What's Wrong With Mobile Gaming?

Anna Kim | February 6th 2019

Mobile gaming

Mobile gaming: a land of contrasts

Mobile games, unfortunately, do not have the strongest reputation. From dead-simple point-and-push children's games to nefarious free-to-play monstrosities bolstered by exploitative in-app purchases, mobile games are, unfortunately, rife with unscrupulous developers and publishers who reuse stolen assets and produce advertisements that don't even attempt to show gameplay footage. After all, who could forget this magnificent work?

That game, as you may expect, contains not a frame of the former Governor of California himself, but even beyond that the game can't handle the dynamic isometric action behind Arnie's stoic and masculine frown.

So, why is this? The answer lies in a couple different areas:

  1. Wide Open Market. Much like the flash game boom of the late-1990s, or some of the absolute shovelware that has appeared on Steam this decade, the mobile gaming world hasn't really had exceptionally strong gatekeeping. iOS' App Store is probably the stronger option compared to Google's Play Store, especially with regard to removing copyrighted material. But both stores are chock full of crummy imitations, games marketed misleadingly, and games that are barely functional attempts to get kids to spends hundreds of dollars of their parents' money.
  2. Free-To-Play. There is nothing inherently wrong with "free-to-play" games, but the design structure of some of these games is better characterized as "free-to-win". Sure, you could spend hours upon hours of endless, soul-crushing grinding that may not get anywhere -- but you can also spend $100 on "Mobile Fun Bux" to get you past that nigh-on-unbeatable boss. While microtransactions have infected the mainstream game world too, it's always presented as a trade-off -- money for extra content, or to assist with a difficult boss. Too often mobile developers design their games to be mechanically impossible nightmares, and the only way around this is to buy, buy, buy.
  3. Misleading Advertising. I mean, not to pick on the exemplary work of Gov. Schwarzenegger, but let's take compare this ad for the game with the real-life gameplay. These companies spend their budgets on getting Kate Upton or Arnold Schwarzenegger instead of actually making something worth playing.

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