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Hecatonchira's blog

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Hecatonchira avatar 10:53 AM on 10.27.2011  (server time)
Game of Phones

The Videogame Industry is steeped in more than 60 years of nerdy history, but is still flighty and needful of constant reassurance. Yes, like your girlfriend with perilously low self esteem, each new device that even pretends to play games seems to pose a pervasive threat to your relationship with your dedicated gaming console.

First, it was your phone, then tablet and even your japanese toilet (because we know that device has had more hands on it than a JC Penny dressing room). For a while, even Facebook seemed to pose a threat, until everyone realized that people just wanted to annoy someone into watering their crops while abusing their friendships with a constant stream of advertising. Though, I have to admit that those games did grasp their intended market of bored housewives, baby-shakers and people who wanted to drain their bank account one dollar at a time. The rise of multi-function devices like smarphones and tablets showed the convenience of having access to multiple applications in a convenient portable package, even if it only excelled at a few of them.

For a few brief moments, Apple iOS and the Google Android development platforms seemed imminently poised to rape and pillage, stringing the likes of Sonic and Mario up by the heels.

Only, it didn't happen. Not really.

These mobile devices double in power each year, but the quality of games offered on the platforms only seems get worse as time goes on. If you want another Bust-A-Move knock off, or an App to track your cheating spouse, a phone is your oyster, but there are no Call of Duty, Battlefield or Dead Island. This isn't a problem with the power of the platform, but access to it's development. The easier it is to bring games to market, the more games there are from independent developers and shameless charlatans, meaning that quality control doesn't actually exist. For every Brothers Sword and Sworcery EP or Angry Birds, there are dozens more less-than-mediocre attempts to rob you of $2.

In fact, the 'casual games' market was probably one of the most unexpected for conventional game developers, mostly because of it's pervasive social pressure to participate. After all, traditional console developers have been stuggling to insert advertising into their games without having their corporate offices burned to the ground in neckbeard riots. Yet, it's viral growth showed that plenty of people are willing to shell out exorbitant sums for pixelated goods and to play social games less; time and money that could have been better spent improving scapbooking skills, raising children or learning to use contraceptives.

This is where console games come in, for now. As gaming markets become more diverse we see just how many ways they can be enjoyed, from old formats, now considered 'indie', like Pac-Man or Asteroids, to highly-competitive eSports like Call of Duty or Defense of the Ancients. Open platforms like Android and iOS show us that the steady march of games created by everyone often shows us more about shameless greed than innovative or compelling experiences.

But, that can change.

While mobile devices grow more powerful, even exceeding that of a console (assuming we don't all shift to cloud computing), we may see a strong shift in development or even the rise of something completely new, like a melding of augmented reality and gamification. After all, i would be more excited about paying bills or buying coffee if it unlocked wardrobe choices or a free burrito from Chipotle.

Hey, it could happen.

The problem is that smartphones, tablets and SmartTVs, which are yet another growing facet of iOS and Android development are still considered throwaway technology in it's infancy. As they get faster and adopt more formats, they become more viable for games development, but lack the stability of a dedicated platform, which means only early-adopters truly need apply to stay on the cutting edge. After all, most of my friends have had 3 to 5 phones in the years since the release of the Xbox360 just so they can play Angry Birds without slow-down.

With game development often measured in years, and the rise of a culture more concerned about sustainability, we may be more concerned with the ability of our devices to project into the future instead of the padding the junk heap.

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