Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems for mobile devices like smartphones and iPads/iPhones/iPod Touches have been getting a steady stream of games since their inception. It’s a guarantee that each week, if not each day, a new game or two will be released for the portable devices. Whether or not those games are worthwhile is an entirely different story. But what about those instances where the games being released are ports of actual console video games? It’s been happening more and more recently, and it has gotten me to think about just what that means to you and I as gamers, as well as to the publishers and developers of said games.
You said games are coming out for iOS/Android that are ports of actual console games? Which games are you talking about?
Before it was a small trickle of games that came out for iOS: I remember being pretty excited to grab Street Fighter IV for just a dollar one day, and then there was Shining Force and X-Men. While Street Fighter IV was an impressive port, it seemed like bringing over those earlier Genesis/NES/SNES titles was a cinch. And it was welcomed by fans wanting to relive those good ol’ years on the go. Even if Mega Man II had some funky controls on the iPhone.
But there’s been a lot of recent news about new, big boy games being released for the iPad or other devices. Phoenix Wright’s three DS games are all coming to the platform, and this follows up on the recent release of critically acclaimed RPG Bastion making an appearance on the iPad. What’s more, upcoming re-release of classic RPG Baldur’s Gate is being released on the PC and Mac as well as the iOS and Android this month. Price points aside, Square Enix has had the most recent success at the porting of actual games to the iOS with the recent re-release of RPG The World Ends With You just a few weeks ago. These are big budget games that, while now old, are making an appearance on what some would consider a casual gamer’s console/handheld. In short, there are a lot of games previously released as console or handheld exclusives that are being brought over to the smartphone and mobile devices market.
More ways to get great games seems like a good deal to me!
For the gamer like you and I, this is (mostly) a great thing. Now we have a more affordable, more convenient means of playing these games we may have loved and want to play again or we may have passed on the first time. Not to mention those of us that never owned a DS and can now play Phoenix Wright’s games or enjoy the upcoming iOS exclusive Professor Layton game. Looking strictly at the games coming out for the iOS/Android, it’s hard to complain about games becoming available for more people to enjoy.
So more games being available for more players seems like a great idea. Why don’t more publishers release their games for smartphones?
Perhaps the issue is further down than initially thought. I’m not a developer or publisher, so I cannot speak with any tone of authority on this matter, but I have to say that simply taking a game and reworking it to work on the iOS operating system shouldn’t take a great amount of manpower and money. It’ll take some time, sure, but the process of porting the game over isn’t nearly as challenging or time consuming as creating an entirely new title. So if time and money aren’t the issues here, what are?
Think of it this way: if you are, say, Nintendo, and you’re trying to get people to buy the 3DS, you wouldn’t want them to buy anything else that plays Nintendo games because then they’d be less likely to buy more software from you. So putting Mario on the iPhone isn’t a good idea because it takes away from people paying you money for 1) the 3DS, and 2) the Mario game itself. From a publisher’s standpoint releasing games on Android or iOS is a completely backwards approach to making money.
Alright, alright, so if putting games on Android and iOS is bad, then why are there so many console and handheld games already ported over?
Let’s take a look at who is releasing games for Android and iOS: Capcom, Sega, Konami, Ubisoft, and EA just to name a few. What do all these companies have in common? They’re all NOT Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft. The answer may be obvious, but the reason “the big three” don’t have their specific content available on smartphones and tablets is because they’d be directly competing with themselves. It goes back to what I said earlier: Nintendo wouldn’t want to release a Mario game on the iPhone because then people would be less likely to buy their hardware (i.e. the 3DS), and in short Nintendo would make less money.
Companies like Sega and Capcom should (and, for the most part, do) jump on the idea of getting their content out there on more devices than just one. It means they have a greater chance of getting customers, having people like their stuff, and becoming repeat customers in the future. Nintendo and Sony will likely never release their content on these devices because they’d be creating a problem in the market they are trying to dominate. Microsoft is a bit different because they don’t have a handheld device to directly compete with Apple or Google, but they do make Windows and Windows Phones, so they are in a way a more direct competitor than either Sony or Nintendo.
The big question then is should Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft release their games and content on these devices?
Companies other than Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have nothing to lose by porting over their content to i-Devices, and they actually have great incentives to create original content for said devices. For Nintendo and friends, their current approach is to avoid these smartphones and tablets like the plague. Let’s do a little role-playing:
A quick search for statistics on Apple’s sales of iDevices turns up about 350 million devices sold worldwide. Let’s assume that a person owns two different iDevices (so an iPad and an iPhone), so our number of unique users is around 175 million people. Now let’s say that half of those people would be willing to pay for and play games. That’s around 87 million people that you as a game publisher or developer could immediately have your game available to. The collective number of Xbox 360s, Wiis, and PS3s, is around 230 million worldwide, which is a much more significant number when compared, but you have to consider how many people (myself included) own all three or more than one of these systems. On top of that, how many of those people are playing their system each day, or for that matter carrying around a 3DS or PS Vita (hint: there’s only 24 million of those out there). What I’m trying to get at is that the install base of iPhone/Android users is too significant to ignore, which is what it seems Sony and Nintendo are doing. Microsoft is doing alright since they have their fingers in the market already with their exclusive Windows Phone.
To answer the above question of whether or not Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft should bring their games over to the iPhone/iPad and Android market, the answer is a very distinct “YES!” This can be done in a very effective way to not only eliminate Nintendo or Sony from competing with themselves, but to also stir up more interest in their own devices. Why not make an iOS exclusive Mario game with only a handful of levels and content designed for on-the-go gamers? It’ll be on the iPhone, but it just might draw some gamers to your DS/3DS and make them buy that too to get more Mario madness. Or what if Sony released a tie-in game on the iPad with God of War, featuring exclusive levels and content that could then be transferred to the PS3/Vita version? Make these games with quality in mind and price them at just a few bucks and gamers will eat them up! They might even start thinking about moving on to more traditional games as well.
Where do we stand now on the whole “Games on iOS” viewpoint?
Nintendo is pretty outspoken about their stance on creating games for iOS: They ain’t doing it!
Sony has it a bit better off than Nintendo being a huge multifaceted corporation with more than just a games division. Sony already makes computers, phones, and tablets which run on Android OS. They’ve also been hinting at the possibility of making PlayStation certified mobile devices to run some of their games. So overall Sony seems to be opening up to the idea of an app store dominated market.
No matter what Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, or even Capcom, Sega, and any iOS/Android developing company says or does, one thing is for certain: the iPhone and other iDevices have changed the way we game on the. The small price tag for a game instead of full retail price for a game is much more appealing to consumers for obvious reasons, and the idea of owning a separate dedicated gaming machine to take on the go could be quickly fading. Are mobile games the future of the handheld market, I do not know, but I do know that lots of gamers are turning to these devices to get their fix on quality, triple A games made by well known and respected developers. The future is changing for the mobile gaming market, and with such drastic changes to how we game it’s hard to see anyone coming out of this getting exactly what they want. Time will tell what comes of this transition. For now all we can do as gamers is buy the games, on whatever device we choose, play them, enjoy them, and hope more fantastic content is on the way, in one form or another.