Why doesn’t anyone seem to take mobile gaming seriously?

by: Joe HindyAugust 22, 2015
1.5K

best free android apps mobile gaming
It seems like mobile gaming has been “on the cusp” of being the go-to platform for game developers for years now. You see it over and over again from pundits and fans alike that “this will be the year mobile gaming really takes off and we start seeing some big name titles”. Except that it never seems to actually happen.

What’s going on, and what keeps blocking the path to what seems like a natural evolution in gaming? Let’s take a look at the possibilities.


mobile gaming

Money

Let’s get the elephant out of the room right now. The biggest worry for big name studios is whether or not they’re going to make money on mobile. Upon a cursory glance, it doesn’t appear that revenue is a problem. In 2014, Apple’s App Store recorded over $10 billion in sales with every indication that Android is catching up. This still falls short in comparison to the $46.5 billion in sales for the console and PC gaming industry, but there’s definitely money to be made.

The stats look juicy. Especially if you consider that everyone expects mobile to grow considerably while PC and console should slow down a bit. These stats all point to one thing: mobile is the future.

The stats all say the same thing. Mobile gaming is the future.

Unfortunately, when you peel back those numbers you begin to see some unsavory trends. Revenues are growing, but it’s how they’re growing that seems to be the problem. In 2014, Freemium games (free with in-app purchases) accounted for more than 95% of revenue in the Google Play Store with iOS not far behind. This means that people aren’t actually buying stuff. They’re downloading games and then maybe paying money later if they like it. It doesn’t help that well over 90% of new games and apps are Freemium which only bolsters the strength of that business model.

This is a problem because that’s not how games are traditionally made. Generally, there’s a larger up-front cost to playing a high-end console or PC game. Do they have in-app purchases? Of course they do, but they’re generally things like expansion packs which adds a ton of extra content to the game. You can’t buy gems in Halo and you don’t buy gold in Skyrim.

When you add it all up, it means that in order to make money on mobile, you have to compromise your game in order to make it fit with the business model that works there. Freemium titles are huge on mobile while more expensive, pay-once titles account for a few percentage points at best. 

When you're a business, it means more when people vote with their wallets, not their words.

That leaves developers with two options. The first is that they abandon the effort and stick to console and PC where their kind of business model pays big. The other is that they bastardize their IP by creating masturbatory, fan-service games like Mortal Kombat X on mobileSonic Dash, and to a smaller extent Fallout Shelter that take legendary franchises and neuters them into something that fits into the more profitable business model. To really drive the point home, Sonic Dash has between 50 million and 100 million downloads. The actual Sonic the Hedgehog games (full ports of Sonic 1 and Sonic 2) have a combined total of between 200,000 and one million, making them anywhere between 0.2% to 2% as popular as their freemium counterpart.

The sad truth is that when you’re a business, it means more when people vote with their wallets and not their words. The ones spending money are doing it on Freemium games and not pay-once games. No amount of logic or reasoning is going to change that. People simply aren’t buying games on mobile. They’re paying for in-game content from titles they got for free. That is just the way it is. At least for right now.


Monument Valley Ida's Dream mobile gaming

Piracy

Unfortunately, there are no widespread studies done on just how bad piracy is on mobile. There simply aren’t any stats to confirm or deny that it’s that big of a problem. That means there must be no problem, right? Well, much like we discussed with revenue above, once you look under the veil and get a little deeper, you begin to see that it’s not as it seems.

Piracy is, in fact, a rather bothersome problem on mobile and developers have been complaining about it for a long time. Madfinger Games, developers of the hit shooter Dead Trigger, went on record back in 2012 to confirm that Dead Trigger and Dead Trigger 2 went Freemium due to overwhelming amounts of piracy. The game is now far more profitable even if the decision left a bad taste in the mouths of some people. 

The indie game Gentlemen! was paid for 144 times and pirated 50,000 times back in 2013.

These complaints can be found everywhere. Earlier this year, ustwo, developers of the hit game Monument Valley, announced that only 5% of Android installs were paid for. The indie game Gentlemen! was paid for 144 times and pirated 50,000 times back in 2013. Jack Underwood spent much of early 2015 lamenting the 85% piracy rate of his app called Today Calendar. In August of 2015, Noodlecake Studios reported that their Shooting Stars game had an 89% piracy rate. The reports are all there, buried under the misguided belief that nothing is actually wrong.

It gets worse. People are not the only entities trying to steal games. After Flappy Bird made it huge in 2014, thousands of developers made clones to try to cash in on the success story. You can find clones for all of the big hit games that offer small variances but keep the overall aesthetic and mechanics. In some cases, the clone becomes more popular than the original. A notable example is the game Fives, which is a variant of the game Threes!. For a long time, Fives was the more popular game despite being a replica.

Amazon walked away with over $50,000 in free downloads.

How much lower can it get? Well, if people and other developers aren’t trying to snatch up your idea, sometimes the app stores themselves will. Back in 2011, Shifty Jelly, developers of the intensely good podcast app Pocket Casts, decided to take part in the Amazon Free App of the Day. The idea was their app is given away for free and they’re reimbursed for the revenue. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and the developers were hung out to dry while Amazon walked away with over $50,000 in free app downloads. These instances don’t happen very often, but it still sucks when it happens.

When you add it all up, you start getting the idea that if someone wants your game for free, they’re going to get it one way or another. Either a competitor will release something like it for cheaper or piracy will rear its ugly head and compromise the revenue stream. It is possible to make games that are profitable on mobile, but only if you do it just right.


best free android apps mobile gaming

Lack of promotion

We have gone in depth before on just how badly Google Play can be at promoting things. Games and apps are promoted seemingly at random with the only consistency being the top charts. 

Popularity and revenue are inextricably linked and these lead to the same pitfalls.

Unfortunately, the top charts are a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. They show the most popular apps which, in turn, get even more popular thanks to their existence on the top charts. Generally speaking, users are more inclined to try a game or an app if it’s free, which makes those the most popular. Thus, the games and apps that tend to dominate the charts are free or Freemium.

This eventually spirals all back into the same conundrum we saw when we discussed money. Popularity and revenue are inextricably linked and obtaining both leads to the same pitfalls. Either developers create Freemium games that adhere to what’s popular in Google Play or stick to the platform where they’re already popular. With popularity comes exposure and all of those things eventually lead to revenue.


mobile gaming

Hardware

Perhaps the most complicated issue that big-name video game developers face are the devices they’re developing on. Mobile devices come in all shapes and sizes but predominately share one integral feature. They’re all touch screen devices. This has caused its own unique wave of challenges.

First and foremost is the lack of physical feedback. “Twitch” genres such as platformers, first-person shooters, adventure games, and others often require delicate and precise movements and actions on the part of the player. Touch screens lack the physical feedback gamers can get from a controller or keyboard with physical buttons, which makes these delicate movements clumsy and frustrating. 

Developing games on a touch screen has its own unique set of challenges.

Hardware vendors have attempted to mitigate this problem in a number of ways. Years back, Sony had the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play which had a built-in controller pad. NVIDIA built the Shield which also came with a built-in controller. The NVIDIA Shield Tablet has its own controller. Couple that with controller vendors such as Moga, and you have a small arsenal of controllers to help alleviate the problem.

The only problems are that sales and mainstream adoption have been slow. Mobile phones are popular and special because they can be carried anywhere in a pocket. The same can’t be said for bulky controllers. They also tend to be expensive and support for games tends to be sparse. When you mix it all together, you find an ecosystem that could use some massive improvement. 

Many of the more popular game genres can't catch a foothold thanks to hardware constraints.

With all of that being said, there are some genres that have managed to thrive. Racing games have adopted the “tilt steering” mechanic which has been wildly successful. RPGs, jRPGs, strategy games, tap/swipe-to-play games, puzzle games, and simulation games have all found a warm welcome thanks to their simple control needs.

It’s not a problem for all games and game developers, but many of the more popular genres still can’t gain a decent foothold thanks to hardware constraints.


mobile gaming

Over-saturation

Simply put, there are a ton of mobile games out there. The exact number is hard to pin down because more are coming out every day. However, if you look at this chart you can see that right around 10,000 games are submitted every single month on iOS alone and we imagine the numbers are comparable on Android. That’s just over 300 per day and about 120,000 per year.

What comes next is truly a philosophical debate. On one hand, most app stores treat every developer equally. Final Fantasy is put right next to Doom & Destiny, while Call of Duty is put right next to Dead Trigger. The big fish are sat right next to the small fish and it’s every person for him/herself. That’s kind of magical in a way because you can see Fallout Shelter -a title from an illustrious series of games from a well-known developer- right next to FallenSouls – Sapphire War from jin boli, a completely unknown developer. There seems to be no preferential treatment which puts everyone on an even playing field which is actually really cool.

On the other hand, big developers are used to receiving at least some preferential treatment. On console and PC, the big name games are used to help promote the platform. XBox, PC, PlayStation, and even Nintendo will promote the big name titles to show people that each platform has those games. That gives big name developers a bit of a revenue boost and in return, the platforms get a little extra boost by giving them flagship titles to promote. Unfortunately, this shuns indie developers a little bit.

Whether or not mobile app stores should adopt the practices of PC and consoles is subject to debate but the bottom line is that large developers don’t have the pull they have in the PC and console markets and have to duke it out with literally every other mobile game developer. There are a ton of mobile game developers releasing a ridiculous number of games and some bigger names may be worried about getting lost in the noise.


mobile gaming

The culture

The culture around mobile gaming is unique because there really isn’t a culture around it. The idea of a “hardcore mobile gamer” isn’t something that gets thrown around all that often. This can be troublesome for large developers because they’re entering into an environment where they may or may not get any traction. It’s like going to a house party where you don’t know anyone expecting to make a new best friend.

It also doesn’t help that what little mobile culture exists is generally mocked by “real” gamers. The typical experience is explained the same way. Someone downloads a ton of Freemium or cheap games and then bases the entire atmosphere based on that experience. Among gamers, the attitude isn’t much better with comments that more or less state that casual gaming isn’t “real” gaming for various, often stupid reasons. 

It has become cool to hate Freemium games.

This kind of vitriol may not figure heavily into things like marketing and revenue strategies, but we’ve seen developers and players alike express distaste for the Freemium model time and time again for years. It’s become so cool to hate freemium games which is not good news for developers trying to make money using that model.

The culture around mobile apps in general isn’t very helpful either. For every person that openly states that they’d pay for a game, there seems to be another one that simply won’t pay that much for an app or a game on a smartphone for some personal, totally arbitrary reason. Behind them, there seems to be ten more people who don’t say a word and just go pirate the game somewhere. Above them all is a community of gamers that shuns their very existence. It’s a giant mess and one that likely won’t get worked out for some time.


Final Fantasy 6 android review mobile gaming

Don’t forget the studios that are taking it seriously

We’ve gone through and discussed many reasons why a lot of big developers don’t take mobile gaming seriously. However, to state that no big developers take the platform seriously is also certainly not true. There are developers out there right now trying to turn this culture around and create a library of awesome games for people.

The list is quite long and includes studios such as Double Fine, Square Enix, Rockstar Games, SEGA, Bethesda, EA, Mojang, Disney, and many others. These have brought us a ton of great, long, solid games such as Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy, Minecraft, and many more. 

If you don't mind doing a little digging, you can find some big name titles that refuse to follow the Freemium model.

On top of those, you have studios that are porting classic titles to mobile. Developers Beamdog have done Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate II, and Icewind Dale while Aspyr Media brought us Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The list goes on and on of smaller developers that have ported huge titles to mobile for our enjoyment.

And then finally you have the developers who have become household names on mobile. Rovio, Gameloft, ustwo, Supercell, Glu, and others. Facebook giants such as Zynga have also created quite a presence on mobile.

The bad news is that many of these game studios are either buried under the frenzy of viral games or freemium titles or engaging in the freemium wars themselves. The good news is that if you have some patience and don’t mind doing a little digging, you can find some big name games that refuse to follow the freemium model and try to pave the way for more big name developers to follow. Good games on Android do, in fact, exist. It’s just a matter of finding them.


mobile gaming

Wrap up

Here’s the thing folks, mobile gaming will be a respected platform someday. Every major revolution in gaming was met with scoffs and doubt at first before things turned around. In the early 1980’s, there was a time when console gaming was considered dead and now it’s one of the most robust gaming platforms ever. It will take time and these quirks will get ironed out. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

  • Peter Tao

    I generally skip games containing IAPs, unless it’s like buying a DLC or something that doesn’t affect the way you enjoy the games you paid for. e.g. I’m a huge fan of racing games, yet I got no racing games on my phone or tablet, I would rather enjoy driving cars in GTA III/VC/SA than “playing” Real Racing and things like that. I even got PSX emulator to meet my racing needs when I’m bored.

    • JosephHindy

      Emulators are simply softcore piracy. That’s a lot of money those developers aren’t making because you’re getting their games for free. That’s why they don’t come here. What’s the point if you’re just gonna go download someone else’s work for free?

      • Peter Tao

        Well what if I got the real games then, I mean PSX games. As far as I know the owner has the rights to do so

        • JosephHindy

          Yeah but that’s a whole lot of “personal responsibility” and, in my experience, whether or not that actually exists with the person I’m talking to is impossible to determine for sure. No offense intended, but let’s face it, I nor anyone else reading this comment thread knows you personally. You could just be saying that to not look like a jerk on an article calling out people being jerks lol.

          • Peter Tao

            Ok then, this is internet, no one can force anyone to do things, people believe what they want to believe, i know what I’m doing and that’s enough ;)

          • JosephHindy

            That’s really all you need. I’m not calling you a liar, I’m saying I don’t know you so that determination (both ways, good or bad) is impossible lol. It’s what makes Internet debates so hard. Appeal to Authority sucks.

      • soarealb

        Except tons of rooms are no longer copyrighted.

  • Johan

    I have wondered this myself.
    Touch/hardware limitations is no excuse.
    With a MHL or Slimport adapter you can just connect it to a TV (unless you have a Samsung phone from 2015, which can’t do that), pair a Bluetooth controller to it and you will have quite a competent gaming console! With some controllers (like the “Moga” controllers) it even holds the phone on the controller, to get the portability with physical buttons as well.
    To me it sounds lika a perfect platform for gaming.
    IF only the selection of games (that also supports Bluetooth controllers) was bigger and better…

    • JosephHindy

      That last sentence is the important one :)

    • soarealb

      O rly? And DO enlighten us mere mortals…. WHICH BLUETOOTH CONTROLLER IS THAT? They’re all shit… None supports all games.. Android controller API is shit.

  • jrod3737

    Mostly it’s because of user experience on mobile. It has to do with the human interaction device – a touchscreen. People don’t play games because the user experience sucks. Tap, tap, tap, miss, tap, miss, miss, miss, get-killed-by-koopa-mushroom-level-bad-guy, dammit-where’s-my-console! Nothing can replace a joystick or control pad. And if my user experience sucks you can guarantee that there’s no way I’m paying money for it. And since I’m not paying money for it nobody sees improving it as lucrative. Few people have replaced an experience that the console can give you without even trying. Users need something tactile and forgiving. So people don’t play mobile games and therefore people don’t make mobile games.

    Oh and spare me the, “Yeah, but I …” and, “Well, when I …” because that’s YOUR experience, your roommate’s experience, or your second cousin once removed’s dog sitter’s nephew’s experience. I’m talking about the grand scale because developers look at the broad scale of a population base. They’re not looking at YOU personally. So neither am I when I say this.

    And yes, Johan, touch/hardware limitations are a perfect excuse because they KEEP PEOPLE AWAY! People don’t want an adapter or pair it with a Bluetooth controller. They just won’t do it. You can scoff and scorn all you want, but that doesn’t change the reality. You can’t scorn people into adoption.

    • JosephHindy

      I had an entire section that explained this very thing. Lol.

    • Johan

      People tend to cling to old habits. But you can reason with people, which changes their mind when they eventually understand it.
      In total (all manufacturers) about a billion stationary home consoles have been sold. Many people does not seem to have a problem with how those work.
      Well, how is a phone connected to a TV any different? You have to connect it / disconnect it when you want to start /stop playing. But that is it. It takes 3 seconds. While you have to think of playing on it using only the touchscreen on the go as a bonus feature of that console.
      Do you seriously think most people would spend money on an additional console if they knew that their phone works just as well as one?
      Sure, there are people who owns more than one console, but they are the minority. As you said yourself: “I’m talking about the grand scale because developers look at the broad scale of a population base.”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSr-i0q2sMg&app=desktop

      • jrod3737

        The point is that you’re asking people to buy another device to make their device work. It’s very true that people get short sighted with this. Wrap your phone in a directional pad with tactile buttons and it’s an entirely different experience. It’s just that most people won’t do that. Most people will buy another console first. I’m not saying it’s smart. It’s actually quite dumb. But gaming on a phone is kind of like every social network not named Facebook or Twitter. Nobody is on it because nobody is on it. So nobody is making games because nobody is buying games because nobody is making games.

        • Johan

          That is when proper marketing needs to be done, so that people will understand it. Which, unfortunately, Google has done poorly when it comes to Android’s gaming capabilities.
          Just making sure that every game that has controller support is clearly visually marked with some graphical notion of that, instead of relying on the developer mentioning it in the description (which they sometimes do not, even it he game has controller support), as well as enabling a way to filter searches and browse Google Play only for titles that have controller support would be some easy and yet big steps in the right direction.

  • Eyro

    I’m hoping there is mobile gaming crash and Nintendo rides in with their own app store and quality assurance akin to the 1980s NES.

  • Daggett Beaver

    Maybe very small screen has something to do with it?

    • Android Developer

      yes, it’s in the part of hardware constraints.
      Not only that, but also no mouse, and no keyboard, so some games are hard to play.
      I still don’t get how people play first person shooter games on consoles, let alone on mobile. It’s so hard to play well on those, compared to a mouse and a keyboard.

      • JosephHindy

        Covered all these points in the article =)

        • Android Developer

          yes I know. I wanted to write my opinion too :)

  • jakeopp

    I don’t take it seriously because the market is dominated and filled with freemium titles, endless runners, clash of clans rippoffs, and bejewled rippoffs. The market is lacking in original premium console quality games. Sure, there are a lot of great ports available, but it’s hard to find original games that interest me. Gameloft used to make decent premium games at one point…but those days are long gone it seems.

    • JosephHindy

      I think ports is a disingenuous term. When a game comes out on multiple systems, they’re not called ports they’re called “cross platform”. Making games cross platform on mobile and calling it a port is demeaning something that shouldn’t be demeaned. Just imo

      • Nick

        Uh no, it’s a port. Cross platform means people can all play together simultaneously on different systems.

        • JosephHindy

          Funny, all the definitions I found were “able to be used on different systems or software packages”. That’s the definition I’m going with as yours seems oddly specific. People have been calling for Adobe cross-platform support on Linux for years, I don’t think people want to use Photoshop at the same on their linux machine as their windows machine.

  • Guest123

    Mobile is the future but not mobile gaming. Screen is still too small to enjoy gaming. Serious gamers wouldn’t play much on them and casual gamers wouldn’t pay much for them. There are people who pay a lot but that’s cos they don’t have the patience to wait and sooner or later they probably just leave the game or feel they are spending too much on it. I could be wrong since that’s just how i feel :P

    • JosephHindy

      Actually phones these days have larger screens than any handheld gaming systems. The only reason the 3ds has more is because it has two screens. The PS Vita is 5 inches. People been enjoying games on similar and smaller screens since the original game boy and it’s 2.3 inch screen. Screen size has nothing to do with it. Plenty of so called “serious gamers” play handheld.

    • Johan

      A lot of people does not seem to have a problem with home consoles. Most people also does not have more than one home console. If people knew that they could use their phone just like a home console, would it not then make sense that most people does not continue to buy a dedicated home consoles, since they already has one (the phone)? Do not think of playing on the touch screen as the main function. Think of it as a bonus function on your home console.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSr-i0q2sMg&app=desktop

  • Arjun

    @jrod3737 I agree with that. For PC games also there are problems with money and piracy. As said above hardware is also important,that is what we can see in use experience. Hardwares have some limitations in mobile devices compared with PCs , PlayStations etc.

    • JosephHindy

      Yeah but Diablo III, Titanfall, and Skyrim didn’t see freaking 80%+ piracy rates like we’ve repeatedly seen over the years with popular mobile games. Any game dev who did read the “95% of monument Valley installs weren’t paid” and didn’t freak out are either super human or are making Freemium games.

  • jz100

    Mobile gaming is not the future and never will be the future. Playing games on such a tiny device is not fun. That doesn’t even take into account the small battery and hot phone. It has absolutely nothing to do with piracy either.

    • JosephHindy

      Someone likes ignoring stats and trends lol.

    • Johan

      If you think about in it that way, yeah. But that is just an old habit that has not caught up to current technology.
      A lot of people does not seem to have a problem with home consoles. Most people also does not have more than one home console. If people knew that they could use their phone just like a home console, would it not then make sense that most people does not continue to buy a dedicated home consoles, since they already has one (the phone)? Do not think of playing on the touch screen as the main function. Think of it as a bonus function on your home console.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSr-i0q2sMg

      How is this not the future?

  • Android Developer

    Is “mium” really “not really” in Latin?
    Also, the EA link doesn’t show any games for me for some reason.

    • JosephHindy

      No that was a South Park joke.

      • Android Developer

        I know it’s a joke, but maybe it’s also true. Do you know Latin?

  • Greg

    Your average phone/ tablet user does not want spend 4+ hours exploring huge worlds or experience face pace action game. They want something simple, easy, and that only require tapping or swiping (ie. Flappy Bird, Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, Farmville, etc). Something to kill 15 mins at best.

    • Johan

      That is what home console gamers want though.
      Which there is a lot of. Most of them also does not have more than one home console. If people knew that they could use their phone just like a home console, would it not then make sense that most people does not continue to buy a dedicated home consoles, since they already has one (the phone)? Do not think of playing on the touch screen as the main function. Think of it as a bonus function on your home console.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSr-i0q2sMg

  • shivansh

    My reason is i personally hate online only games and most of the mobile games ask for in app purchases i prefer 1 time payment and enjoy , i know there are many games like this but the one i like r not.

  • Karly Johnston

    I don’t want to play 95% of games on an f’n touch screen.

    • Johan

      Play on it as a home console then.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSr-i0q2sMg

      • soarealb

        With which efin controller? Android had si God damn gamepad support… It’s all over the place… The Android gamepad API is shit written on a napkin in the toilet cubicle.

  • retrospooty

    Because gaming just isn’t good on tablets and phones. The touch screen just isn’t the right interface for the games that most people like. Most people that are into gaming have a PC and/or a console and that’s where they spend most of their time gaming when they have time to game. The best a tablet or phone will ever be is good enough while away from home and unable to get to PC or console. That’s really all there is to it.

    • Johan

      Most home console gamers does not have more than one home console. If they knew that they could use their phone just like a home console, would it not then make sense that most of them does not continue to buy dedicated home consoles, since they already has one (the phone)? Do not think of playing on the touch screen as the main function. Think of it as a bonus function on your home console.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSr-i0q2sMg

      Also, the performance in phones is already on par with last gen consoles and is well on it’s way to surpass current gen consoles before their lifetime is up. It is the future.

      • retrospooty

        The problem is the touchscreen itself. It is simply horrible for gaming. Digitally mapped buttons absolutely suck. People arent going to adopt tablet/phone gaming at home… At best it will be a “good while out and about”. As the article title mentions, its not being taken seriously

        • Johan

          Yes, that was basically what you said in the comment that I responded to in the first place.
          Please read my comment to which you responded again and watch the YouTube clip that I linked to, if you have not.
          Think of it as your phone also being a stationary home console (like an xbox), not a handheld console.
          You connect it to a TV and pair it with a Bluetooth controller, just like any other stationary home console. The “good while out and about” is just a bonus feature that you do not have to use.
          Most home console gamers will adapt to using it as that specifically, since almost everyone has a phone that is capable of being that. While most of them do not buy more than one console, effectively making their phone that one console that they have bought.
          It is just of matter of the platform getting more and better titles and then making everyone aware that they can use their phone that way.
          Again, watch the YouTube clip to which I linked in my previous comment and you will see what I mean.

          • retrospooty

            What you think will happen isn’t necesarily what will happen. PC and consoles arent sitting still either and phones and tablets have a long LONG way to go to be on par. Even if the graphicss catch up ( big if) the games still suck. Storage is an issue too. The last few games I got on my PS4 were over 30gb each. The sentiments described in the article above is correct it’s just not catching on

          • Johan

            Sure, it may or may not happen. But phones and tablets actually are not that far away in performance. My personal guess is that they will have caught up before the lifetime of the current gen consoles is over (based on the historical length of console lifetimes). For reference, read my answer to “Vuyo Ncube” further above.
            Otherwise I agree.
            Storage has to keep up with the rest of the technological progress (which it has done poorly so far) and more quality games has to be made (with controller support, which developers also seem unnecessarily bad at incorporating).

      • Vuyo Ncube

        Current smartphones aren’t even close to last gen consoles in theoretical graphics performance, let alone current gen (compute at least). Also, consoles have lower level proprietary APIs to squeeze out much better graphics and a much higher thermal and power consumption envelope to play with. I’d say mobile games look like good looking PS2 games. Think about it. The Tegra X1 can only play Crysis 3 on lower than low settings at 1080p, can’t make 30fps and is used in a home console all with 20W TDP (most likely higher in real life). A console is a focused, tied down unit dedicating itself to a game. A smartphone/tablet not so much. This is why mobile developers wait for better phones to come round before making better mobile graphics. This sounds ideal though console developers have a much easier time learning a single, well optimised platform over several years.

        Also, the framerate of Real Racing 3 in your video was horrendous (no smartphone can play at it at 60fps anyway) and the resolution wasn’t even native 2160p (upscaled from native 1080p). It’s basically Gran Turismo 4 with interior view but much worse physics and gameplay depth despite the Xperia Z3 having several times the theoretical performance of a PS2.

        • Johan

          Ok, maybe “on par” is a bit of a stretch. But that they “aren’t even close” is a huge stretch in comparison. The fact that extremely few last gen titles had a native resolution of more than 720p (including Crysis 3, which was released towards the end of last gen and pushed consoles to their limits), would at worst make near 30fps on 1080p qualify as “on par” with last gen consoles. Especially since last gen console versions also had trouble reaching even 30 fps, while we can safely assume that the equivalent settings were at the lowest.
          Now, the numbers that you have presented does not say everything. But using your own argument; according to the picture that you linked the last gen consoles have slightly over 200 gflops, while the data I could find on my own somewhat confirms this with most sources claiming 200-400 gflops.
          Specifically in the Nvidia Shield (Android TV) the Tegra X1 have 500 gflops. With the K1 at +300 gflops. In fact the Snapdragon 810 also has +300 gflops at a lower wattage. But we both know that the K1 can handle more performance intense games, while the SD810 throttles and overheats. So again, these numbers definitely does not say everything. My point is that the X1 is at least “on par” with last gen consoles at the same wattage as the K1 which came one year before it. The Snapdragon 820 which comes in half a year with an Adreno 530 GPU is rumored to beat the K1. That does not mean that the Snapdragon SoC following the 820 one year later will also be “on par” with last gen consoles. But we are certainly not that far from it. At least not far enough to call it “not even close”.

          Regarding consoles being focused units:
          Yes, but that never stopped developers from making games for PCs with various levels of hardware and performance. Why are the mobile game developers not smart enough to incorporate a menu for graphical settings? Just like with PC games it does not have to be complicated for the user, since they could just let the games automatically scan the device for optimal settings and let the user change it afterwards if they want to. I have even seen it in some mobile games, so why use it as an excuse?

          Regarding the YouTube clip that linked to:
          The framerate was definitely not that bad. Maybe not 60fps, but if you already know that no phone plays that game at a framerate that you are comfortable with, why use it as an excuse for calling out the whole concept? Then it is just that specific game that is at fault. Would you deem any other console useless because one game performs below your standard, when you know that the game is not working within that standard for anyone?
          Also, I made the comparison to last gen consoles. There are not even games with native 2160p support (as far as I know) on current consoles yet. If anything the upscaling probably just made it more demanding. So why imply that it is a weak point that ruins the concept?
          I only linked to that clip to show HOW it works anyway.

          • Vuyo Ncube

            The FLOPS count for smartphones/tablets is in FP16 which is significantly smaller than FP32 FLOPS for consoles and PC (about 4 times less powerful I think). 530 GFLOPS in the Snapdragon 820 doesn’t come close to a PS3’s 200 GFLOPS. Of course these are theoretical numbers but as I said before, a tied down, focused console can take advantage of all of those FLOPS. A smartphone has to hold up a whole OS as well. The real world difference is pretty big. Catching up to the PS4 and XONE in theoretical performance will take longer than some people predict and then catching up with real world results will take even longer.

            You’re right, looking at only Real Racing 3 doesn’t help that much though one can infer the overall potential of current smartphones as it’s still a very graphically intensive game. Even the low resolution iPhone 6 gets to about 50fps. And the game came out in 2013.
            All I was saying was the game’s graphics edge out against Gran Turismo 4’s but requires significantly more performance (which goes unused anyway) than that of a ‘weak’ PS2 while suffering in frame rate and gameplay depth. An Xperia Z3 is probably worth 4 PS2s but struggles under a similar load. If I’m speaking too soon, you can show evidence otherwise.

          • Johan

            I do not know from where you got that the SD820 will have 530 gflops. I would actually have guessed that it would be less. Might you have read “Adreno 530 GPU” as “530 gflops”?
            If not, I would be interested in reading your source for that information.
            As for the X1, it has 500 gflops on FP32 and 1000 gflops on FP16. However, whatever the numbers say, it does not change the fact that it clearly is at least “on par” with last gen consoles, as proven by the same game, at equivalent settings, performing the same, even though the X1 does it at 1080p compared to 720p on last gen consoles.
            So again, that is just one year after the +300 gflops K1 at the same wattage.
            No, the SD820 might not be “on par” with last gen consoles, but is supposedly “on par” with the K1.
            Given how the Tegra SoC evolved in just one year, claiming that they “aren’t even close” just does not feel like a safe bet.

            I guess it depends on how you see it as well.
            One could see “being close” as either “the difference in current performance being small” or “time of technological progression being short”. While I in both regards do not agree that they “aren’t even close”, I would probably say that they are closer in time than in performance. Which is what I have been referring to when calling it “close”. Also given that I do not consider 1-3 years a long time.

            I have not disputed your claim that even when they catch up in hardware, they probably might not operate with the same performance. They may or may not catch up to current gen consoles before their lifetime is over. My guess is that they will, at least in form of hardware. Just remember that optimization solutions are progressing as well.

          • Vuyo Ncube

            Ah my bad about the 530 thing. I was reading in a hurry. Thanks. You’re right, the X1 got 512 GFLOPS in FP32. Though you haven’t addressed my comparison of Real Racing 3 and Gran Turismo 4. Cool, the X1 beats last Gen consoles in theory (compute, memory bandwidth, tells etc. [LOL should have looked this up earlier]) but Android lacks the appropriate API to take advantage of all that performance against (not sure if Vulkan uses GPU asynchronous computing like DX12/Mantle/GNM).

          • Johan

            Hey, no worries, man.
            I do not have any technical specifications to go by, but visually I would probably place Real Racing 3 right in between Gran Turismo 4 and Gran Turismo 5. Yet, Gran Turismo 4 was pushing the PS2 to the very limit and, like you mentioned, Real Racing 3 was not being developed on an appropriate API. So hardware is probably not the most limiting factor here.
            I was actually going to mention Vulkan. But I had not read up on it enough to write anything useful about it with confidence.
            Though that is one example of a much improved API for mobile game developers to work with. Which goes to show that “optimization solutions are progressing as well”.
            However, any game development utilizes Vulkan will start first in a few months when it is expected to be released. That means we probably will not see those games (the more ambitious titles) released until 1-3 years from now (like I mentioned, not what I consider a long time). Though, hardware will have advanced by then as well. So it will be interesting to see how the games on the mobile platform progress.

        • jonen

          Tegra X1 can at least beat up the last gen consoles. Doom 3 on X1 is vastly superior to Doom 3 on 360/ps3. that said, X1 is about 2-3x times as powerful as the most powerful smartphones. however, the K1 ran Trine 2 at just below the settings and framerate of the console versions and was about 50% more powerful than the GPU of an iphone 6. maybe not this year, but its not too hard to imagine that smartphones will dwarf 7th gen consoles in 2016. before or later Trine 2`s excusivity deal will run out and it will be available on the app store and that should pretty much seal the deal on whether Smartphones can compare to 7th gen consoles. not thats really a great feat to beat 10-year old systems and i doubt 7th gen quality games will be commonplace on the store before a very long time, but the potential is just about there

  • Matt Lamoureux

    Buttons. There are plenty of touch games that work fine with swipe actions, but you simply cannot be as accurate without buttons (and preferably sticks). I also don’t like to carry around a separate controller.

  • Dan McSweeney

    Usually the Humble Bundles have been a good option, if you are looking for games that aren’t riddled with in app purchases. Unfortunately the recent Games Workshop bundle broke this tradition.

  • Guy

    Lacks the following:
    Controllers built by Apple and Google
    Controller support all games
    Xbox Live / PSN style community and console like experience
    Do away with the Confusing and Costly in app purchases
    Just to name a few.

    If they had these things if could even rival current gen consoles to some degree.
    Mobile games are 1# mobile and
    2# cheaper than Starbucks.

  • OF

    Flappy sperm….lol.

  • DannyBoyJr

    The statistics on mobile piracy sucks. It’s not a victimless crime. My cousin works for a gaming startup where she does some of the game designs and character designs. She will definitely be affected if the company bellies up from piracy.

    I could probably understand if the pirate is someone living in the third world using an sub hundred dollar AndroidOne device. But I’ve seen people using S5s and G3s pirating a 99 cent game! Really pisses me off.

    As for IAP gaes, most such games I play I could beat/enjoy without buying a single IAP. I just chose to buy at least one to show my appreciation to the company. I bought a Mister Handy from Fallout Shelter not thirty minutes ago. I don’t really need it, my vault is chugging along fine, and Deathclaws die just from the first floor defense (full of big legendary chars with BFGs). But I still bought one cause I had enjoyed the game immensely.

    • JosephHindy

      If everyone were like you, this article wouldn’t exist.

    • namesib

      What is the difference to you between someone who hasn’t paid for the app and isn’t playing it (hundreds of millions of Android users), and someone who hasn’t paid for the app and is playing it (pirates)? Either way, you’re not getting anything.

      • Paul M

        The difference is that by supporting the developers they might improve the game.. Fix bugs, add levels, support newer versions of Android, support new hardware, produce more games.
        If the pirates cause the developers to decide to quit, from lack of revenue or simply being demoralised/depressed, all the people who enjoyed their games lose out.. pirates and honest people alike.
        Pirates are leeches who bleed the economy of gaming dry.
        The games studios can then feel free to be utter b*st*rds in return like EA.

    • jonen

      never understood this part of mobile gaming, buys 600$ devices, cant be bothered to pay 1$ for a great game?

  • Victor Fermino

    I have always been skeptical about it too, when I didn’t care much about the technology on smartphones. Now that I invested a little more time in it, I just can’t see so many different devices with amazing screens and processors and doubt the potential of this media.
    I made a VR game in Unity and it works and I can actually put it on a store, where people can see it, so this kind of easy access to development obviously overpopulates the scene, but at the same time, the power users are aware of what is good or not and filter the things to the masses.
    And just like we had one-button joysticks that evolved into game controllers that we know today, I believe we can play games with different input interfaces and have fun with them.

  • abazigal

    I am currently plugging away at implosion on my iPad with a mifi controller. It’s a lot of fun. Best $10 I have spent on a mobile game, but sadly, these gems are more the exception than the norm.

    I loved the dungeon hunter series as well before they went freemium.

    Even games like baldur’s gate don’t seem optimized for a touchscreen, which I imagine would take up too much time and effort for the payoff.

    We only have ourselves to blame for this rush to the bottom mentality and not being willing to pay good money for quality apps, I suppose.

  • Hotbod Handsomeface

    Author sounds like a whiny little nerd-b!tch.

    • JosephHindy

      I didn’t realize text had a sound. Maybe you should listening to One Direction while reading my articles and you wouldn’t hear whiny people =)

      • Hotbod Handsomeface

        Um, ok, nerd-boy. You “write” like a whiny little b!tch. Better? Oh, and you can keep your One Direction collection to yourself. Don’t try to pawn your bad purchases off on me. You bought that trash (and wrote this awful, not-Pulitzer-prize-winning garbage), live with your decisions.

        • JosephHindy

          Funny, I wrote this in a manner where the only people who should be angry at me are people who pirate games because I didn’t defend them at all.

          And here you are shouting at me and throwing curses. Looks like it worked :)

    • Paul M

      Really? I thought it was a well reasoned discussion, with a balanced view.
      It did lament the shortcomings of mobile gaming but pointed out a lot of that was the fault of the owners of mobile devices.

  • The biggest hindrance to me taking mobile gaming seriously is the hardware. The mobile devices aren’t built for spending 4 to 8 hours gaming with a friend. The controls are nowhere as good, and most mobile games including the Mortal Combat ports are just too simple to be enjoyed.

  • s2weden2000

    L 0 L..ga(y)ming …

  • Tricky

    The state of mobile gaming is where it is due to laziness! Piracy could be battled with, a registration system, and hack tool checks. Game studios have seen the success of angry birds and clash of clans and want to mimick that. I have downloaded and tried many games on google play, I find blatent disregard for customer care, way to often. A handful of games have done IAP correctly and also care about hackers, but its rare. It is not our fault piracy is to easy, not enough developers have complained to google to make them care, and change it.

    Only nvidia seems to think mobile gaming is a good idea, for what ever reason. The mobile gaming industry is stuck in a fat bastard loop, game suck due to IAP, IAP suck due to piracy, leaving a bad taste in peoples mouths, forcing them to want to hack or just pirate the software. And to top it off, stupid people pay hundreds of dollars on IAP for the most ridiculous games, as if to advocate these terrible IAP models. IAP done right is a great way for companies to continuously make money month to month. One day I hope games like kritika, implosion, and vainglory, will make a big enough impact that people will change their minds.

    Technology isn’t holding mobile gaming back, lack of creativity to overcome obsticals is…

    • JosephHindy

      No one is ever forced to steal anything. That’s an unethical decision made by people who don’t care. No one made them do it. No one forces anyone to do anything and in the rare occurrences when it does occur, those people are usually thrown in prison.

  • David Rutla

    Simply put. The lack of Bluetooth controller support game quality and originality. The freemium thing needs to stop. I’m not paying 5.00 for a game and them I have to pay 1.00 for something in game..fuck off!! That’s why mobile gaming will never get anywhere.

    • JosephHindy

      Less than 5% of apps are “paid with in app purchases”, also if they did have an up front cost and in app purchases, they’re not freemium games.

  • Paul M

    Excellent article.

  • Blatta

    Casual gamers are the real culprit, pretty much as it was for Wii. People giving 4/5 stars to every crappy “free” Candy Crush clone aren’t ideal targets for serious third party developers, which – in turn – usually avoid the mobile market.

  • Alfonso Pertierra

    In the article you seem to forget one really important reason: The battery consumption.
    Games usually drain your phone/tablet’s battery really fast,..

    • JosephHindy

      And on gaming laptops, playing a game can kill it in 4 hours or less. That’s not a “smartphone only” problem.

      • Alfonso Pertierra

        A gaming laptop is made so that you can move your gaming computer from one place to another easily and still have a powerful system where to play games, but gaming laptops are not made to play on battery, but to play plugged in. Smartphones, on the other hand, ,are made to keep them with you the whole day and play “when other times you would have been just waiting doing nothing”, so the battery draining it’s a lot more important in them.

        • JosephHindy

          Why is the mentality for a gaming laptop any different than for a gaming phone? I think that’s where the real problem lies. Maybe people should start treating their game machines like actual game machines instead of expecting them to perform like a PLUGGED IN LAPTOP and last all day long.

          Mobile phones do last all day when you use them for their intended purpose: as a phone. However, thanks to the strength of the hardware, they can be used for gaming as well. When you turn your every day cell phone into a gaming machine, you accept the crappy battery life that comes with it…at least until they create a battery capable of lasting much, much longer.

          • Alfonso Pertierra

            Ok guy,
            you either don’t have a gaming laptop or you are just trolling. A gaming laptop’s use is so you can carry your gaming system with you without having to carry a cpu + a monitor. It’s usually heavier than other types of laptops due having more hardware needed to play and usually you plug it to the power because you don’t play with it on your lap, but on a desk or a table. They are not made to play “candy crush” but to play things like Diablo, World of Warcraft, First person shooters, etc… and have you tried playing those games with a touchpad? I guess not…

          • JosephHindy

            Ode to the power of condescension. It’s really easy looking down your nose at other people when you’re rocking no profile picture and probably a fake name behind a keyboard where no one can see you.

  • Tighten

    A thing I really hate is when a game has no device syncing. I want my save to be on both my phone and tablet. Started playing Fallout Shelter and can’t believe it doesn’t have it. The game isn’t exclusive to either so this makes no sense. Second game I’ve encountered this problem.

  • Oluseyi

    So when you say “gaming,” you’re referring to the sort of intense, multi-hour play sessions of highly responsive games with precision controls that we think of as defining console and PC gaming, yes? Does any of that sound like “mobile”?

    I don’t think mobile gaming is really the same sort of gaming as the majority of PC and console, and so I don’t think mobile gaming will ever be “taken seriously” or “eclipse” traditional gaming. Because mobile devices are so multi-functional, and so integral to our waking-hours-long communication, gaming done on them tends to be interstitial—ideally suited to filling the free moments that occur during the day when we are temporarily precluded from doing anything else. Again, the precise antithesis of dedicated, hard-core gaming.

    There will be some people who attempt “hard-core” mobile gaming, but I predict that mobile devices will only become primary targets for big budget, AAA titles when they are nearly all capable of slipping into a physical control harness, connecting to a television, and replicating the conventional console gaming experience—i.e., when they absorb consoles the way they are absorbing so many other devices (cameras, alarms, telephones, rolodexes).

  • A little late to this discussion but the whole “It has become cool to hate Freemium games.” is wrong. I’m pretty sure most people hate being tricked/lured into paying way more for a game that they should. Freemium exists only to expand the profits of the developers. The argument that it gives us the opportunity to try the game before buying is false because we used to have demos for that and if you liked the game, you paid a set amount of money for it and that was it.

    Paying $100 for a game such as Clash of Clans is moronic on the part of the user. Yes and it is up the individual to make that decision but it is also a major dick move on the publisher/developer to design the game in such a way as to pull people in deeper and deeper into these treadmill games. People inherently dislike being tricked like this and thus it has not just become cool to hate on this method of sales.

  • Travis David

    Why doesn’t anyone seem to take mobile gaming seriously?

    Simple. Mobile gaming is more like mobile scamming. No wonder true gamers mocks mobile gaming and the gamers who have dead brain paying just to get past a level.

    Mobile games are like toilet papers. People use them to wipe their dirt and plush it in the toilet once they are bored at it.

  • soarealb

    It’s because there’s no god damn gamepad support. End of. In freaking Windows 95/98/me I could buy any shitty gamepad and it would work with everything… In Android you need this controller for those 5 games, this other controller for those 2 games, that controller for these 40 games and so on… fvck them. Why can’t the god damn stupid people behind Android make a god damn standard and force it upon the god damn game devs and controller makers? It’s just shit… Very soon there will be a flood of cheap Chinese Windows tablets with Intel 6y30 m3 CPUs… And then there will be mobile gaming… Android is a failed piece of shit. And I’m using a note 3.