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.
Loot boxes. Harmless fun or evil money-drain designed to trick children and embitter parents? Fact is the truth is in there somewhere and I have to say, I'm with the Austrian courts on this one. This is gambling and the makers and purveyors of games that feature this mechanic are bang to rights.
That's not to say that there's something inherently evil about gambling. In moderation and with a sensible head, gambling can be a great rush and great fun. But the checks and bars need to be in place inside video games just as much as they are inside a casino. Systems that take money and then spin behind the scenes ones and noughts to decide if you get something worth your cash or sweet nothing at all should stand up, be counted, and abide by regional gaming laws if they want to continue.
DO offer in game purchases. DO reward exceptional skill and play. DO let someone who wants to spend money on the thing they love do exactly that. But DO draw the line too.
Being of a certain age I remember when 'actual spinning wheels' in slot machines were replaced by cards and symbols on a screen and I remember thinking "who on earth is going to trust a machine - a thinking, knowing machine - with the descision as to whether I get the jackpot or - more likely - precisely nuppence for my hard-earned". Well it seems that plenty of people aren't so jaded and to those folks, I bid them good luck. And oh, do remember that 'when the fun stops... stop' eh?
And for those who are providing such in-game 'services', just call it what it is, eh?
Although I have an appreciation for mobile games, and that appreciation has grown since beginning my job here at Pocketgamer.biz, I’m primarily a console gamer. When I was growing up, any phone with a game was high tech, but didn’t offer the same parity of experience as the PS1.
That gap is, slowly but steadily, decreasing. Consoles, and even PC to an extent, are dominated by more infrequent, but greater, jumps in quality, whether that’s a leap in visual quality or the introduction of haptic feedback. Mobile may dominate in terms of revenue, but to the layman console and PC games often dominate gaming discussions,and developers often see a greater level of renown and award recognition.
This shift to console and PC development by Gameloft can easily be read as an attempt to capitalise on the recent success of Disney Dreamlight Valley, but why cut off such significant revenue streams by narrowing your focus? Notably, Dreamlight Valley utilises the same free-to-play model that the Budapest studio specialised in.
Will Gameloft regret its decision in the future? That remains to be seen. Downsizing has been an ongoing trend in the industry as developers deal with the contraction of the market following the Covid boom, and perhaps it decided to focus on what it thought of as more “disposable”. Mobile gaming may rule in terms of revenue, but in the greater gaming ecosystem many still see the platform as less serious, which is a stigma that grows more ridiculous with each passing year, and one that may take some time yet to overcome.
I found this to be a really interesting story because, on the face of it, it seems like a bit of an outrageous move. I mean, Best Fiends is a good game, but a Candy Crush killer? It’s a bit like when games were marketing themselves in the 90s as “Doom Killers”. Nothing can replace the original… Or can it?
Candy Crush Saga is immensely popular, and has been since I was in high-school. Which is almost a decade now. And that amount of time can slowly erode the playerbase of even the most popular game. Having hardcore fans is great for a cult classic title, but not necessarily for a live service, and when you think about it that way Playtika taking shots at King doesn’t seem so brazen.
I don’t think the ad creative is anything to write home about, although the outrageous subject matter is sure to get people talking. But in many ways, the more I think about it the more bold the ad seems. “Download free, play sugar free”, and many of the veiled references to Candy Crush in their statements show a clear throughline of thought that went into this campaign.
Is it going to be successful? For Playtika, it may need to be, and it may be cold comfort to the original developers but the Israeli-based publisher could absolutely use a hit in 2023.