 showcase even included a live demonstration of one player interacting with their squadron via tablet—in this case, ordering and targeting an airstrike. That’s all well and good, but seriously, who wants to do nothing but call in airstrikes while their friends are shooting it up on the biggest battlefields the series has yet seen?
Quite frankly, I find all of this absolutely ridiculous, if not outright disparaging. The simplicity and limitations inherent in mobile developing confine the platform to an aptly named casual audience simply because no core-gamers—the fans that follow and love the full-fledged console and PC releases—give a crap about mobile gaming. Although console/handheld ports are a different and somewhat more credible manner, pure mobile releases are inarguably shallow. Comprised of little more than rudimentary graphics, touch-control gimmicks, and hordes upon hordes of microtransactions, the genre offers nothing in the way of marketability for triple-A series like those listed above.
Of course, not all mobile integration is innately bad. Ironically enough, Ubisoft has also demonstrated how phones and tablets can be beneficial for console games through their coming open-world title Watch¬_Dogs. Rather than impose on gamers through tedious notifications or management, ¬Watch¬_Dogs allows players to manage their own custom-made in-game missions in real-time through the game’s mobile app. This not only coincides perfectly with the technology-filled canon and story of the game, but also serves a valuable purpose and lets the game go beyond a single screen. In doing so, Ubisoft has illustrated that they understand the potential within the mobile platform and have taken the opportunity to distinguish their next-gen foray by adding a network of gamers—again, perfectly reciprocating the power of the tech network within the game—to the real world.
Meanwhile, The Shadow and the Flame is just sitting in the corner, eating paste.
I’m not asking—nor do I expect—mobile iterations of the big boys of gaming to up and vanish. I’m simply pointing out that full-blown mobile installments of popular franchises that are made solely because a franchise is popular are a complete and utter waste of resources. You know what wouldn’t be? Potential Guild or Auction House management for the Elder Scrolls Online or Destiny. Social integration will be more influential than ever on the PS4 and Xbox One; how about access to in-game messaging and downloads through a mobile app? Why not let gamers purchase digital games for their PS4 or Xbox One through their phone while they’re away? Borderlands 3 is all but inevitable; how about a Gun Lottery app that lets players beef up their in-game vault hunter on the go? I’m just grasping at straws here, but it’s clear that phones and tablets can be more useful for next-gen gaming than they are now.
Better yet, how about we stop pretending that people actually care about gimmicky mobile games and instead focus on offering useful functions in conjunction with proper releases?