There have been a number of efforts to nail the FPS genre on mobile, but the Counter-Strike-inspired Critical Ops seems well-positioned to finally do it.
Its Finnish developer Critical Force has raised capital and set its sights firmly on mobile eSports, partnering with fellow Finns Reforged Studios.
And in November 2016, Critical Ops hit 10 million downloads - despite not being available worldwide.
There's no shortage of appetite for the game, then, but how is Critical Force planning to leverage this growing community to make Critical Ops a successful mobile eSport? And what does a successful mobile eSport look like anyway?
To find out, PocketGamer.biz reached out to Critical Force Lead Designer Tim Spaninks and Head of Community and eSports Juri Juskevits.
PocketGamer.biz: Counter-Strike was an obvious inspiration in the development of Critical Ops, but what were the biggest adaptations you made for the mobile platform?
Tim Spaninks: I’d say the biggest change is the pacing.
Mobile games tend to have shorter session lengths, and of course the controls are vastly different from the typical mouse and keyboard set-up.
Therefore, map layouts, character handling and most importantly the gun handling has been tweaked to be a perfect fit for the platform.
Because of this, Critical Ops feels more intuitive and fast-paced and ‘running and gunning’ is possible, though careful positioning and controlled fire is still very rewarding.
Have you noticed a difference in the way players are engaging with Critical Ops compared to other mobile games?
Tim Spaninks: Absolutely, the sense of community in Critical Ops feels enormous compared to what I’ve seen in other mobile games.
People actively look on social media for other players to form clans with.Tim Spaninks
People actively look on social media for other players to form clans or have challenges with.
As we’re planning to introduce more social features within the actual game we expect the interaction and cooperation of our players to increase even more.
Do you see a competitive scene emerging around the game already? If so, what are you doing to encourage this?
Juri Juskevits: During the last year, along with our partners we have arranged several tournaments to test the waters of the competitive scene of Critical Ops.
This year will continue to increase the number of competitive events, combat any cheating or hacking methods that emerge, improve the view experience by providing better spectating tools and of course introduce the long-awaited ranked mode.
Do you foresee a time when mobile eSports are as popular and lucrative as PC counterparts? What are the obstacles?
Tim Spaninks: I think one of the obstacles has always been the technical limitations of mobile devices.
That’s a problem that’s starting to fade away completely, giving a huge boost to the hardcore gaming scene on mobile, which in turn leads to bigger audiences and more viability of an active eSports scene.
Eventually everyone will have an eSports capable device in their pocket, which makes the market potential a lot bigger than that of PC and consoles.
Will mobile eSports be as reliant on tournaments in physical locations, or are the online battlefields more important?
Juri Juskevits: It makes sense to start arranging competitive events on the internet and grow the number of competing teams and viewers online before moving to offline locations.
I am sure we will see a lot of offline mobile tournaments in the future.Juri Juskevits
I am sure we will see a lot of offline mobile tournaments in the future.
Do you feel that dominant eSports genres on PC such as MOBA and FPS will also prove big in mobile eSports? Or is a fresh approach for the platform needed?
Tim Spaninks: It’s a different platform and a different way to control a game, so I’m sure we’ll see some new genres and approaches to gameplay emerging from the mobile platform.
However, initially I expect the dominant genres on PC to migrate to the mobile space as they’re proven to generate a large audience and are therefore a safer bet financially for game publishers and investors.
A big part in creating a thriving eSport is not just the players, but the spectators. Are you seeing positive signs in this area?
Juri Juskevits: We do see our spectating numbers improving as well as number of people streaming or making videos of our game.
But we do have a lot to improve in this area.
This year, we will be adding a news section into our game where you can see when the most important events and streams are happening and I have already mentioned an improved spectating client that is being designed with casters needs in mind.
Is monetisation a key focus right now, or is building a competitive community more important to your long-term strategy?
Tim Spaninks: Improving the game and supporting the competitive community is by far the most important thing.
We do have several things planned to introduce to the community that could provide us with extra revenue, but mostly that will come in the form of more cool content.
One of the things we’ll be working on is giving the players more options to customise.Tim Spaninks
One of the things we’ll be working on is giving the players more options to customise, for which items can be earned and/or bought from the in-game shop.
Juri Juskevits: Building a strong and vibrant community is our focus. On the development side we will release the long anticipated social features as well as ranked mode.
On the community side we will keep growing our competitive offering as well as introduce content creator and tournament organiser programs.
What can we expect from Critical Force and Critical Ops in 2017?
Tim Spaninks: You can expect us to introduce some very important new features to the game such as friend lists, chatting, clan support and ranked games (including matchmaking).
More content is always being worked on in the form of skins, game modes, maps and much more. And there’s definitely more in store for the competitive scene of the game.