Welcome to the latest in our series of Pocket Gamer columns. We're taking the best games writers in the industry and giving them a platform. Veteran journalist Jon Jordan is here each week examining the trends shaping your mobile games scene. This week he considers whether he's the target audience for EA's forthcoming Command & Conquer: Rivals.

Given the amount of time I've spent playing Command & Conquer over the years, the news Command & Conquer: Rivals is coming to mobile sends a little shiver of nostalgic anticipation down my spine.

And maybe that's the problem when bringing back old games, reimagined for a new platform - in this case mobile - and a new business model - free-to-play.

For while the games industry is surprisingly retro in attitude, very few retro projects gain widespread critical or commercial success.

Too often, these games become punch bags for old fans who hate the new direction, polluting the excitement bubble, and reducing the chance new fans will try the new experience. The worst of both worlds, then.

Throw into the mix the fact Command & Conquer has already twice failed to make free-to-play work and it could be said EA is looking down both barrels of a Mammoth Tank on this one.

Regional variations

More generally, though, it's western developers (and audiences) that seem to have a problem bringing PC games to mobile. This isn't something shared in China and South Korea.

Sure, in the early days of the App Store, Take-Two went on a streak of porting the likes of Civilization, Bioshock, and GTA to mobile as premium games. But, in general, the gameplay and UX complexity of PC games appears to have been an insurmountable issue for native mobile success.

In China, however, porting the most popular PC games to mobile without worrying about the complexity or UX has been one of the most successful trends of recent years.

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Despite what you may think the top grossing mobile game in world isn't Fortnite but Honour of Kings (aka Arena of Valor), which is essentially Tencent's mobile port of PC MOBA League of Legends.

The situation in similar in South Korea. The value of its mobile game market grew 80 percent in 2017 thanks to the release of two games based on one of its most popular PC MMORPGs Lineage.

The difference is partly because neither country has a history of console gaming or indeed playing games at home. Instead, their gamer communities developed in PC cafes.
In that context, being able to play the games you’d previously had to travel to a specific location and pay upfront to play whenever you want on your phone proved revolutionary.

Whose audience it is anyway?

Too often, I think, we ignore these historical trends, instead reducing the success or failure of a game to our subjective take on what appears to be an objective label - "It was or wasn't a good game".

In a small number of cases, of course, it's fair to say the most popular and successful games are the best games: Half-Life, Mario 64, GTA V, Clash Royale, Candy Crush Saga etc.

But in the vast majority of cases, a game's success or failure is all about how well it fulfils the needs of its audience, which may or may not be us.

Maybe that’s why the likes of Game of War and Mobile Strike are the most hated mobile games: they were incredibly successful at fulfilling the needs of a very small but very wealthy player base but unplayable for everyone else.

So, where does that leave Command & Conquer: Rivals?

As someone who enjoyed the original and plays a lot of free-to-play mobile games and who has already pre-registered for its release, I guess I'm the target audience.

And I'm excited, but not hopeful.

The joy of the early C&C games was all about long, attritional battles, building up resources for the inevitable tank rush. Technically that's easy to do, but 20 years on, I don't have entire weekends to spend playing games anymore.
Compressing that sort of gameplay experience into a 10 minute session won't be easy, but squeezing it down to a less-than-five minutes wouldn't - in my mind - make it a real Command & Conquer game.

Still, I'll have to remember that won't necessarily make it a bad game, just not a good game for me.

If this column has given you food for thought, share your comments below and bookmark Jon Jordan's page for more of the same next Monday. Remember to also check out words of wisdom and mirth from experienced games journalists Susan Arendt and Harry Slater each week.