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.
OK. I suppose the real story was that of Supercell's latest investment in Phantom Gamelabs, which dropped about this time last week. But it's only in the subsequent chat and research that the bigger picture came to light - and what an interesting and beautiful picture it is.
While we see Microsoft and Activision Blizzard go through the motions of coupling with all the grace of a couple of drunk giants trying to slip into a single bed (while the CMA bangs on the wall), and Sega parting with the big bucks for the big responsibility for persuading Rovio to spread its wings a little wider, Supercell's stance seems far smarter.
Why smother and own the studios you love when you can just give them advice, they can learn from your mistakes and - best of all - they can partake of a guilt-free cash windfall that they didn't have to sell their souls for. Meanwhile you get all of the love (and a lot of the money) without any of the sweat and worry, leaving you free to really focus on what you do best and that's fine-tuning games that millions are going to love. And if they don't, you're brave enough to scrap the whole thing because - hey - you've got money streaming in from practically every corner of the mobile gaming world.
Everyone's a winner. Can't wait to see what comes next.
A litmus test for how high profile a game is is where - and how - it’s advertised. Like it or not, console and PC titles have historically seen the bulk of attention from serious gamers, and so they’re more likely to turn up in more high-profile ads. For a recent example, just look at The Last of Us, a franchise advertised not just on YouTube or in the commercial breaks for the TV adaptation, but even in cinemas.
In contrast, mobile games have historically been advertised largely on the web or on mobile devices, which does tend to keep it 'niche' despite the mobile market being anything but. But with the recent series of Merge Mansion ads, it looks like we’re seeing a revolution in how mobile games are advertised. This isn’t just the occasional TV ad with flashy graphics or playable ads in other games - this is a narrative driven campaign starring one of the biggest and most beloved Hollywood stars of today.
The previous ads starring Oscar winning actress Kathy Bates may have lent the game a degree of prestige, but Pedro Pascal is today's timely juggernaut, currently starring in some of the biggest series’ on the planet, immediately recognisable and has the mass-market appeal to show gamers who may otherwise overlook mobile, that it’s far from console/PC’s little sibling.
Will we see other games follow in Merge Mansion’s footsteps? Other mobile games, such as Raid: Shadow Legends, have done big budget ads with established figures such as Jeff Goldblum and Ronda Rousey, while games such as Royal Match are turning to Cameo to get the likes of Kate Flannery and Tom Felton to create lower-budget ads that immediately capture the attention. Mobile gaming advertising continues to evolve, and given how effective Metacore’s approach has proven, other game makers may well be blowing up the phones of everyone from Hollywood stars to musical legends.
This is just the beginning.
It's tough out there. Riot Games has lost out big-time in the mobile market, despite the launch of League of Legends: Wild Rift. Initially reluctant to pursue a mobile version of League of Legends, they now face an uphill battle in the mobile gaming market where they’re not the biggest name.
Honor of Kings shows how companies can be outpaced in mobile if they’re reluctant to pursue it, especially for a genre like MOBA which really isn’t graphics or CPU-intensive and can be adapted to multiple platforms. This may go some way to explain why they’re so litigious against other companies, as they’ve lost out once and don’t want to do so again.
Still, with series like Arcane and Project L, it may be that the easiest way to push themselves back into the spotlight is to continue to appeal to a wider audience. Not only that but new CEO Dylan …… will still need to restore trust from both the public and players by continuing to manage Riot’s internal culture.
It’s not the worst position to be in but there's significant challenges for Jadeja right out of the gate.
The obvious stand out here is that Kinetix is looking at text-to-emote AI integration that will allow players to write out what they want… And voilà it’s in game. With the current buzz around artificial intelligence this does seem like a logical step for these tools.
But even without the fanciness of AI, looking at a company that has raised millions for the creation of emotes makes me reflect on how much the gaming industry has changed. I remember playing games where an emote was a simple gimmick, nothing more than a thumbs up from your character that you perhaps pressed once by accident and never touched again.
However, with the rise of live service games and user generated content the industry and what players want has changed. Emotes that were once brushed aside are now a lucrative in game asset. Games such as Fornite or Overwatch have players desperate to own certain emotes and having them earns players bragging rights over their friends. And enemies for that matter.
It’s interesting to see content that years ago would have been passed over as novelty but now forms the core of entire business plans going forwards.