Are Mobile Games Shackling Players?

Lots of people play on the go. When you have a phone capable of playing games like Fortnite, who wouldn’t? The thing is, the mobile experiences aren’t what they could and should be. Rather, specific elements of some of these these games keep holding players back and keeping them from standing alongside standard handheld and console games. It is all about how they keep us shackled and from enjoying the full game experience. These games hold back gameplay, trickling things out, with obnoxious stamina systems.

One of the great things about standard gaming sessions that take place on a console, handheld, or computer is that there are no limitations. Unless you put some sort of parental lock on, you can play as much or as little as you would like. The minimum amount of time I spend on my Switch, for example, is a half hour. But with mobile games, companies put these stamina caps in that can lock folks to 10 or 15 minutes sometimes, restricting how much you are able to do or achieve.

The reasons for this are simple. With a stamina system, the developer can control people’s access and actions in a free-to-play game. They can charge for refills, which gives them more money. They can adjust difficulty of quests, to force you to grind more often or waste stamina trying to accomplish impossible goals. They can gauge the length of play sessions and maximize the number of ads you see accordingly. Basically, they can do a lot of things that will frustrate you and ideally make more money for them.

But having these stamina systems does more harm than good. You want people to be playing your games as much as possible. Especially if they are free. Having things doled out in bits and pieces makes it more difficult to justifying going back. I’m not going to pay an additional $1 per minute just to keep going in some mobile game that I will probably not still be playing three months from now, let alone remember. And if you have a stamina system in place while also still allowing ads to pop up, well, that just makes it even worse. 

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Let’s use Pokemon Quest as another example. This is a Switch and mobile game from Game Freak, Nintendo, and The Pokemon Company. If you do not pay or wait an extended period of time to collect tickets to buy a statue that increases your charge, you only have five stamina at a time. That means you can only send Pokemon on five missions, each one lasting maybe two minutes at most, until you need to put the game down and step away for at least an hour. In this instance, we do not have ads to worry about, but we do have an option to pay $29.99 for a bundle of add-ons that increases that number of battery charges by three, meaning you can have eight expeditions before you’re exhausted! Still, people are shackled.

We want to enjoy and respect mobile games. Some of them have a lot of potential! But as long as companies have restrictive stamina systems, they will never be on the same level as console, handheld, and PC games. Having these artificial limitations will only frustrate people and hold them back. It is a shame that people can’t turn to other, more plausible ways to direct gameplay and earn revenue, and one can only hope that eventually developers will realize restrictions only turn people off.

Jenni Lada
Jenni Lada

Writing Team
Date: 06/05/2018

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