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.
Kwalee bring AI into game production
It’s a knotty one. While it’s hard not to cast minds back to AI-gone-crazy disasters such as society-smashing Butlerian Jihad of Frank Herbert’s Dune, claustrophobic 70s computer-gone-powercrazy thriller The Forbin Project or, more recently (and most famously) Terminator’s all-seeing, all conquering Skynet, the current upswing of AI is - right now, at least - only offering all of us creative superpowers for good that can make amazing things happen.
Now we can all write poetry, paint a landscape or get that perfect job. And game developers - no matter how small or un-bankrolled - can create assets that rival the big guys, allowing them to put all their energy, money and manpower into creativity, rule-breaking and ceiling smashing.
Kwalee’s all-in on AI at such an early stage is therefore admirable. With years of experience at the sharp end of budgets and deadlines behind them, AI only opens doors and makes better games for these old pros. This is no shortcut, this is gearing up with bigger and better creative weapons and using them to make an even bigger blast.
We hope that AI continues to be a force for good and the pessimist’s industry armageddon remains science fiction.
Rovio Classics: Angry Birds to be delisted
For me, it often feels like I have an outsider perspective on some parts of the mobile game industry. That sort of perspective is extremely beneficial, but you don’t really need it to see that Rovio has made a major PR blunder. By essentially implying that their remake of the original Angry Birds was cannibalising sales from their newer titles, they made it seem as if there had been a noticeable dip in quality since their flagship title.
Now, regardless of if you think that’s true (some speculate that the quality of the remake may’ve been an issue itself) that’s the message they’re sending. Anticipating that this might have been a problem should’ve been something caught in the concept stage, especially as this was made in response to overwhelming demand from nostalgic fans that wanted to play the original.
Personally, I think Rovio should’ve stayed the course. One year is a relatively short time, even though it can feel like an eternity when scrutinising sales and other data. But the fact is that sooner or later, without new content people would’ve gotten bored of the original Angry Birds. The sort of people who only want to pay $1 for a mobile game are not the audience Rovio wants nor needs in any case. Fixing the game if it were of poor quality is another matter, but doing that could’ve been an easy PR win itself.
Of course, adding IAP would’ve been another answer, but charging for something that used to be free is never a good look either. Maybe integrating it into Angry Birds 2 as an unlockable feature? That $1 price-tag would’ve looked exceptionally good for unlocking a whole new game’s worth of levels, and when players bounced off the game it would only be a short step into the rest of the Angry Birds catalogue.
But delisting it and then admitting it was due to the “impact on our wider game portfolio” is not a good look at all, no matter how justified it may be. Whether Rovio reverses course or keeps on going, the sooner this blows over for them the better.
Blumhouse gets set to shock with new gaming arm
Horror may well be my favourite genre of all and, while it may have something of a reputation of being less serious some others, it’s telling that some of the most beloved games out there (Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil 4, The Last of Us) are horror titles. However, it’s a genre that’s routinely struggled on mobile platforms. Good horror relies on immersion, which is arguably one of mobile gaming’s biggest barriers.
Blumhouse opening a game studio is news on its own. While there’s no shortage of games either based on horror films (Friday the 13th, The Evil Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) or which feature characters from horror films (Dead by Daylight), one of the most renowned names in horror cinema moving into gaming on its own is big news, made even more notable by the decision to develop mobile titles alongside console and PC offerings.
As I’ve said before, many horror games on mobile devices fall short by attempting to emulate the experience of another platform, rather than focusing on what mobile games can do better. Bluetooth, AR, text interaction, there are a variety of tools available to mobile platforms where others can’t quite catch up, which could make Blumhouse the ideal company to really help horror find a place on mobile.
Blumhouse a company that’s repeatedly shown a willingness to play with format, and isn’t afraid to take risks in terms of both story and presentation. While the company has occasionally fallen flat (such as with the much maligned Fantasy Island, a prequel to the seventies sitcom of the same name) this willingness to experiment instead of focusing on what works could see the company finally do what, arguably, no studio has managed yet, and create a horror which excels on mobile devices by utilising the unique features of the platform.