I like it, but I wish Zynga hadn't made Mountain Goat Mountain

I like it, but I wish Zynga hadn't made Mountain Goat Mountain

Zynga's recent release Mountain Goat Mountain should scare indie developers.

The rise of micro-games and the success of Flappy Bird and Crossy Road - and even some of the Crossy-likes - have shown that it's possible for studios with limited resources to make big successes.

But this little game from a big company about a goat climbing a mountain should serve as a reminder to developers that the big names of the industry have the power and resources to make bigger and better 'indie games'.

Big beasts

Despite Zynga's currently diminished reputation, in Mountain Goat Mountain, they've put out a really good game.

With Crossy Road-style tap controls to go left and right, and swipe options to go in reverse, the controls are solid and the taps to jump feel great - a thing you want to do again and again.

The beautiful Mountain Goat Mountain

Equally, the game spares no expense visually, with all sorts of graphical effects that even cause an iPad Air 2 to get warm.

Mountain Goat Mountain should scare indie developers.

There are different environments and effects for the different characters too - for example, a great Japanese cherry blossom level for the samurai goat etc.

Basically, it's a top-notch example of how to do a Crossy-like game.

And here's the thing that should scare indie developers. As indie games have become more popular and commercially successful, so the big companies are entering these - previously their - genres.

And they have the resources and talent to make - and certainly promote them - bigger and better.

It has monetization, but only a light touch

Apparently, Zynga made Mountain Goat Mountain with six people and an existing backend.

If they wanted to, they could spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps driving millions of downloads and sucking some air out of the "indie games sector".

Doing it for big fun

Perhaps even more worrying is that companies like Zynga can ignore commerciality and put out these games for fun, or to test processes and technology, and to foster internal creativity.

Big studios threaten to pop the bubble of optimism created by games like Crossy Road.

In that case, you have high quality content that's sucking up users and perhaps even changing their perceptions of the value of a mobile game.

A direct comparison in the case of Mountain Goat Mountain is Sven Magnus' Down the Mountain.

It's not an ugly game, but it visually pales in comparison to Mountain Goat Mountain, and Zynga's game plays better.

Down the Mountain is more fair in terms of obstacles and how you can avoid them, whereas Mountain Goat Mountain can throw you to your death with unseen traps.

But largely, I'd say Mountain Goat Mountain is the better game.

In this way, the big studios threaten to pop the bubble of optimism created by games like Crossy Road which held out the hope that at least some indie developers can do more than just scrap out a living with mobile games.

Can Down the Mountain compete with Mountain Goat Mountain?

Of course, I'm not saying Zynga shouldn't make a game like Mountain Goat Mountain.

Developers should create the games they want to make, no matter whether they're big or small. Zynga could make a Crossy-like and I'm glad they could. In fact, it's a hopeful sign that they're not just cranking out free-to-play games, but they have the capability to make creative games that are genuinely charming, too.

But much as I like it, I just wish they hadn't made Mountain Goat Mountain.

I don't want the likes of Zynga competing in this space. For the health of smaller developers, I think they should stick to their own territory.

Stateside columnist

Freelance writer covering mobile and gaming for @toucharcade, @Gamezebo, and more!


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