Look I’m not going to beat around the bush here. I just wrote a list of what I think are the five best games that came out on iOS this week. They’re good games, don’t get me wrong, but here’s the kicker - almost all of them came out elsewhere before they landed on mobile.
F1 2016 isn’t a direct port, but it’s a squishing down of the console experience to fit on mobile. Rome: Total War, Steamworld Heist and RunGunJumpGun have all had other homes before they were welcomed into the mobile fold.
That leaves us with Titan Brawl. Which is fine. Titan Brawl is a fine game and I won’t hear too many bad things said about it. What I will hear bad things said about is the App Store. What has gone wrong there?
Look back at the history of gaming on mobile, brief as it may be, and you’ll see some of the finest experiences ever created. The Room series, Monument Valley, pretty much everything Simogo has ever done. Nitrome. Oh my word lovely, lovely Nitrome.
Nowadays though it’s harder and harder to see the gems shining through the App Store offal. There are good games, there are solid games, every now and then there are excellent games, but when was the last time you played a truly great game on your phone or tablet?
When was the last time an experience blew you away like they were doing a couple of years back? It wasn’t this week for sure. You might love the games that came out this week, but we’re slowly falling into a black hole of ports, sequels, and free to play strategy management titles with close-ups of angry dude’s faces as their App Store icons.
And yeah you can trace this all back to money. You can point to the amount that the big boys rake in and the troubles that smaller developers have breaking even and say “well it’s not really a surprise that this is happening.”
But why wasn’t it happening in the past? Why were we buying games like The Room and Framed and all those greats back then when we’re not now? Why do we get excited about the next installment in the GO franchise rather than waiting with baited breath to see what usTwo announces next?
The App Store used to be a beautiful wild west, filled with crazy ideas that just sort of worked. It used to be a place where a developer could make its name, where I could get to meet them and tell them there games were great. Nowadays I mainly meet people involved in advertising.
And I can’t help but think that a lot of this is down to us. And by us I mean journalists. I can’t help thinking that in our scramble to create popular content we’ve managed to miss the point - that we’re the ones that should be trying to point you in the direction of the next big thing.
Because sometimes it’s a lot easier to have our directions dictated for us by considerations that aren’t tied to you, the reader. Because sometimes it’s easy to go chasing an audience that’s already there than trying to cultivate the audience that mobile gaming deserves.
What I’m saying is we have to try better. We have to find the diamonds among the seemingly endless fields of rocks. And we have to make sure that as many people as possible hear about them. So yeah, that’s what I’m going to try and do. It’d be cool if you wanted to come along for the ride.