Mobile games don't make players feel connected, says Peter Molyneux

Lionhead founder explains where devs are going wrong

Mobile games don't make players feel connected, says Peter Molyneux

“That’s the advantage of being an independent developer,” chuckles Peter Molyneux, folding his arms with a wry grin.

“I can say whatever I like. Though obviously that gets me into trouble. I’ve had death threats – I now understand what those policemen at events are for.”

If being ardently truthful is one of Molyneux’s most recognisable calling cards, he laid a whole deck of them on the table on stage at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2015.

As the man behind such successes as Black & White and Fable, Molyneux cracked the PC market in leadership positions at Lionhead Studios and EA.

However the mobile market, he argues, has not yet enjoyed that eureka moment. “I’ve still not had an experience on mobile where I feel truly connected to other people,” he explains.

“I mean sure, there’s [sic] features in Clash of Clans and the like, but I don’t mean lobbies, I mean emotion.”

Heartfelt, natural narratives and stories are the secret ingredients that Molyneux believes mobile developers are forgetting to include in their pursuit of profit.

He says that “when monetisation and discovery come along, it often feels forced, and plastered on, it doesn’t feel natural.”

Failure is an option

He argues that his biggest lessons have been learned through making mistakes.

I don’t mean lobbies, I mean emotion.
Peter Molyneux

2014 saw Molyneux take his first steps into the world of mobile gaming via that precarious path of free-to-play, and the result was a mixed reception.

According to Molyneux, it was this preoccupation with money that fundamentally damaged Godus – the F2P reimagining of Populous that garnered widespread critical derision.

“The problem for me was I did Kickstarter, and that put us under time pressure when we released the gamma version too early. The motivation that kept you playing the game was missing, as was the emotion, we didn’t push people together.”

It’s learning from these mistakes and creating games with narrative that ultimately, Molyneux believes, will set British games studios on the path to success.

News Editor


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Seppo Helava Co-Founder, Creative Director
“I’ve still not had an experience on mobile where I feel truly connected to other people,” he explains.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Molyneaux. I've developed a number of social games including Big Fish Casino & Fleck, and in both of those games, we fostered *tremendous* interpersonal connections between players. Maybe he hasn't had that experience, but that doesn't mean that it's reasonable to extrapolate that to the larger audience.

Fleck, which unfortunately was shut down in 2013, *still* has an active Facebook group of people that talk together more than a year and a half since the game was shut down. Those social connections were fostered by the game, including at least one marriage, and a number of players who took trips around the US to meet their fellow Fleck players.

With Big Fish Casino, our goal was to create a really genuinely social casino experience, and we have a lot of anecdotes AND data that back up that we've facilitated people's real relationships through the game. One of my most significant, though sad, memories was getting an e-mail from one of our players asking us if we could let folks in-game know that one of our regular players had passed away. We put up a little note in the news-ticker in our game, and received *hundreds* of e-mails from players who he was friends with, and many of them sent notes (and later gifts) to his wife expressing how much they liked this guy, how generous he was, and how friendly he'd always been.

I agree that MOST social games aren't really "social", and that the interpersonal connection just isn't there - mostly because most "social games" aren't social *or* games. But if you start with the goal of creating a social experience, and a game where people can create new memories together, there's no doubt that mobile games can be as socially engaging as games on any other platform.

We have people who've been playing together for 5+ years - every day - in Big Fish Casino, and over the course of Fleck's 3 year lifespan, people who played together for *hours* every day, and still talk about it today. Big Fish Casino, as a result, was one of *the* most successful apps of all time. That's no coincidence.