iOS and the Gaming Industry

Having acquired an iPad for a project recently, and being an avid gamer, I naturally tried to find some good games for it.  I know many a gamer would be ready to take away my gamer tag for daring to even consider reducing myself to playing iOS games, but when it’s all you have for awhile, you make do.

One of the games I managed to find and try out was Infinity Blade, which I was very impressed by.  The game makes good use of the touch controls, creating an engaging and addictive experience.  Playing this made me begin to wonder why iOS is still loathed as a gaming platform.  However, after further inspection, I’ve started to realize why:  the iOS/smartphone platform embodies all the major issues gamers have with the industry as a whole.  So, naturally, we should list them off.

So then,

The 4 Things iOS does that the Gaming Industry Has Problems with:

1) Online Requirements

Now I haven’t tested this with Infinity Blade, but my solitaire game does work without an internet connection, so this isn’t true with every game.  However, many of the games available require a connection to the internet.  For an avid gamer this means either a really good 4G signal or (more likely) a wireless network connection. Neither of these are hard to come by often, but there are places where neither of these are available.  And on a device that is designed to be mobile, this can be a little disappointing.

Now, the big difference here, and one of the only defensible points really, is that a device that holds between 5 and 40 GB of data is not likely going to be able to hold all the information needed to run some of these games.  There isn’t as much worry about piracy, since the games are downloaded directly from the store anyway.

Nevertheless, these games do use their internet connection to either, a) advertise other material, or b) implement a half-hearted multiplayer aspect.  The former are most common among the free-to-play market, and the later from paid games.  In either case, however, there are games that require a connection to a server somewhere (Dino Dominion being foremost on my mind), which renders them unplayable in areas where connection is scarce.

2) Prevalence of Microtransactions

Mostly due to the games being relatively cheap by comparison, so many games have some kind of micro-transaction gimmick to convince you to spend money.  As Extra-Credits states in their episode on the topic, micro-transactions can be done properly, but can also be done poorly.  My wife has found several games that she thought she would like, until she hit the point in the game where spending money was required to progress, or required to progress within the next year or so.  On the flip side, games like DragonVale manage to find a balance where money never feels required, but it can save you a little hassle every now and again.

Regardless, though, the gaming industry seems to think that this is the future of the market — nickel and dimeing customers on little things for games they already presumably own.  The app store is flooded with games that take the whole idea way too far, so it’s only natural that gamers rather not bother with them.

3) Franchise Name Recognition

Speaking of not bothering, don’t even attempt to “browse” the app store for games.  There are ways to bring up the most popular and highest reviewed games (which are not reliable but we’ll get to that), and you can sort by Free and Paid.  That’s about it though.  If you don’t really know what you’re looking for, and don’t have a title to search by, it’s like looking at a haystack and wondering if there’s a needle inside.  I had to deffer to top 10 and 25 lists on other sites to get an idea of what I wanted to download.

This means that games that are recognizable franchises suddenly become far more marketable.  Batman, Marvel, and Final Fantasy all have some kind of iOS app available to download.  Whether they’re really worth downloading I couldn’t tell you, but they all exist.  So, new IPs and indie titles like Double Fine’s “Middle Manager of Justice” become difficult to track down unless you know to search for it (you’re welcome by the way).

The industry as whole seems to be keeping to this idea, as Jim Sterling observes in his PS4 show.  Recognizable names and franchises, like Dead Space, Tomb Raider, KillZone, Legend of Zelda, and SimCity, all get hit up for new installments and additions, instead of taking a chance on creating something new in the game space.  All the investment tends to go toward these big titles as well, but that brings me to my last conclusion.

4) Lack of Quality Control

What’s worst about the app store is the overarching lack of quality in the titles being sold as games on the platform that hurts it overall.  Good games like Fruit Ninja and Infinity Blade are the exception, not the rule in this case.  The amount of slag you have to sort to get to something worthwhile is ridiculous.  However, this is prevalent in the gaming world at large now as well.

Big name games like SimCity, and Diablo releasing and being effectively DOA once the game is installed shows a lack of testing, preparation, and concern for it’s consumers.  These were full priced titles that these companies not only hoped but expected to shell out by the millions, yet they could not give them a proper launch.  How much quality control do you think, then, would go into games that are 5% of the cost?  For some, about as much as you’d expect.

This is exasperated by two things: the reliance on a search feature (as stated before), and the lack of reliable reviews.  I say the lack of reliable reviews because, there are games out there that will actively reward players for reviewing the game.  This means that games like Dino Dominion and Kingdoms of Camelot are full of single sentence reviews with 4 or more stars, that fail to address any major flaws in the game.

While this has not pervaded into the gaming industry at large for the most part, there is potential evidence that such bias (either intentional or not) does exist within gaming journalism as well.

The conclusion I reached is that these are the reasons the core gaming community is turned off by iOS as a game platform.  iOS brings to the table everything a gamer knows to be wrong in the industry and asks them to take a heaping helping of it.  It’s what corporations see as the big seller, and so far have bent over backwards to imitate it.

That isn’t to say there is no merit to any of the games I play on the iPad, but I can see how some gamers can’t stand to look at what gaming is, has, and will become.

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One thought on “iOS and the Gaming Industry

  1. […] past generation, and stand to continue to do so well into the next. Though still suffering from issues of proper recognition, the major game competitors are very clearly eyeing this market closely as the “console […]

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