The games industry moves quickly and while stories may come and go there are some that we just can't let go of…
So, to give those particularly thorny topics a further going over we've created a weekly digest where the members of the PocketGamer.biz team share their thoughts and go that little bit deeper on some of the more interesting things that have happened in mobile gaming in the past week.
And so it begins. Games have always been at the forefront of tech. After all, our first intention all day every day is to have fun and achieve something good, so when a new technology lands - even if it’s subconsciously - we start thinking about all the fun we can have with it first!
AI in games is a hot topic right now and something I predict that you’re going to be seeing a lot more of here on PG.biz as ever larger names place ever larger budgets and emphasis behind it. Long term there are worries, sure, but short term it looks like a long series of knotty problems and easy wins are about to get knocked down like tenpins in a bowling alley.
Take the fiddly business of writing conversation trees and producing yards and yards of perhaps never discovered dialogue for your game. If you’re going to have believable NPCs then the work behind the scenes is enormous… And all the while you run the risk that the player will simply steamroll their way to the exit and waste your time.
AI and in-game chatbot tech has the potential to fix all that and the good news is that gamers want it too. It's a win win for devs and players alike. Imagine a game with a real backstory and living characters that can be so much more than a ‘just in case’ afterthought. The future for AI looks bright and it’s closer than you think.
I think this trend is absolutely one to watch - and not much needs to be said about why - but the fact that Tencent is bringing formerly Chinese-exclusive games to the West is certainly a big gamble.
You only need to look as far as the derisive comments their Street Fighter: Duel trailer received from players to understand why it isn’t just a case of bringing an already successful game to other markets and making even more money.
China is a very different market to America or Europe. And if Finland is the development home of mobile games, then China is the biggest consumer by far. But this is in spite of, not because of, the government and its regulatory crackdowns. There’s a great video by a channel on Youtube - which talks about Chinese film history and the contemporary industry - which goes into detail about horror movies in China that gives a great idea of why Chinese regulators can be so stifling for businesses.
He noted that because regulations for film change so often and with such little warning, horror movies - which are the most likely to fall foul of laws against sensitive subjects - have to be pushed out at a rapid rate. Which leads to them being considered trashy and exploitative at best. This is the same sort of regulatory opaqueness we’re seeing hit the Chinese game industry. Which is a shame when you consider how successful and dominant China has been in the mobile game scene.
I think these titles coming to other markets is a sign that Tencent and companies like it are trying their hardest to diversify their revenue streams. If they can capture even a tenth of what they make domestically from other markets, it’ll make the effect from a potential new regulatory crackdown less severe. I don’t think regulation is bad, but when it comes suddenly, without warning or consideration for those affected, it can do more harm than good.
Final Fantasy is one of the biggest game franchises in history, and one that holds a special place in my heart. The franchise was arguably the first that made consumers worldwide take note of the potential of gaming as a storytelling medium.
Mobile gaming, for all its success in terms of revenue, has somewhat struggled to generate the same level of enthusiasm from players as other platforms. Casual games may dominate in terms of downloads and revenue, but many more “serious” gamers have a skewed perception that this represents mobile gaming as a whole, and that developers on the platform are solely creating games with weak storylines (if any) and simple gameplay loops.
Arguably, mobile gaming has yet to break this perception. While some console games have been ported to mobile phones, they’ve yet to inspire the same level of enthusiasm. Similarly, many mobile spin-offs of established games franchises have focused on offering what developers see as “mobile” experiences, such as endless runners.
Final Fantasy has already seen numerous games released on mobile platforms, and it’s possible that the franchise could repeat history and make players worldwide take note of the potential of mobile gaming, doing away with the idea that developers need to work on a “legitimate” platform to release a “legitimate” game. After all, it took seven games and ten years for Final Fantasy to take off worldwide, and this time around the brand is world-renowned, letting the company utilise that name recognition to drive sales.