6 Reasons Why Mobile Gaming Really Sucks
There’s a lot of talk in the tech industry about how mobile gaming is the future. And yet, games that make it to the top app store charts don’t really help to inspire much confidence in that future. At best, we get games good enough to play for a few minutes, but never to immerse ourselves deeply in the story or gameplay.
But why is this? Why does mobile gaming always seem so disappointing? Considering all these cutting-edge innovations in smartphone hardware and software, you would expect mobile gaming to catch up, right? Well, the problem is unfortunately much more nuanced than that. Here are six problems with mobile games that we haven’t solved yet.
1. Paid mobile games don’t sell well
A big difference between console games and mobile games is their business model. While the former has an upfront cost, the freemium model dominates the latter. According to a report by Statista.com, only around 3% of all mobile games on the Google Play Store are paid. The same goes for Apple’s App Store.
People just don’t like paying for mobile games, and the few that actually do pay only through in-app purchases and microtransactions. Thus, it forces game developers to conform to this model or stick to console gaming. Now, we’re not saying the freemium model isn’t profitable. In fact, according to an article from BusinessInsider.in, PUBG Mobile brought in nearly $254 million in player spending in November 2021 alone.
But the problem with the freemium model is that it’s not suitable for creating big-budget console-level games. It’s too risky for developers to invest so much time and money into creating a high-end mobile game, in the vain hope that people might pay for it later…after playing it for free.
2. App Store Algorithms Only Favor the Best Charts
We can blame some of the blame for the lack of mobile gaming on the way app stores organize their repositories. To give you some perspective, according to another report from Statista.com, there are around 2.7 million apps on the Google Play Store and nearly 2 million apps on the Apple App Store.
Another report from Statista.com indicates that between 11 and 13.5% of these apps are games, with the Google Play Store alone carrying 477,877 active game titles as of December 2021.
This means that if you are a game developer, especially a new developer, the chances of your game succeeding are very low. Forget about standing out from the sea of apps. It’s a miracle if you’re even discovered. And app stores don’t do much to help new developers get noticed.
When looking for an app, most people only pick one from the top items on the list. And because of that, the winners keep winning and the losers keep losing. There’s no real incentive for app stores to support developers other than the ones that earn them the most revenue. This discourages new developers from taking the risk of creating better mobile games.
3. Low consumer expectations
At some level, we users are also responsible for the poor image of mobile games. Unless you’ve never been on Reddit, you know that people often criticize mobile gaming for not being a “real game” for reasons too obvious to ignore. Gamers don’t even expect mobile games to be good, so it doesn’t surprise them when games turn out bad.
Mobile gaming is seen as a lasting source of entertainment, something you can easily trade for something else. So naturally, users don’t bother to complain when a mobile game is bad. In other words, there is no real feedback mechanism. Most people just uninstall an app if they don’t like it and install another, hoping it won’t be as disappointing.
This is not the case with PC or console games. The gaming community is very sensitive to the hobby and actively seeks improvements and bug fixes, and voices their suggestions so that developers can create better games. As cruel as some negative reviews may be, they are useful for spotting mistakes. For mobile games, that level of passion and commitment just doesn’t exist.
4. Poor Touchscreen Controls
Unless you buy a dedicated gaming phone with shoulder buttons like the Black Shark 4, which we reviewed here at MUO, regular smartphones just can’t compete with the likes of a console controller. . All controls for a mobile game have to be crammed into the very limited screen park of the device.
Given this limitation, these controls often end up being painfully small or so large that they interrupt gameplay, resulting in a poor gaming experience. To counter this, developers have to spend extra resources finding new ways to make controls transparent.
5. Lack of storage to devote to games
Unlike consoles, smartphones not only store games, but also photos, videos, songs, movies, documents, applications, etc. So naturally, storage space is often an issue. Now, to be fair, we’ve seen smartphones with 1TB of storage before, so it’s not as big of an issue as the issues above.
However, since more storage space also means a higher price, the only phones that can take advantage of it are the flagships. And since most smartphone sales are not flagships but budget and mid-range phones, the advantage of higher storage space becomes redundant.
6. Lack of standardized platforms
Unlike standardized consoles like PlayStation and Xbox, smartphones come in all shapes, sizes and configurations. This is even more true for Android phones than for iPhones. Since there are fewer iPhone variants in the world, they are more standardized and easier to develop. This is why developers often release apps and updates on iOS first.
Since smartphones are so distinct from each other (thanks to so many competitors), it’s too big a business for developers to optimize their games for each device.
So that leaves them with only two options; either create bad games that everyone can download, or create good games that only a few can download. The former seems to have the upper hand in board meetings.
Mobile gaming could be so much more
Mobile gaming has so much potential, yet we’re tapping into so little of it. Compared to all the other advancements in the world of technology, it’s surprising how far mobile gaming still lags behind console gaming.
Of all the companies, Apple has the most to gain if mobile gaming explodes given its clear advantage over Android. And yet, low-immersion games like Candy Crush and Temple Run dominate the app stores. Many still see mobile gaming as just a way to pass the time, not a hobby or an acclaimed profession.
Games on Android and iOS deserve touch controls designed for a touchscreen — not ported from a gamepad. These five games make full use of the touchscreen.
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