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Who Cares About Mobile Gaming?
This year began with an explosion of scandals in the world of mobile gaming. From Dungeon Keeper to Candy Crush , you couldn’t move online without stumbling across an angry article or defamatory blog post dismissing the actions taken by either EA or King. I was a part of the crowd, with some of my first articles for Leviathyn focusing on a subject. But then something predictable happened. It all stopped. Whilst this indicative of a larger issue- namely that issues themselves rarely become solved, and are instead swept to the wayside- it speaks for a more specific problem in the world of mobile gaming; no-one cares.
Okay, the number may not quite be zero. There are communities and groups online dedicated to following the ins and outs of mobile gaming specifically, as there are for pretty much any subject. And whilst this is a good thing- a vocal consumer base is always good- it’s simply not enough to make a difference. The number of people who take an active interest in the gaming industry compared to those who do not fluctuates from game to game; however, it’s usually safe to assume that gamers are in the minority. This discrepancy can be seen on the mobile platform better than any other when you consider the sheer size of its install base. When everybody owns a mobile phone, the size of the gaming community dwindles in comparison. Admirably though they perform, mobile gaming blogs simply can’t reach the swelling masses of the audience as a whole, and certainly not in a way that makes any tangible difference.
The effect that the gaming community has on a game or a developer is debatable, both in terms of success and morality, and is usually only something that can be tested on a case by case basis. When the ending of Mass Effect 3 was changed because of the mewling outcry of its fans, I felt that the wrong thing had been done. Conversely, in the recent debacle surrounding Nintendo and same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life, I felt that the general public outcry was understandable and that Nintendo’s reaction to it was reasonable. However, the thing that each of these issues illustrates is itself better than the harm or progress caused by either. They each show that people care. When something is considered to be wrong by a large enough quantity of people, there are ways to make that opinion known. However, when something wrong comes about in the mobile industry, it’s less and less likely that anyone with access to these channels will use them to highlight the problem; because what is there to care about? Mobile games are available to play on products from a range of different developers, and these products support mobile gaming as a secondary function. It’s not like following the success and failures of Nintendo’s hardware ventures. The PC is in a similar position, but this in itself is an older more established platform with a number of franchises associated with it that have become popularised and even institutionalised over the years. Mobile as a platform is fairly old, true enough, but in its current state it’s a burgeoning and new form- one which I don’t think has quite found its place yet.
Unfortunately, the chaos and ignorance caused by this unstable form creates a breeding ground for the worst kinds of business practices; practices which now, unfortunately, the mobile platform has become synonymous with. Who the hell cares whether Kiwi Dash was a poorly made sham to try and con people out of large amounts of money because, when you get right down to it, who the hell cares about Kiwi Dash? Unfortunately, whether you care or not, this stuff matters. The mobile industry festers and draws in bigger names and franchises into its pestilence. When EA deems to infect a long standing and much loved franchise, that’s when the masses react; and they are not happy. But the problem doesn’t lie with EA. Well, okay, maybe it does a bit. Quite a lot, really. But that’s not the source of the problem. The source is a sick and neglected platform that is nevertheless more widely played and reaches a larger audience than any other market. And that’s scary.
When it comes right down to it, I can understand why people can lose interest in mobile gaming. I’m fed up with the endless conveyor belt of cheap knock offs, scams and pay-to-win atrocities that crop up daily on Google Play and the App Store. But it’s also the reason that when something good occasionally shows its face, like a rose amid two thousand thorns, I care hard. Any developer that can make a decent game for mobile, in this financial climate, and not get drawn into trying to screw over their potential customers deserves praise. They deserve support, they deserve help and they deserve far more attention than any scandal-making big fish looking to use mobile to bolster its bank accounts. I don’t care about a lot of mobile games, but those I do care about bloody well earned it.