The Problem with Mobile Gaming

A profit blackhole

As the worlds’ media become more and more fascinated with iPhones and mobile gaming, it would seem that traditional, console gaming is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Gone soon will be the Legend of Zelda’s and God of War’s of the world as we fling birds at pigs in an effort to cure our boredom. But there’s a very big problem with mobile gaming that everyone seems to ignore:

The games aren’t that good.

To me, mobile gaming is a lot like YouTube — great for small, indie productions and a chance for anyone to flex their muscles and dabble in the art, but you wouldn’t watch a blockbuster on YouTube. Nor would you make one.

Angry Birds

Video games cost a lot of money to make and maintain. There’s people who write the story, people to write the code, people to draw concept art and people to design in-game graphics. There are people dedicated to physics and sound. There are voice actors and motion capture studios to hire. There’s a huge debugging process and quality assurance that takes a very long time and involves many, many people. Then there’s marketing, printing the game and logistics.

Mobile gaming relies heavily on the fact that each game sells for about $1. It is just far too inappropriate and ignorant to expect games like Call of Duty or Skyrim to be developed as iPhone Exclusive titles, sold at $1 each.

For some high budget games you find on consoles, it may require selling over one billion copies to break even on mobile.

Expecting to buy top quality, highly polished titles at $1 is bullish and ignorant. Indie game studios will have to do the work and somehow manage to score a hit before they can even approach investors for cash.

Crysis 3

Of course, there are some merits — developing on a platform like iPhone allows new developers to hone their skills, much like journalists tend to upkeep personal blogs. And I’m not writing every iPhone game off, some are actually pretty good., though admittedly those that are outstanding tend to have higher budgets anyway, further cementing my point. It’s just unrealistic to expect the video game industry – which is worth $74 billion a year – to continue to be as innovative, as successful and as fruitful as it is if all these companies are expected to sell their games at $1.

But there is, in fact, an alternative. There’s actually room for both types of gaming in this world. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Mobile phones are great to cure boredom in a pinch, but the real games — those with emotional story lines, high quality sound and deeply integrated online connectivity that doesn’t cost $4/minute, belong and will always be on consoles.

Do you think mobile gaming is the future of gaming? Or do you believe they’re both mutually exclusive?

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