Why is there such a buzz around XCOM: Enemy Unknown arriving on iOS? Sure, It’s not just a high-quality title, but it’s also a current-generation console and PC game that is being brought to iPhones and iPads. But why does this buzz exist? Why is the mobile gaming community excited about getting to play a game that already exists on multiple other platforms?
I believe it’s because mobile gamers not only want to play core games like XCOM, but they also want them to succeed because they want more of them. The mobile market just hasn’t been the friendliest environment so far for the kinds of experiences available on consoles and PC. Developers and publishers have been scared away from making either ports or even original core games thanks to the pricing race to the bottom, despite hardware becoming more technically-capable of handling core games. $19.99 is cheap for XCOM, but not in the wider context of $0.99 and free-to-play games that are so prevalent on mobile.
It feels hopeful to see promising titles take a blowtorch to the current system. The mobile market should be able to support games worthy of higher prices as well as the lower-cost indie titles and the free-to-play games, in a similar way to what Steam has done. That service is not the most accessible for indies, and it still reinforces the archaic notion of ‘publishing’ in a digital distribution system. Despite the drawbacks, at least it’s possible for games at smaller price points to thrive along with the big-budget, big-price games. Mobile gaming is largely beholden to the free-to-play (or almost free) pricing scheme.
Providing additional hope for core games on mobile is the promise of gamepads. There are going to be some core games that just aren’t going to be great on touchscreens. Sure, it’s possible to create passable interfaces for many games, but many games are just plain better with physical controls. Hello, Grand Theft Auto 3. That Apple is making physical controls a possibility, and with the sleeping giant that is TV gaming via the Apple TV lying in wait, core gaming feels like it is nearing takeoff on ‘mobile’ platforms.
With this movement, there is definite potential for drawing in core gamers who have rejected mobile gaming. If they see that mobile can support the kinds of games they love, then perhaps they’ll give the platform its just due. On the flipside, I think that mobile gamers want to see their platform of choice become accepted. Is it insecurity? Perhaps to a small degree, but there’s no reason for this platform to be so disrespected.
Sure, the gaming handhelds have tried to provide core gaming experiences while on the go. But there’s just so much less creativity on those platforms because they’re not completely open to all developers yet. The Vita’s getting to that point with Playstation Mobile, but its single-use focus means I don’t see a need to carry it around with me at all times when when my iPhone is just more handy. I can use that to do everything, including playing games. But what reason is there for my iPhone to not have the kinds of games that I can have on my Vita and 3DS?
Mobile gaming is great, and it’s opened up avenues for new types of games and for new types of gamers. Yet there’s no reason the core gaming experience, and those that enjoy it, shouldn’t be welcome on mobile too. So yes, get excited about core games like XCOM coming to mobile, and support the worthy ones, because it can lead to more great games coming to mobile, and that’s a very good thing.