Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mobile gaming: perfect example of free 2 play gone WRONG

Free 2 Play /wink
Back when I fought against the free 2 play (F2P) movement for PC gaming it was because I was worried about quantity outpacing quality.  The PC F2P scene fortunately turned the corner towards quality, but another market, mobile gaming, has turned into a classic quantity over quality scenario.  The majority of F2P games for my Android phone are nigh impossible to play due to spam advertising and required micro-transactions.  Most free apps couldn't even be considered legitimate previews of the game and feel more like a mugger trying to get at my wallet.  Mobile gaming makes even the worst offenders in the PC F2P movement look like saints.  If people were up in arms about something like Allods Online, then they'd be stroking out over the state of F2P mobile gaming.

The unfortunate reality is that F2P games on mobile are far more successful through spam advertising and micro-transactions.  The developer ends up making more with these methods than with one-time purchases.  This is mostly because the pricing model for mobile apps is in the basement and if an app is greater than a couple dollars, it is doomed.

I understand developers need to make money and for the mobile space it's easier to follow the trend instead of making a statement with a paid-for only app.  The problem is that both advertising and micro-transactions directly conflict with gaming on a mobile device.  Think of the size of mobile screens and almost always having to reserve space for an advertisement banner.  It is flat out ridiculous in most cases and when that accidental click of an advertisement occurs the player is usually dropped from the game completely.  To note, some games are able to do advertising in a responsible way (like in between turns in Wordfeud FREE).

Secondly, mobile gaming is about quick access and simpler mechanics (which doesn't mean worse games).   The in-app micro-transactions conflict with both of these.  Nothing kills a game worse than spending the first five minutes finding out you really need to spend 99 cents to unlock something to make the game actually playable.  Then another five minutes is spent figuring out which payment service the game is using and by the time it rolls around to game time the player is ready to move on to something else.  Contributing to this further is again the screen size on mobile devices.  Pages for the in-app payments have to almost always be seperate screens, further pulling players away from the game.

These are all reasons as to why I was very happy to read this article and see Rockstar talk about how they are going into mobile to deliver quality games and not just to make money:
Besides, individual markets and platforms aren't something that seems to greatly interest Houser in the first place. "This is my personal opinion, but I think a lot of people in the general mobile industry are more focused on making money than making good products," he commented. "We're a business, too --we have to think about how to build revenue and we value the knowledge you need for that, but we want to conduct business with superior products. Focusing on nothing but business is depressing to me; it's boring. I want people to understand that we make games for more than just to make money."
I believe mobile gaming is going through growing pains and as we see more big developers like Rockstar step in with true, quality games aimed at core gamers we'll see a reduction in the downward spiral of game pricing and F2P mechancis.  The current situation is not sustainable.  Only so much shovelware can exist before the market crashes.  History has taught us this.

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