On this edition of the Friday Debate, we discuss Android gaming. As mobile devices become more and more capable, they increasingly take over from specialized devices as our go-to gaming gadgets. Handheld consoles are already struggling for relevance, and some think that, eventually, large game consoles will have the same fate. We’re still far from that day, but the signs are encouraging.
Do you game on your Android device? If so, what’s your favorite gaming device? Tablet or smartphone? Do you use a controller? Where do you see gaming on Android in a few years?
Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!
I’ve been playing video games since I was a kid, so I can’t help but sneak in a game of Tetris or Dots whilst sitting on the tube. Android certainly isn’t my preferred gaming platform, nevertheless it’s managed to clock up a fair few hours.
For the most part though, I’ve found gaming on Android to be a bit of a disappointment, bar emulators which allow me to boot up some childhood classics. I’m reluctant to blame touch controls too much, as Bluetooth controllers can be paired up rather easily, and strategy and puzzle games work well enough. But the platform could certainly use better support for proper gaming peripherals.
Instead, I think there’s something rotten at the core of mobile gaming, with content creators far too eager to cave in to cash grab game mechanics rather than producing something that’s fun and challenging to play. Part of this could due to consumers unwilling to spend money in the same way as traditional gamers, in which case this might be a problem that we are doomed to be stuck with.
But despite my complaints, gaming on Android is looking up. Hardware is constantly moving forwards, with Nvidia’s Tegra 5 chips set to give us another boost in graphics quality. Similarly, graphics API’s, such as OpenGL, are finally being adopted, and will be used to produce higher quality content more akin to the serious gaming scene.
Interestingly, with PC gaming taking another look at Linux, see Valve’s SteamOS, there’s the possibility that more serious game developers might be more interested Linux support in the not too distant future, and some of that could transfer to Android, particularly if there’s wider use of OpenGL.
This doesn’t mean that Android will be a serious contender to the likes of Sony or Microsoft any time soon, but there’s no reason why Android couldn’t become the new Gameboy or a competitor to portable devices like the PS Vita, providing that the platform can attract a better variety of developers.
I’m of the opinion that anything more than a puzzle game requires a larger screen than my 4.7-5-inch smartphone display provides. Therefore, most of my Android gaming happens on my tablet of choice, the Nexus 7 (2013).
For those of you who are tooting the horn of Android gaming catching up and even taking over PC or console gaming, forget that, it’s simply not going to happen any time soon. In fact, being perfectly realistic, Android needs to first surpass iOS in the gaming aspect where Apple still holds a major advantage as far as actual games go (although the gap has narrowed significantly in recent years).
Where Android holds its biggest advantage, and arguably also its biggest weakness, is the fact that it can run on pretty much anything. We’ve already seen Android consoles like the Ouya and the Gamestick, and while they’ve found their niche, they’re yet to break into the mainstream.
Mobile games are good, great even. It only takes a single look at games like Asphalt 8 and Riptide GP2 to realise that we’ve come a long way since the classic mobile games Snake and Space Impact. And with a little know how, you can hook up your PS3 controller to your phone or tablet for some heavier gaming (assuming the developer has tweaked his game to work well on controllers).
But while mobile games have improved, they still aren’t anywhere as immersive as PC and console gaming. Sure mobile gaming can get addictive and you can find yourself wasting more time on a game of Candy Crush than you should have, but I’ve never found myself aching to get to home and back to my Nexus 7 to play a game of Riptide GP2. It just doesn’t happen.
Android gaming serves a purpose, it’s great entertainment for a quick buck on a bus or a train. Perhaps another issue with mobile gaming and Android gaming in particular is consumer’s love for free stuff leading to the much maligned freemium approach. Mobile game developers don’t have anywhere near the budget that console developers have, and when freemium is so popular, the budget suffers even more.
While mobile gaming will continue to improve, its current restrictions mean it’ll be quite a while until I give up my PS3 (soon to be PS4). When one in ten games is a rip off of Temple Run, it’s hard to get excited, so my plea to developers is to show some originality. Games like Super Hexagon are great examples of mobile games. My plea to Sony, the Playstation Vita uses hardware similar to the Xperia Z1 and it can stream PS4 games. How about some PS4 streaming for us Sony smartphone users?
I’m strictly a fan of casual gaming on mobile. Ever since I purchased a Windows tablet (don’t kill me), it has been difficult to justify playing “hardcore” titles on my comparatively underpowered and tiny Galaxy S4. As a result, I only ever play a select few games on my smartphone, essentially anything that isn’t overtly commercialistic or laden with microtransactions.
I’ll admit my taste in video games is part of the problem. I don’t often have time to game, so when I do, I either prefer (1) AAA games I’ve learned to master, (2) open-world games with goals accomplishable in a sitting, and (3) pick-up titles that require very little investment. Basically, I prefer my hour or two of escapism to consist mostly of the emotional reward conferred by achievement, rather than frustration with unfamiliar controls. I’ll be the first to say many games on Android are brilliant, but I just can’t imagine spending the time required to learn how to play them.
I guess I’m really waiting for the day when smartphones become powerful enough to handle console games. +Adam Koueider mentioned game streaming as an option, but as anyone who has tried to use OnLive with a 3G connection can attest, it’s just not the same. I think I’ll only truly be satisfied when I can play my old favorites like The Elder Scrolls and Red Dead Redemption on mobile. For the moment, Osmos will have to do.
What do YOU think?
Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.