Sunday Debate: Hardcore Gaming on Android?
Smartphone gaming is not regular gaming – for most gamers, the kind of games on Android are behind and under the more traditional videogames of consoles and personal computers. There are many phone games that bridge the gap, however, be through graphics, story, gameplay or the more holistic result. But as a whole, smartphones are geared towards simpler and more casual games – which is not entirely a bad thing, as people do enjoy these kind of titles.
However, power users face a dilemma: they buy these expensive and powerful phones that are capable of great-looking 3D graphics and immersive experiences, but as of now there aren’t many titles that fit those standards. People still play mobile games seriously – at the XDA office, we love playing The Witcher: Battle Arena during breaks on slow days. Mobile games don’t have to be equal to console titles, but we still love full-featured releases such as KOTOR and other old classics.
Our debate for the day has little to do with the Android OS itself: we want to discuss whether gaming companies’ incursion into mobile gaming is better for both mobile platforms and the companies themselves. Many are already jumping into the Android wagon. So we ask you: Could the future see mobile platforms become hubs of hardcore gaming? Do you think gaming companies jumping into Android is good for all parties? Would/do their mobile projects diminish or dilute the quality of older classics and newer gems? Do you think “serious” gaming is possible with mobile hardware now, or in the future?
Mobile hardware is, at this point, powerful enough for all sorts of brilliant experiences. Phone graphics have gone a long way, and the fact that you are carrying the device with you virtually all day is a great benefit to those on the go. Moreover, the high-resolution display and the powerful GPUs capable of outputting content in said resolutions are benefits that previous handheld consoles could never accomplish. Current handhelds like the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita still don’t come close to the most powerful exponents in the Android space. The fact that you can put those pixels on a screen via OTG, Chromecast or other screen mirroring services and soon USB Type-C is something that puts mobile platforms in a privileged spot over traditional gaming consoles. Finally, video game streaming services like that of Nvidia can render the hardware gap obsolete.
The main problems with mobile hardware are not bound to the processor or screen, however. Battery life, for example, is already a serious concern for those that do not do phone gaming. Moreover, heat and throttling are also concerns that would prevent long and sustained sessions. But the biggest issue many people find right now is the touchscreen controls. Luckily, bluetooth controllers are easy to find, and we assume that if serious gaming becomes mainstream on Android, we wouldn’t have issues with them in hand. But the platform is inherently flawed at providing seamless controls for many genres without additional input. Finally, VR is also growing in the mobile space, and this combined with serious gaming can make for very amazing experiences – on the go!
Many companies do release full-featured games on Android, but as it stands, they don’t develop them for the platform. What we see are typically new ports from old gems, such as the previously mentioned KOTOR, or Stranger’s Wrath, Grim Fandango, and more. Many genres do not work at all on the platform due to the controls, and developing a serious game takes serious time and money that might not be compensated through app sales. After all, most users are not used to paying over $5 for an app, much less the traditional $40 and up that handheld/home console and PC games go for. But the sheer volume of users could pay off with intelligent pricing or (sadly) alternative pricing models. Nintendo already made it clear that they want to release some of their IPs on smartphones, and Konami and Square Enix are also turning their focus to mobile platforms.
Would it benefit these big companies to dilute the value of their fan-acclaimed IPs with mobile games? If Nintendo released a Candy Crush clone based around Zelda, many fans (myself included) would hate them for it. But releasing a fleshed out Zelda is, at the same time, something that we might not see Nintendo do for a while on mobile. Such a game could drastically underperform due to the different playing and buying habits of mobile gamers, and if these kind of games fail, they can dilute the value of an IP for good. We also do not want to see our favorite gaming companies succumb to Freemium and IAP spam models. What we do know, however, is that the future of mobile gaming looks terrifically more promising than its present state, so it could be good to start betting on the space early on.
Mobile hardware is still evolving at fast rates, and with our high-resolution screens and upcoming VR boom, our phones could finally expand into and conquer home entertainment territory. At the same time, the physical limitations of current smartphones (touchscreens, heat, battery) don’t make many experiences as rewarding as a traditional gaming platform does. The companies in the game could greatly benefit from such a development, but we don’t know if their models would be beneficial for us users. Finally, a change of focus like this could also redirect time, money and energy from these companies’ console and PC developments, lowering and diluting the quality of the IPs we know and love.
- Will hardcore gaming become a thing on Android? Why or why not?
- Do you think it would be beneficial to users and companies?
- What do you predict the outcomes would be?