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.
Wait. Hold on a minute. So the US Supreme Court say that Apple are in the clear and can keep their 30% and everybody has to keep paying them? No, nothing of the sort. Yes, it's easy to get lost in the maze of suits and countersuits as the former 'computers for the rest of us' 80's underdog minnow continues to grasp onto whatever greasy straw it can to keep the money tap open.
Once there was a day when Apple's 30% was justifyable small fry. All that money from iBeer and fart apps? Sure, here's your slice and thanks for the delivering a multi-million strong audience who are able to confidently buy games and apps for the first time.
Now we're at a place where Apple have won… the right to contest the thing that they've already lost. This one isn't over yet and Apple are looking desparate. Still, you can't blame them for trying. Given that iPhones haven't actually got significantly better in the last five years (my perfectly excellent iPhone X is just as great today as the launch day I bought it) their services cash (including the App Store) is the lifeline that keeps their $3,499 AR headsets afloat… Hang on a minute…
As pointed out in the story, I find it quite ironic that this echoes an older incident between King and the creators of Banner Saga, Stoic Studio. Although I, like many people, think that King overreached in that situation, I think it’s notable that Golf Club: Wasteland isn’t getting the same amount of attention or support. Given the game has been out since 2018, changing the title now due to an IP dispute smacks of Demagog Studios being hit with something too big and hard to ignore.
For those who - rightly - criticised King for their perceived overreach in the IP issue, I think there should be an equal amount of energy reserved for Demagog Studios in this case. It doesn’t seem fair to me that a game can have an entirely transformative name, be established for close to half a decade and still have to change the title due to the possibility of legal action.
I think people still assume that every mobile studio is some soulless, solely business-focused venture, but in the case of games like Golf Club, it demonstrates just why the indie scene on the platform is a difficult proposition. You either restrict yourself to the cutthroat world of mobile or risk exposing yourself to an entirely different beast if you try to go cross-platform. Hopefully, Demagog Studios can maintain the success they’ve seen with Golf Club despite the change in name.
China’s attempts to curb video game addiction has been a long saga, and one that shows no signs of slowing down. Despite the increase in game licences being issued, the company’s imposition of further restrictions on phone use indicates that the country still isn’t quite sure on how to strike a balance between innovation and its own goals.
This research highlights one important factor that the government likely hasn’t considered. In the 21st century it’s easier than ever for individuals to circumvent the rules in their search for gratification, whether that’s using a VPN to access content from another country, illegally streaming or downloading the latest episode of their favourite show before its release in their country or, in this case, playing games for longer than is allowed.
Essentially, this adds another hitch in China’s efforts to properly regulate the gaming industry. Regulations are only powerful if people choose to follow them, and it appears that China’s gamers are choosing not to comply. It’s possible that future regulations will see firmer technological limits put in place in order to ensure the rules are being followed.
The study also found that heavy gaming - more than four hours a day, on more than six days a week - isn’t an indicator of health in and of itself. Given China’s insistence that its attempts to regulate the industry is in part an effort to promote healthier activities, it appears that it’s come to the wrong conclusion on whether this is entirely necessary - like any piece of tech, gaming is only as good or bad as those using it, and its efforts to regulate the so-called “spiritual opium” of gaming may ultimately do more harm to the country’s gaming industry than it does good for its consumers.
The gaming industry is full of highly passionate people, many of whom spend years wishing and working toward finding a job in games development. However, just because workers are eager and want the best for their upcoming release, it should not mean overworking staff or putting them in difficult situations.
Over the past few years, ‘crunch’ has become a big topic within our industry, something in which we have seen an improvement, but there’s still a way to go. Games are often rushed leading up to launch, and they still release unfinished or broken; 79% of developers in this report stated that they felt pressure to release an unfinished game - that number is huge and highlights a significant problem within the industry.
The report also highlights the issue surrounding player feedback, developers want constructive feedback, but often feedback is given over social media, where often more harm than good comes from it. Rushed releases, long hours and negative player interactions are taking a toll on many developers' mental health. As an industry, we need to be more conscious of this, better at managing it and helping devs navigate the difficulties of dealing with players that show threatening behaviours.
Fortunately, I see some positives, especially from mobile studios. Be it having four-day work weeks, offering mental health help or promoting a better work/life balance. I firmly believe that better games are made when those making them are content, so I hope that when statistics such as this pop up again the numbers are far lower.