Mobile Mavens

Mobile Mavens' Games of the Year 2017

Mobile Mavens' Games of the Year 2017

Once again it's that time of year where we all start feeling reflective and look back on the year just gone.

And what a year it's been for mobile games! A number of excellent new titles have been released this year that are shaking up the charts and changing the definition of what a mobile game can be.

We've already asked our Indie Mavens what their favourite games of 2017 are, so we've also asked the same question of our Mobile Mavens:

What is your Mobile Game of the Year for 2017 and why?

 

Adam Telfer Consultant MobileFreeToPlay

Adam has been in the mobile game industry since 2007, creating games independently. He's since grown into a full 50+ person studio manager.

Recently he's taken a position at Wooga in Berlin to sharpen his design skills and work with the world's best to create amazing, well-crafted products onto the mobile marketplace.

2017 was another big year for mobile games, but the trend continues that many of the biggest games of 2017 were launched years before. More game companies are investing in live ops for their existing hits over making a bold investment into new games.

The two new games that stick out to me for 2017 are Brawl Stars by Supercell and CATS by ZeptoLab. These are the two that had the boldest design and gave me plenty of inspiration.

Despite my criticisms at launch about their progression systems, Brawl Stars' core gameplay is incredible. Its core gameplay has driven a rabid audience of streamers and was able to retain a strong userbase in soft launch.

Their core gameplay is addictive, with plenty of moments where the round's winning team swings back and forth. Supercell again has created a whole new genre on mobile: esports and the importance of streamers is officially here.

The new update just went live as well which addresses many of the concerns of the progression in Brawl Stars - its clear that Supercell want to make Brawl Stars into a hit.

CATS is similar in terms of how bold the design was. Right from the first experience I loved the characters, the attention to detail, and the high-level strategic play of designing your own battle robot.

The automated gameplay feels great and ZeptoLab has already shown that over the past months they're aggressively updating the game to add more strategy and skill in the late game. Once again ZeptoLab has shown no fear by creating a gameplay never before seen on mobile, and its paid off.

Honourable mentions go to Fire Emblem Heroes for its great controls and strong progression and Bury Me, My Love for bringing something completely different.

Torulf Jernström CEO Tribeflame

I will go for Golf Clash by Playdemic.

It's a very well made game and has been doing extremely well for them. The core game is nice and polished. It stays interesting with well made events and PvP battles. The meta is really Clash Royale with Archer King style betting on top.

The betting part means that I'm really never trying to lose a battle on purpose, as that would make me lose soft currency too. It also makes the battles exciting.

Of course, the target audience is well chosen. Golfers are adults who are used to spending on their hobby. It all adds up to a game that has moved Playdemic into a much more prominent position than before they made that game.

Tom Kinniburgh Consultant MobileFreeToPlay

Homescapes by Playrix. Although not a huge innovation, it’s a perfect example of iteration done just the right. Playrix also did a really good job on the marketing al throughout November which has left Homescapes in the top five grossing in puzzle in most major territories around the world.

Voodoo the publisher. The domination of the free charts through Hypercasual gaming has been to a large extent the work of Voodoo.

After the purchase of Ketchapp by Ubisoft, Ketchapp seem to have dropped the ball and Voodoo has picked it up. Really solid set of releases, such as Dune!, Flappy Dunk, Paper.io to name but a few in 2017.

Devin Nambiar Head of Product Management, Asia-Pacific Electronic Arts

There are a handful of games that pushed the envelope of innovation this year - Brawl Stars and Golf Clash among them. However by virtue of overall impact, my mobile game of the year by a country mile is Tencent's Honor of Kings.

This is the year Honor of Kings became the world's top grossing mobile game of all time, raking in over $200 million a month in China alone. The year that Honor of Kings elevated itself from League of Legends mobile port to China's "digital mahjong," in terms of cultural impact.

A game that became so inherently social that you'd hear regularly about family parties built around the game, real-world romantic relationships and love triangles made and broken over interactions within the game, and parental controls to keep session time and addiction down among children, after public relations criticism that ultimately helped grow MAUs to over 100 million users in the world's most populous country.

Honor of Kings was and is all about scale. Simply put, no game has ever reached the scale of Honor of Kings. Not only in terms of revenue and users, but also the scale of a dev team of hundreds that helped churn out a feature-rich game with innovations like geo-location social and matchmaking, eCommerce-like monetisation and animated hero skins players thirsted for.

Now, Tencent is rebranding the game Arena of Valor and setting its sights on global success. It's unclear if this will be possible without WeChat as the foundation, but it will be very interesting to see how things play out.

Oscar Clark Author, Consultant and Independent Developer Rocket Lolly Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

For me its a tough call between Golf Clash and The Battle of Polytopia.

Golf Clash is the perfect reinvention of the golfing classics for mobile using social connections and tournament systems to make the genre feel deliciously engaging. Just brilliant!

Polytopia (which technically came out end last year but I only discovered it this year) is my perfect game for playing offline. Which given the amount I travel means I play it a lot. Its reminded me of why I loved Age of Empires but without the hassle.

Both are simply great to play, engaging and immersive and whist F2P I have spent money in both willingly and not been left feeling under pressure - they still feel special to play.

Shintaro Kanaoya CEO Chorus Worldwide

Founder and CEO of Chorus Worldwide, a publisher for Western mobile developers seeking success in the Asian markets, Shintaro has over 20 years' experience within the gaming industry.

He has worked in various roles from game production, localisation, marketing and business development at companies such as EA, SCEE, Rare and Microsoft.

On a personal level, I spent a lot of time on Golf Clash and Craft Away. Very different games, but both seemed to perfect the “snackability” of mobile games.

On an industry level I’m very impressed by Azurlane, from newbie Japanese publisher Yostar, and Chinese teams Manjuu and Yongshi.

They took the huge success on PC of KanKore, and turned it into a mobile hit, by tapping into the pent up demand to have the experience on mobile which the original developer seems to have missed.

The game is now in the top 20 top grossing games in Japan, on the back of still limited marketing, and I expect this to continue to climb as they take their initial success and plough the resources into building up their local Japanese team and driving a major UA push.

William D. Volk Chief Futurist Forward Reality

HQ Trivia.

Close to half a million people show up two times a day to play a live trivia round where maybe 10 of them will win $100 or so.

The live host, the animated titling, audio. It’s everything “You Don’t Know Jack” should have been on mobile.

Well Done!

My vote was going to go down to either Arena of Valor or HQ Trivia, so I guess mostly everything has been already said by Shintaro and William.

Arena of Valor is possibly the biggest game ever, constantly pushing the enveloppe for what can be achieved on mobile. Today Tencent announced a battle royale mode for the game, pitting five teams of five players against each other.

HQ Trivia

HQ Trivia is a new, ground breaking format that blurs the lines between mobile trivia, TV show, live-streaming and real-money earnings.

Jani Kahrama Founder Secret Exit

I have a hard time choosing between Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey - both have given me feelings of joy, discovery, and accomplishment in a way that’s hard to match.

It’s incredibly liberating to see mobile hardware running successful, wonderful games that are not trying to coax the user into IAPs, with great controls, great physical controllers and classic game design values (not to mention good parental controls).

The Nintendo Switch has for me personally been a crystal ball into an alternate reality where the evolution of mobile devices and app stores took different turns, and their games became GOTY-contenders without needing a separate voting category.

One can only dream that the other platform holders take note of the things done right, and mobile gamers realise there are no technical reasons their devices couldn’t run games of similar depth and quality.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

I totally agree, Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey should share the best mobile game of the year award.

iOS/Android based mobile has really become a bore to me. So many games, many of which are high quality but at the same time lost in the sea of never ending iap grind games. Even indie games retread the same ground that countless indies have done before

Some may have a more humorous take, others might have a unique look or production value, or even a novel mechanic thrown in for good measure. With 20 some moderate to high quality games being released each week, I feel like I’ve been drowning in releases.

It’s tiresome to actually spend the time to find that gem that I will play more than a couple times and especially tiresome if the game has any kind of IAP grind cycle to it. I think we are living in peak-app, similar to peak-TV and peak-music, where it takes too much effort to find games that align with your personal tastes.

I don’t think this is an issue with app store discovery as the app store can only make you aware of games, it can’t predict how much you will like it. You still have to download, play, delete 10 times until you find a game that sticks. It’s kind of freeing only seeing a couple of pages of games in the switch store knowing that the games there have a high bar for quality.

The great thing about Nintendo is that they are showing us the value of high end game design and more importantly true depth.

Maybe you’re not a fan of breaking weapons in Zelda, but there is so much more to be a fan of. In the app store, we have a bunch of byte sized games based on around simple mechanics. There is no real variety that you can lean into if you are getting tired of one aspect of the game.

Some games emulate depth by adding a meta game for min/maxing your experience or adding new game modes but at the end of the day, most mobile games consist of a very simple mechanic that is beaten to death.

Christopher Kassulke CEO / Owner HandyGames

My answer is Idle Miner Tycoon from Fluffy Fairy Games. Not because it’s the best and most innovative game of the year, but it shows that even new companies without big budgets can enter the market.

I am bored of all those lookalike and copycat games with big marketing budgets buying up the charts. The whole market looks like the old J2ME Operator times.

Funny times ahead all of us!

Will Luton Executive Producer Rovio

I monetised on two mobile games this year: Golf Clash and Questland.

Both incredible games, but I have to call out Golf Clash’s liberal meta upcycling which works so well with the golf core (even if it’s not without problems). Super addictive, well polished and it’s success is well deserved.

But when including handheld, Zelda: BOTW is my top pick.

Oscar Clark Author, Consultant and Independent Developer Rocket Lolly Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

Weirdly whilst I thought Zelda was a masterpiece - it's not my favourite (and I would still put Golf Clash/Polytopia ahead) but the reason why may seem a bit odd.

When I started playing Zelda I got really deep into it but then stopped for various reasons to do with work and I've not been able to get back into it at all since. Once I lost the momentum the game lost its appeal to me. There was just too much context I had forgotten so I did not know what to do next - it felt too daunting.

As a mobile experience I think the ability to return to play later is critical - and in that way for me Zelda didnt work. I accept that is probably heresy and that its probably a reflection of me but I'd be interested if anyone else had the same experience.

Alexey Sazonov CEO Panzerdog

My iOS GOTY is 'Ticket to Earth'.

Ticket to Earth

Reason: combines my favorite genre of turn-based strategy with RPG elements and innovative bits of puzzle.

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

Every year I am very happy to be on this list and figure out all of the great games I missed during the year!

Mobile brought me fiercely back to Clash Royale after giving it up for nearly a year. The game felt more balanced when I returned to it. There were more players and cards, so not everyone was using the same decks and mechanics.

The big update also added more daily free to play methods and helped create a new grind to complete chests that require certain deck criteria be met in 1v1 arena. The 2v2 arena is just plain fun to me.

I also got heavily back in Vainglory for a stint. There was a random tournament at E3 I got asked to join and I just stomped a bunch of other players and my team won, so I felt good about trying it again.

I stopped playing MOBA games on my PC to try some different experiences out, which led me to playing Smite and Paragon on the PS4 and Vainglory on mobile.

Handheld: I really enjoyed Mario Rabbids. It was great to see the Nintendo franchise handed over to a different studio to make a great game. The balance was a bit off but it was enjoyable through the end!

Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

Other than our own Dragon's Watch which launched last week and is awesome, the game I've played the most is, strangely, Calculator: The Game, which I discovered quite by accident after seeing it featured on the App Store.

Calculator: The Game

Everyone I tell about the game seems to just laugh at the idea, but it's quite brilliant. It basically is just a calculator (but with an increasing number of interesting buttons), the goal being to get a certain target number onscreen within a set number of moves.

The way the puzzles get tougher and tougher, but (well, until I got completely stuck on level 199) always seem reasonable, is beautifully structured.

Senior Editor

Craig Chapple is Senior Editor of PocketGamer.biz. He was previously Deputy Editor at Develop and Online Editor at Nintendo of Europe.

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