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The Mobile Gaming Mavens on what was big and what was missing from E3 and WWDC

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The Mobile Gaming Mavens on what was big and what was missing from E3 and WWDC
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As everyone recovered from a week's excesses, which in many cases were shared between Apple's WorldWide Developers Conference in San Francisco and E3 in Los Angeles, we asked:

What were the biggest surprises and omissions from WWDC and E3?

There seemed to be consensus among the mavens that Nintendo's conceptually weird Wii U was the most important news of the show.

U and Mii

Pocket Gamer's own Chris James weighed in first, positing it was a surprise; both positively as "the tablet-based control approach sounded intriguing and forward-thinking in concept," and negatively given that the "execution (at least so far) looks rather less compelling ... although I seem to remember a similar initial reaction to the DS."

Paul Farley of Tag Games agreed; "Nintendo failed to set the heather on fire with the Wii U. Not surprising was their continued disinterest in mobile gaming and complete failure to get to grips with connected gaming, especially the retail element."

Dave Castelnuovo of Bolt Creative thought the amount of inputs on the Wii U and Sony's PS Vita pointed to huge insecurities on console developers's parts.

"I find it interesting that the big differentiators between iOS and traditional consoles are the presence of real buttons, D-pads, and analog sticks. It seems like Nintendo and Sony are really scared of iOS so they are giving their consoles every button under the sun.

"Not sure if that's necessary. As a hardcore gamer, I will definitely buy the Wii U and Vita but I have a feeling that the mass market will end up being intimidated by the Katamari-like approach to their systems."

Notably, nobody mentioned the PS Vita positively.

E3 slump

Generally, there was disappointment about E3.

"EA aside, there was a little less tablet/phone content on the main stands than I'd have expected considering the massive growth of digital and the steady decline of boxed retail," said Chris James.

Paul Farley agreed. "Quite honestly, E3 felt dull and showcased the complete lack of innovation and excitement in core gaming right now. Compared to recent mobile and social events, it feels the established games industry is going through the motions."

Eros Resmini of OpenFeint thought the conferences were still dominated by the traditional publisher and console crowd.

"They don't seem to acknowledge how far mobile has come, nor do they seem to be trying to do anything to participate meaningfully," he argued, pointing out that outside the conferences, "Everyone is talking about mobile, cross-platform, the rise of IAP and free-to-play games, and social as a player discovery and acquisition channel."

Christopher Kassulke of HandyGames thought the situation was because E3 is still a PC and console-driven event.

"Mobile games do not require distributors or the typical resellers," he said.

"The typical publishers models aren't required either... Press? Honestly which of our consumers check out magazines and check out reviews before downloading a free game?"

Having trashed almost every aspect of PR, marketing and distribution, he wasn't even sure mobile games needed an event.

Jon Hare of Tower Studios thought the main publishers were just hedging their bets. "Apart from the few obvious big-hitting sequels, the console publishers are equally uncertain as to which course of action to take. What's clear is that the entire games industry is in the middle of a huge period of flux right now."

He reckoned generating IP would support developers in the long run. "Don't see the console guys as the enemy, they can be our friends too, as long as we have the right IP to offer them and we don't look to Call of Duty as our benchmark."

Opposing the Motion

There wasn't a consensus however: Kevin Dent from Tiswaz defended the console market. "Console dwarfs mobile," he said.

"Yes, Apple has brought a ton of value to mobile gaming and, yes, Android is better at freemium, but let's admit it; if a major publisher with a mobile division is going to promote anything, it is going to be console. Feel free to wow us with stories of where we can see the market going, but the fact is today - right now - the market is console > browser > mobile."

Mills of developer ustwo disagreed. "One major flaw with this statement. You can't easily play consoles or browser based games on the toilet! The toilet is the future of play."

Dent thought this unhygienic; "Bathroom-based gaming is the number one cause of pinkeye in the world today," he suggested.


When it came to WWDC, Apple had carefully defused any expectations of hardware announcements. Despite this, Chris James was still disappointed.

"Aside from the lack of any new hardware and a smaller turn-out, the biggest omission from WWDC was the lack of any game news or developments. Considering the recent hires of games PR/marketing folk and the whispers on the wires, I was expecting something in this space, but aside from a few modest improvements to Game Center and the potential of cloud-based apps, it was relatively barren."

Dave Castelnuovo could detect vibrations suggesting Apple was aiming to compete with the consoles however.

"With AirPlay for games you pretty much have a system that's identical to the Wii U without the extra buttons," he argued. "It will be interesting to see how Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo compete against Apple over the next hardware cycle. I think the 5-7 year console cycle is outdated in favour of Apple's yearly backwards compatible refresh.

"The current generation iPod Touch is almost a console in your pocket that you can bring over to your friend's house - great if they have an Apple TV or AirPlay-enabled TV set. By the time Wii U has a decent library of games, the iPod touch will surpass its graphical abilities and be able to project 1080p gameplay onto a TV."

The only thing he thought console manufacturers would still have going for them is triple-A titles, but he thought that minimal pick-up on PS Vita and Wii U would drive thirdparties towards iOS.

This is Spartan

But aside from E3 and WWDC, Paul Farley was convinced the biggest omission from the discussion was Facebook's HTML5-based Project Spartan platform.

"The fact that Facebook chose to wait until after both E3 and WWDC to announce this game-changing HTML5 platform shows how important this is," he said.

"I believe Spartan could have the same impact on mobile gaming that Facebook had on casual online gaming three years ago. This could impact the games industry in a more significant manner than any individual piece of hardware announced at either show.

"The start of the battle for dominance between native apps and mobile web OS is drawing closer. Whether this is an opportunity for a new 'mobile Zynga' to emerge in this space, or whether the existing incumbents will dominate remains to be seen. Either way Spartan is for me the biggest news in the games industry this year."