Earlier this week, I wrote about some of the things I’m most excited about on the mobile front for this coming year. Now it’s time to invert that a bit, but not exactly. If this were a true flip, I’d be talking about games like they’re bad before I’ve even played them, which is obviously poor practice.
Instead, I’ll try to predict some of 2019’s worst trends as they pertain to mobile and tell you why I’m not looking forward to hearing about them, and why you shouldn’t either.
Apple Editorial continuing to be a thing
Editorial content for mobile is great and—in my (biased) opinion—pretty necessary. The App Store isn’t quite as wild as the Android market, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t imitations, clones, and straight up awful garbage coming out on the store every day. This is probably why Apple’s new editorial games content exists on the App Store now, but just because it exists doesn’t mean it’s good.
In fact, my entire experience engaging with Apple’s written content around gaming has convinced me that it’s pretty rotten. Picks of new games seem to hinge on whether they can sell more copies of it because of some sort of name recognition or impressive screenshot, and they cover up their weak/questionable picks by burying them in lists of mobile titles other mobile outlets have already scrounged up and identified as great games from before Apple Editorial was a thing. It’s almost like they have no actual integrity and are just trying to get people to buy more games. It’s almost like whoever is writing for that team has a vested interest in people buying games.
All of this was true in 2018, but I super don’t look forward to seeing it continue to grow in 2019.
The discourse around Diablo: Immortal
The most tiresome thing in the world is listening to a “hardcore gamer” explain that something isn’t a “real game” just because it wasn’t made just for them. It very much happened just at the mere announcement of Diablo: Immortal, but it very much will happen again when the game actually releases this year.
What makes this especially tired is the fact that many big voices in games will echo these sentiments. For whatever reason, there’s still a lot of people out there—in 2019–who have no problem asserting that mobile games aren’t “true” or “real” game experiences with no real knowledge or evidence to back up the claim. They just take it at face value, most likely because they’ve had bad experiences with mobile games in the past thanks to a lot of poor mobile game curation and criticism in the past (see my first point above).
This will be especially tiresome if it turns out that Diablo: Immortal is a bad game. It’ll just reaffirm the position that mobile games are trash to people who think it’s somehow better to spend 0 on games that have predatory microtransactions than touch a mobile game just because those games have a controller and are more technically impressive.
Supercell staying its course
One of the most frustrating things about mobile is that some of the most polished experiences on it are hollow shells of games with long, complicated progression grinds (that can be bypassed for money, of course). No other development house has perfected this quite like Supercell has, and although I’ve had quite a bit of fun with Clash Royale and Brawl Stars in the past, something needs to change.
I can’t exactly blame Supercell for taking this approach to mobile games, as it’s earned them a ton of money. The only problem is that with this massive success comes a lot of imitation, and not a lot of innovation. So many free-to-play mobile games I’ve played for the last few years all imitate some form of Supercell monetization schemes exactly, and it’s getting extremely old. I would love to see some more creativity in the space of how to make cheap/free experiences a win-win for developers and players, but if Supercell keeps dominating the free charts, I don’t see that really happening.