One looming question for mobile gaming is, where do we go from here? Here’s my perspective on the possible evolution of mobile games.
(I’m sure there are better examples than the few I listed, but hopefully you get the idea)
What is Depth?
“Depth” is a pretty broad term, you could actually argue that depth doesn’t translate well to mobile, and that successes will continue to come out of simple front end gameplay.
It’s easier to explain if you think about what games like Farmville lack – they’re a big layer of social front end with some smart graphics to boot, nothing more. In my opinion, this era has past its glory. Not that there won’t always be a market for such games, but players are starting to want something more.
The biggest barrier to producing a game that incorporates both deep gameplay and a polished front-end is time, funding and effort required. A lot of developers simply don’t have this, so right now you’ll see a lot of games that are either really deep with little social implementation, or flat with social in your face. As competition grows however, developers may not have a choice in the matter – budgets will have to go up to stand out from the noise. Bigger and better could be king.
How will indies compete?
There’s no question that tools available to indies are getting better and better. Engines like Unity 3D have advanced significantly, and I’m seeing an increasing number of indie developers using tools like this to boost productivity and focus on gameplay. Then there’s social bolt-ons like GREE and Mobage that can help. In all honesty, there’s no better time than now for small outfits to create new innovative experiences that larger companies struggle to offer.
Casual vs Hardcore
The big problem with this evolution theory is the market split between casual and hardcore gamers. Is bigger and better really the future that will bring greater success on the mobile platform? Will casual gamers become alienated? There is undoubtedly a balance to be made, but I definitely think that certain design choices could have casual gamers enjoying games with a lot more depth than an isometric simulator.
Immersion vs Bursts
The other adaptation mobile requires is gameplay in short bursts. As games become more complex, will that take away their ability to be picked up for a couple of minutes? In my opinion, not at all. But the game has to be designed so that it can take advantage of both, not forgetting that mobile is the new home entertainment system.
My overall prediction is that we will start to see games on mobile which have a deep, quality gameplay experience equal to its polished front end implementation, social functions and monetisation strategy.