Editorial: Mobile Games Are Taking Two Routes: The Console Route, And The Casual Route. No Middle Ground

Mobile gaming has gone so far in the past few years, especially this last year. There have been so many wonderful games for phones lately, and it’s truly the future of gaming. One device for calling, texting, managing business, taking photos, and playing games. It can do it all. It’s truly amazing, if you ask me, to see what developers can do on a simple phone, especially considering touch screen controls. But what direction are these games going in?

Just for now, let’s forget free-to-play or freemium models. Let’s ignore how games are sold, or even marketed. Let’s focus on how the game is made. The top few games on the Play Store are currently Minecraft, Where’s My Water, Angry Birds, Sprinkle, and such. Then there are games like Dead Trigger, Shadowgun, NOVA 3, and other console-like games.

For reference, I recently found my Gameboy Advanced SP and a bunch of GBA games. The style of games is so hugely different, it boggles my mind. The games are fairly simple, yet are challenging with varying gameplay and a lot of cool stuff. Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country are both examples of platformers with variety and simplicity, yet depth and replayability. Pokemon is an extremely simple RPG with so much depth to it.

So what’s the difference between those games and the games we have right now on our mobile devices? Well we have two style of games. One is casual, like Angry Birds. It’s simple, easy to play, but contains no depth. It’s repetitive, with different levels. Same goes for Temple Run: simple and lacking depth. A time waster for those who don’t play video games. I like both Angry Birds and Temple Run, and do play them, but they have their specific purpose. Time wasting when bored, nothing else.

The second style is full blown console-like games like Minecraft and Dead Trigger. Dead Trigger has graphics on par with some older Xbox 360 games, absolutely mind blowing. The controls are tight, the graphics are great, and the gameplay is fun and deep. Amazing game. Same goes for Minecraft. It’s deep, the possibilities are endless, and it literally came straight from the PC world (with chunks missing and slowly being added back in). They also have a specific purpose, and that’s great. But they don’t quite have the same appeal as Mario or Donkey Kong. It’s great that I’ll soon be able to play COD: Black Ops Zombies on my 360 and my phone, but that’s purely a console experience.

Where is the middle ground? The Wii is a good example. Its games have been criticized as ignoring the hardcore gamer and being too casual, but many of its games are quite the opposite. Looking at some of the Mario games (Super Mario Galaxy) and the recent Zelda games are the perfect middle ground. They have the gameplay and graphics to appeal to the casual crowd, yet the added depth and thrown in goodies that the hardcore gamers love. That’s what I feel the appeal is for games like Donkey Kong, Super Mario World, and Pokemon.

Sure, the mobile space has games like that. But that’s not where gaming is headed. Gaming is headed straight down two paths, and those are console games and casual games. Casual games will make boatloads of money off of the everyday crowd of people, while the console quality games will keep the hardcore gamers happy. The missing middle ground is that perfect balance that would appeal to both, and it’s too bad more games aren’t being made like that. I’m not saying go back to the old style of games, that’s not what people want. I’m saying innovate in such a way that this mix of styles is possible in a new form. Nintendo has been doing it pretty well, but it seems most developers like to skip over this idea. But trust me, it could make them a lot of money. There is a reason Nintendo is so popular.

Developers, understand that you can make a game to fit both crowds. One that you can pick up and put down anytime, one that is simple and easy to play for anyone. But it’s also deeper than it seems, and can appeal to those of us who need something more from a game than throwing birds at pigs. It’s not an easy balance to strike, not at all. But it’s an unexplored style in the mobile space, one that begs for more attention. It’s a fertile field that, with hard work, will reward you greatly. Developers, give it a shot.

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