This year, Pocket Gamer celebrates its tenth birthday.
In internet terms, that’s pretty ancient.
To mark the occasion, and to illustrate just how old and wise we are, we’ll be taking a look back at the games, trends, and general happenings for each of the years we’ve been around. (See 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.)
This time we’re glancing fondly back at 2011, a truly remarkable year in general, and a pretty darned good year for mobile gaming.
What were we playing?
Yep, mobile gaming fever had well and truly taken hold by 2011, with millions of people tapping away at their iPhones and Android devices just for kicks.
On the iPhone, we had the Platinum Award-winning Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing – a proper console-quality kart racer, no less. DrawRace 2 was every inch the fully-developed line-drawing racer we dreamed it could be, while Jetpack Joyride took up permanent residence in our Games folder.
The weirdly beautiful point-and-click delights of Superbrother: Sword & Sworcery and strategic prowess of Anomaly Warzone Earth played to the iPad’s immersive strengths, while Ticket to Ride showed that Apple’s tablet was the new second home of boardgames (after the dining table, of course).
Many of the best iOS games also appeared on Android in 2011, but Hexage’s unique zoomed-in turn-based strategy game Robotek, Mr Karoshi from YoYo Games, and Mediocre’s Sprinkle were particular stand-outs.
Windows Phone, meanwhile, had the odds stacked against it (more on this later) but it did manage the odd gem, such as the charming and essential ilomilo.
Generally, the portable gaming landscape was finally settling down in 2011. Whereas the success of the likes of Zynga's FarmVille on Facebook during 2009-2010 had initially lured some future mobile gaming premier league players away from smartphone, sense soon prevailed. (For instance, PG 10th Anniversary sponsor Nordeus released the first of its popular Top Eleven titles on Mark Zuckerberg's social platform… but did quickly follow with a phone version in 2011.)
Further evidence of the smartphone domination continued, and it was all-change on the handheld front. The first batch of Nintendo 3DS games included the excellent Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, and a 3D re-issue of the classic Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but the tide had well and truly turned in the world of pocket play.
What were we playing on?
Apple kept things ticking over in 2011 with the launch of the iPhone 4S and iPad 2– the latter representing a welcome slimming down of the chunky original.
More interesting stuff was going on elsewhere, however. Sony finally released the so-called PlayStation Phone, but it wasn’t great. It turned out to be just a mediocre Android phone with a slide-out set of physical controls and a half-hearted app store experience.
Far more exciting overall was the Samsung Galaxy S2, which had a huge (for the time) and vibrant 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display and a blazingly fast processor. Android had a new champion.
Away from phones, Nintendo finally announced its new handheld, the 3DS, to a somewhat mixed response. Some felt that the 3D angle was a bit of a gimmick, but there was less arguing with the quality of Nintendo’s launch games.
What else was going on in mobile?
After a strong 2010, and buoyed by sales of the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy S2, Samsung overtook Apple on smartphone market share in 2011. It was the king of mobile.
One former king of mobile wasn’t doing so well. New Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop sent out a famous memo stating that the company was on a 'burning platform', and announced a new strategy that would essentially turn Nokia into a second-party Windows Phone manufacturer. The Nokia N800 was a fine phone but… well, it ran Windows Phone 7.
In an alternate reality, Nokia had unveiled the slick, well-built Nokia N9 (essentially the Nokia N800 with Nokia’s promising new Maemo OS, above) three years earlier and gave Apple a run for its money.
What else was PG doing?
It was a fairly steady year at PG towers. 2011 saw the team mainly focused on polishing and boosting our core PG and PG.biz websites, which were ticking along nicely at this stage.
One notable addition to the family came in July, when Steel Media acquired AppSpy – the largest provider of YouTube video reviews for iPhone games on the web. Since then, AppSpy has helped drag the word-and-screenshot-obsessed PG team kicking and screaming into the era of Twitch and Let’s Play videos.
Words, pictures, and videos, working together in perfect harmony. It’s beautiful, man.
What else was happening?
As we hinted at in the intro, 2011 was a year of seismic events – some of them literal.
In January we had the Egyptian revolution, which turned the capital Cairo into a war zone.
On March 11, a 9.0 underwater earthquake devastated the north-east coast of Japan.
The year also brought the deaths of two of the most controversial figures of the past two decades. Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in March, and Muammar Gaddafi was executed by militants in October.
We didn’t escape the chaos here in the UK, either. August brought rioting across the country, which originated in London following protests over the death of Mark Duggan at the hands of police.