Having been around at the dribbling start of mobile games - from Snake to the first WAP internet-enabled mobile titles in the late 1990s - I'm starting to wonder, will the scene will end in a bang or a whimper?
That's a ridiculous claim, you should be thinking. Mobile games have never been more popular or more successful - just look at Fortnite, PUBG, Clash Royale, Candy Crush Saga etc. Their $50 billion of annual revenues do not lie.
And yet, have mobile games ever been so predictable and less mobile?
Where's the innovation?
Partly it's the problem that now the hardware is so good, screens so large, and multi-platform control schemes so decent that successful PC and consoles games such as PUBG and Fortnite can easily leverage mobile's mass audience to build on their initial sales momentum without diluting the experience.
And this is sucking the oxygen out of market for new games - especially new games that would appeal to the PUBG/Fortnite audience.
Not that ambitious developers seem scared. Rather, they see this new scenario as a great opportunity.
A great example is Super Bit Machine's game Armajet. A cross-platform PC/mobile multiplayer 2D shooter, it's been designed primarily as a mobile game with respect to its control system and session duration, but was initially available through Steam platform and now as a Google Play store beta.
In this way, Armajet makes the best of both worlds, gaining heavy support from hardware companies such as Razer, which used Armajet at the launch of its Razer 2 phone and Raiju mobile game controller, as well as organising esports tournaments to promote its gaming PCs.
In this way it will be fascinating to see whether Armajet can demonstrate the success of cross-platform gaming, this time from a mobile-first starting position.
Something new, something borrowed
And even when it comes to standalone mobile games, new developers continue to start up with dreams of making it big.
One recent example is Core5, which is the brainchild of one-time World of Tanks global marketing manager Paul Lando and Artem Gluschenia, previously at indie developer Happymagneta. It's working on a bunch of simple one-touch titles across multiple genres.
Yet, elsewhere for every innovative mash-up such as Frogmind's MOBA-meets-Angry Birds Badland Brawl, there are dozens of big licenses backed up giant corporations with millions of dollars in marketing money.
This isn't to say that games such as MARVEL Battle Lines, Blade Runner 2049, DC: Unchained, Star Wars: Rise to Power, and Power Rangers: All Stars won't be interesting.
Certainly Scopely’s Star Trek: Fleet Command (currently in soft launch as are the other titles) is an interesting take on 4X gameplay, but fundamentally it's all about applying tried-and-tested gameplay to an attractive mass market setting.
And twenty years in, I do worry if that's enough for mobile games to continue to thrive for the next decade. Still, as a perennial optimist, I think there are enough smart people in the industry for new ideas, new technology, new gameplay, even new monetisation techniques to arise and get everyone excited again.
As for me, this will be my last Pocket Gamer column for awhile. I'll be keeping a beady eye on the scene, of course, but my current obsession is the emerging blockchain gaming sector. You can follow all that news as it happens at Pocket Gamer's site site BlockchainGamer.biz.
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