Portable Agenda :: The Hardcore Mobile dilemma
Hardcore mobile gamers DO exist, despite how things may look. So where are they all hiding?
2005 was a big year for mobile gaming. $600 million big, or $1.5 billion if you want to talk globally. So where are all the mobile gamers? A quick visit around the busiest, most-trafficked gaming forums shows a mild interest in the mobile platform at best, and disdain for the medium at worst.
IGN's Wireless gaming board has 1,300 posts. Their classic gaming board has 16,000, and their Xbox 360 board recently surpassed 1 million. That lack of online buzz isn't unique to IGN's community- every multiplatform gaming network gives wireless only cursory attention. It's a given that the mobile platform will never generate the excitement and online chatter of the console or PC mediums, but why do hardcore gamers take such an apathetic stance towards mobile?
Part of the problem is just the nature of the medium itself. There's the occasional Doom RPG which catches the attention of the gaming community, but most mobile titles are more casual affairs. Games like Glu's Diner Dash or Jamdat's Collapse! are excellent products and a hell of a lot of fun, but they aren't traditionally the type of title that generates message board threads or that a fan evangelizes to his or her friends.
Mobile gamemakers are also partially to blame. The fact is there are a lot of really bad mobile titles out there. Since a big chunk of that $600 million pie comes from casual consumers looking to spend a few bucks on a time-killer, mobile companies have been able to get away with putting out really poor products for far too long. While casual gamers may enable this lack of quality, the hardcore community doesn't. They avoid and ignore this shovelware.
So what's the solution? How can mobile developers and publishers create a group of people who are genuinely excited and enthusiastic about upcoming mobile releases (IE hardcore mobile gamers)? The biggest step is to move out of the console market's shadow and allow the mobile medium to stand on its own two feet, with its own strengths and weaknesses. Cell phones aren't just underpowered gaming platforms. They also have inherent advantages not found anywhere else in gaming.
The current generation of preview-reading, PS3-preordering gamers will be excited about mobile gaming when it presents them with videogame opportunities they can't get anywhere else. Games that utilize GPS and camera capabilities. Games that take advantage of the fact that 100% of its players are connected to a network. That's a connected percentage that Xbox Live will simply never reach.
A greater focus on mobility (think real world turf fought over in a virtual world, via GPS) and a greater focus on connectedness (think dynamic, evolving worlds via downloads) will create the hardcore mobile gamer.
It's worth noting that the hardcore mobile gamer isn't an entirely mythical creature. Modojo spoke with Sprint's Games & Entertainment General Manager Jason Ford about the gamer who has played 45,000 rounds of Bejeweled multiplayer, and others who take their mobile gaming seriously. Look for that interview this Thursday.
This week we'll also take a look at 24, Real Arcade's mobile line-up, and Vijay Singh 3D- all games that appeal beyond the "time killing" mobile gamer.
I admit that my motivation for exploring this issue isn't entirely altruistic. Modojo strives to be the best resource available for the mobile enthusiast, so it wouldn't do much good to find out that there was no such thing. I was happy to find out that that wasn't the case, despite what online chatter indicates. My personal belief is that they're out there in far greater numbers than people think. They just need a place to call home.
We're working on it.