Παρασκευή, 14 Δεκεμβρίου 2012

Why Mobiles and Tablets haven’t quite reached gaming yet (or why despite the bloom of mobile gaming, new consoles keep coming)



You know what? As you’ve seen already, I love gaming. No matter the console, the platform or the shape of the device that runs games, I just love them.

But after MANY hours playing games on my iPod Touch and my Motorola XooM tablet, I can’t help but think that those experiences feel more empty than my DS and 3DS could offer. Hell, after a full hour of Infinity Sword 2, I had the URGE to play something at one of my consoles. Anything on any console. Even PC!


It’s just that. Mobile gaming isn’t there yet. Yeah, you can argue all you want about how “the iDevices are becoming a viable gaming platform” and such, but at the rate things are going, I just dissagree and here’s the main reason.

Gaming needs design choices that favor it.

You know, you can have any game from the App Store or Google Play in a matter of SECONDS, but here’s one particular thing that stands in the way: The overall design of the portable devices does not favor gaming.

This dates back to the first smartphones, PDA’s and tablets. As Windows Mobile platform grew giagantic, everybody was wondering why there aren’t any good games ported to those platforms? Then, come to think of this, most, if not all of those devices weren’t designed for gaming but some small distractions in interactive form. Such as a version of Refersi or Tic Tac Toe. Hell, even chess was a go.

look how few steps we departed, aside from sleek designs

As the iPhone came by, it knocked the dated (by all standards) Windows Mobile OS out of the league by introducing a newer slickier way to rock a smartphone, without having to search for shells, apps, hacks e.t.c. It may threw away the OS, but the standard design of a candybar touch-enabled phone stayed, with a fresh coat of paint. So did the apps. They just stripped away all the complex menus and crap leaving sheer functionality.

Now, I don’t criticise the way things are today. THERE’S NO OTHER WAY A PHONE COULD WORK. The Nokia N-Gage incident pretty much talks by itslef and so does the Xperia Play. Both phones tried to reach gamers but failed as phones because they tried to combine two designs that, at the time being, they’re incompatible. So, my point is that a phone buffed with apps, connectivity opportunities, social integration e.t.c. is still a device that’s not designed with gaming in mind. The games instead have changed to fit into the phone, so we get easy experiences, designed to be interrupted oftenly and they control the same as ordinary apps with touches and swipes.

Still the most sold game in any device to date.

Apple, Google and Microsoft started to push gaming on those new supercharged phones because it sells. People always liked distractions. I mean, look at Snake and Solitaire in Nokia’s Devices back in the 90’s and early 00’s. People LOVED having those on their phones. In many cases, people bought those phones for the little games alone. The prospect of downloading new ones with a price around $1, was what they really wanted. But the world of gaming doesn’t work like that.

Those games belong to their own category. They are gaming experiences that it’s better off to be seen as a genre of their own. Not better not worse than the regular games we’ve come to know and love, but they are games SHAPED to fit into multopurpose portable computer devices with gaming not being their particular strenghth by design. Actually, they’re not designed to have their own demands from the hardware but rather cruched down from the hardware itself

But, what about tablets?

Tablets, ah those joyous fuckers. It’s easy to be obsessed with a tablet.


Anyways, tablets follow almost the same principles. Tablets aren’t gaming devices even though gaming is a nice addition to them. But still the controls and ther overall design isn’t made with games in mind.

Just play some Sonic CD from the recent re-release to see that touch controls are as atrocious as they’ve always been. Add that, in some bigger tablets, namely the 10,1 ones, there are problems grasping them. So, games not only controls fairly bad, but the handling is okay for everything else but gaming.

But some games are nice, you know, Fruit Ninja really pops out with the larger screen and stuff, but those games who take advantage of the tablet screen don’t really justify tablets as an overly competitive platform.

In a quick comparison with Nintendo’s Gamepad, it’s easy to see what’s designed differently in order to fit in gaming and not vice versa. Many iPad fanatcs have ditched the Gamepad as a “Fisher Price tablet” but really, it’s not even a tablet the fact that it’s designed specifically for controlling games, justifies why they didn’t fit everything in a smaller package. And it’s true, somebody cracked open that stinker and found the components and loads of empty space. That’s because they wanted it to be shaped for gaming. Easy for the holding hands and durable for the awkward little dinosaurs out there. The device is not made to slide into some pocket or some bag. It’s a controller  for a home console.

Then there is Achos Game Pad (I see lawsuits coming) which tries to be an oversized PSP. Most of us will see a potent GP2X alternative in that one, and that’s OK (at 160 Euros, is a smash deal!) but that doesn’t change that we use the Android platform for emulating old gaming systems instead of playing games of today, programmed for Android, and that’s because of all the reasons we stated. The 16-bit era titles can fill your gaming needs better than most of the games in Google Play. 

One must wonder, “PC’s are multipurpose devices, so why you don’t bitch about PC’s as well”. Well, the PC has many other things to consider. First of all, the hardware limitations are absent. You can shape a PC the way you want it hardware-wise. Also, Keyboard and mouse control schemes work mostly because they are easy for your hands. Also, they’re highly custimizable for enchancing your gaming experience. None of those parameters are present in tablets and smartphones. The closest thing to customization you can get is to drag around virtual buttons on the touchscreen and that's it. Also, don’t forget that PC has its own distraction games such as Minesweeper and Solitaire. Hell, even the timeless yet basic DX BALL is one of them.

So, the reason PC didn’t slump into the sheer meh of the gamers, is that it can be a serious gaming platform if you want it to, while not limiting other functions such as browsing. It’s far more flexible by design, and you can always hook up a controller to satisfy your gaming needs.

So, unless there’s a serious effort to find the distinctive line between hardware and software design that allows gaming or at least have some flexibility to include it without limiting it, mobile platforms won’t cause a videogame crash anytime soon. Except if people just stop playing traditional games and find their holy grail of entertainment in such devices.

4 σχόλια:

  1. For me the answer is VERY simple, Controls.

    Well I know that this is pretty much a debunked myth although I tend to dissagree.

    History told us that Mobile Devices that sported a gamepad style set up failed. Be it an N-Gage, Xperia Play and so on, subjectivly I found these devices tempting and Primed for gaming.

    Why they failed is beyond me.

    The truth is that mobile gaming is targeted at the fast paced casual gamer. these games do not have an engrossing and immersive storyline so they cannot engage the player. Also, again, they do not controll as one would expect so again mobile devices are not a "Gaming" platform, and never will thus gaming centered consoles will always have a place in the market.

    PS.Fuck, my english skills are deteriorating.

  2. Well I'll tell you why they failed: Design. Nokia N-Gage got closer on creating a dedicated gaming platform, but both N-Gage handsets were atrocious to use in design. I was an N-Gage user and the shit I got for having to use that device was unbearable.

    Forward to Experia Play, nobody wanted the extra thickness in their pocket. Firthermore, do you recall what was the main offering from Sony and marketing point? PS1 games. A.K.A. Emulating an old console in an attempt to capitalize on hardcore. The games I know they're optimized for Play controls are way too few, including Minecraft Pocket Edition and robust emulators.

  3. So in essence, if apple would release a gaming centered iPhone with a slide out gamepad it would be all the rage...

  4. Well, let's not lose the point here. What Apple WOULD do in the future, is a mere speculation. But judging what's been done up antil now, if Apple's wizzards want to reach gaming masses, they would consider chaingin some of their philosophy in design so they won't pull another Pippin again.

    But let's not have any delusion here: They LIKE the way things are now. Such games offer them a shit-ton of money to sit on and whole mobile gaming shows no signs of slow down. It's just that the mobile gaming market as it goes until now, isn't able to overlap the market that belongs to consoles and pc's.