It's fair to say that Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery took something of a panning when it was released. We took a look at it, complaining about the pacing, monetization systems, and general blandness of the experience. You can read our thoughts on it by clicking here.
But the critical reception is only one part of the story here. Currently the game is in the top 5 top grossing games on the App Store. And a quick glance at the ratings on the game's listing on iTunes will tell you that it's getting an average of 4.1 stars with every vote. And that's made me wonder about the divide between the people playing these games, and the people writing about them.
When it comes to media coverage of mobile games, it's fair to say that most outlets still take a pretty traditional stance. While sites like 148Apps cover a lot of games, the focus is often on premium titles. Games like Monument Valley, The Room, and Super Mario Run are the ones that dominate the column inches.
And there's a good reason for that. A lot of the people who write about mobile video games came to it because of an interest in more mainstream forms of gaming. And that means that they bring with them an inherent bias about the sorts of games that they want to cover.
Because so many games come out every week on mobile, it's pretty much impossible to devote coverage to all of them. So it's the writers that make the choices about what to talk about, and that's then reflected in the content that's created.
What is the mainstream?
Some of the language I used there poses another question. Calling AAA gaming mainstream doesn't really make sense any more. When it comes to revenue, mobile gaming is pulling in much more than console and PC gaming.
And that's definitely the case with Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. While the App Store rating for the game is more than four out of five, the Metacritic rating sits at just over five out of ten. Or two and a half out of five. The user rating is even smaller, ranking at just 0.8.
But it's still making an awful lot of money. And that money must be coming in from somewhere. It's not too much of a leap to say that the audience that's playing games like Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery are from a different demographic to the one that plays the sorts of games that sites like ours cover.
What does this mean?
From one point of view, the money that mobile is making is interesting. It means we're getting more and more polished games. On the other side though, there's a dearth of any real innovation at the top of the charts. Two of the top ten grossing games right now are variations on Candy Crush, for example.
But games like Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery are often used as examples of what's wrong with mobile gaming. I mean, I wrote a piece exactly about that. And that can put a lot of people off trying the amazing, engaging, and deep experiences that mobile gaming has to offer.
And while we try to cover as much as we can on 148Apps, we're never not going to be critical when we think something is going to be bad for you, the people who trust us to tell them what's what in the world of mobile gaming. So while that disconnection between our criticism and the monetary reception of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery and its ilk is going to remain, hopefully sites like ours can make people realize that there's plenty more games out there that are worth your time.