Mobile gaming has been bigger than ever this past year, with everyone from well-known studios to single developers all creating interesting and exciting products for fans to enjoy. Here are five influential products and ideas which could drive mobile gaming innovation forward over the coming year.
Playing games on a mobile device usually involves a touchscreen, and while developers have almost perfected touch-based gaming controls, they’ll never be quite the same as using a physical set of keys or a joystick. Accessories such as the iCade bring some of the physical experience back, but game and device support is limited. Step forward Archos with its Gamepad tablet. Sat either side of the 7-inch screen are a collection of buttons and a pair of joysticks, all of which can be configured to work with almost any game available through the Google Play store.
The 7-inch screen has a1024 x 600 pixel resolution and a dual-core 1.6GHz processor provides the power, plus it runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Best of all, it’s only £130. That’s a similar price to other 7-inch tablets, which are all the rage at the moment, yet the Gamepad manages to add in a set of physical gaming controls. As mobile games become even more popular, the development of hardware dedicated to improving our enjoyment of them is sure to grow too.
Cross promotion with console titles.
There’s a good chance that if you’re a dedicated mobile gamer, you may own a games console or gaming PC too, therefore developers are looking for more ways to involve players that involves other platforms and mobile is one of them. This can be anything from companion apps which work alongside the game, to standalone titles which add to the backstory.
Examples include Sony using its PlayStation Portable as virtual rearview mirror in Gran Turismo, to Electronic Arts’ Mass Effect: Datapad, which has the game encyclopedia and a mini-game to earn resources which can be used in the full console/PC title. Microsoft encourages developers to incorporate achievements and bonus content for its Xbox Live network, which is integrated into its Windows Phone platform too, so players can see all their data and even invite friends to play multi-player games right on their phones.
Kickstarter and crowd funding.
The crowd-funding platform has been around for a while now, but has only recently launched in the UK, where it joins other similar services such as indiegogo.com. Getting money together to make a game is difficult when you don’t have a big studio backing you, but gamers are always looking for fun new projects, making Kickstarter the ideal spot to get your game off the ground.
In addition to finding new projects to support, the system has also been successful in seeing some big names return to the gaming world, with Carmageddon making a welcome return thanks to crowd sourcing, a new Dizzy game being promoted recently, as well as the return of Peter Molyneux – he of Populous fame – and his Godus project. More on him next.
Curiosity is a free mobile game from Peter Molyneux, which features a big cube that’s made up of millions of tiny cubes, which players tap to break it down. Why? To collect coins to spend on tools to help you break more little cubes and um, that’s it. For all its simplicity, it’s hugely successful, primarily because the person who breaks the final cube will be given a URL which is only known to Molyneux, and it contains a secret.
Curiosity, then, is a marketing tool, but one that has inspired its strangely compelled audience to use it to create artwork, collaboratively work on certain areas, or even clear up after messy players. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, and one we’re sure to see in varying forms again soon.
The story of Curiosity is similar to Ingress, a mobile location-based game created by Niantic, a studio funded by Google. The game is invite-only at the moment, but everyone can enjoy the story the team has created to promote Ingress, just by visiting the Google+ page and searching through an extensive Wiki on the mythology. Think of it as a cross between Fringe and Lost, and you’re on the right track. It’s engrossing enough that it’s almost irrelevant if the game is any good.
The marketing techniques used to promote Ingress are common in the world of film and TV, but far less so in mobile gaming. Expect to see others work on creating similarly complicated story lines should Ingress see the success it deserves.