Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Things Have Taken a Curious Turn

Yesterday, I saw an article that said Activision had over 500 people working on the Call of Duty series.

Today, I went to look at iPod Touches.

Mind you, I don't like Apple. I don't like how they lock down their shit, I don't like how they pretend to be all warm and fuzzy when their corporate actions are often more like Darth Vader, I don't like the whole snobby "we're Apple so we're automatically better" garbage.

I do however, like to play games.

So when things like King Of Dragon Pass, an absolute obscure legend on the PC, comes out for iOS, I have to take notice. Cult classics being ported to a mobile device have now created a kind of momentum that can no longer be ignored.

Let's look at the competing scenarios.

Scenario one: a guy loves Call of Duty. He buys the game every year for $60 and buys an Elite subscription for another $50. If he plays almost 2 hours a day, he will play over 700 hours in the year.

Scenario two: a guy has a Samsung Fascinate (Android), which he purchased on contract from Verizon for $99. He also buys an iPod Touch for $250. That's a little more than a 360 or PS3, but not much, and it's much cheaper than buying both of them.

For the same $110, he could buy at least 30 different games, plus download an unlimited number of free "lite" versions of other games.

It surprises me to say this, but I think many of us are turning into the guy in scenario two. Hell, I AM the guy in scenario two.

I've put serious time into three games this year: Grand Prix Story, Game Dev Story, and Dungeons of Dredmor. Combined, they represent about 100 hours of gaming time. Two Android games, one indie PC game.

My cost? $15.

Would I rather buy one $59 game or 20 mobile games? With almost no exceptions (NHL and Skyrim are the only two this year, I bet), I'd rather have a mobile games. They fit into my 10-minute lifestyle really well, and I can start them up in 5 seconds.

I was slow to jump on this train, but Chris Kohler was right: this is absolutely the elephant in the room for Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. Sorry, the market just isn't going to support $60 games anymore. Well, that's not quite true--there are a handful the market will support, but it's only a handful, and it's not enough for these companies to preserve the price structure.

There's another problem, too. These little mobile devices reward creativity, because it's very difficult to stand out graphically. Most of the AAA games on consoles, in contrast, aren't creative at all-- they're just copies of previous games, with most of the cost due to increasingly high-end graphics and art.

But wait, you say--aren't most mobile games just copies of other games? Yes, they are, and here's why that's irrelevant. There are so many games coming out for mobile devices that if even 1% are truly creative, we will be drowning in fun. The number of games coming out on consoles, in contrast, is so much smaller that the lack of creativity really shows. Plus, when creative games do come to the consoles, people don't even buy them!

The sheer volume of mobile games is overwhelming other platforms. I bought the 3DS at launch, and it's fantastic. The 3-D effect is truly magical.

And I've used it for less than 10 hours in five months.

I don't know how many companies are developing games for the 3DS, but I guarantee you there are 100X that are developing games for mobile platforms. And when I say "company" I'm including those two guys in the garage, because they count.

They've always counted.

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