As one who is constantly seeking the next evolution in video game technology; and one who is currently on the verge of buying the new 9 inch iPad Pro (please feel free to tell me how I’m an idiot and am wasting my money in the comments), I’ve always dreamed of a day where I’d be able to play some of my favourite childhood games like Kingdom Hearts and Jak & Daxter on something as portable as my phone, and now to be tablet.
Both Nintendo and Sony have made considerable strides on that front with their slew of handheld devices. You can actually play the entire Jak trilogy on the Vita, alongside other great classics like Metal Gear Solid 3 and Final Fantasy X. And the same goes for the 3DS wherein you can take Kingdom Hearts on the go with Dream Drop Distance. But regardless, the idea of playing a fully-fledged game from a huge developer like Sony and Nintendo on your smartphone, is something everyone at least has a curiosity towards, even if mobile gaming isn’t your thing. Mobile gaming has grown rapidly in the last 5 years, with games that, at a glance, may even seem like they were being played on a home console, which is a testament to the technology. However the list of fully-fledged, triple-A games that are produced by well-known developers, is quite sparse. Many think that smartphones and tablets simply don’t have the power needed to play triple-A titles of the past couple generations. Well in a recent benchmark test of Apple’s latest A9X chip – the one’s found on the new iPad Pro devices – it shows that the processing power and graphical capabilities of that chip can be compared to that of Intel’s 6th generation i5 processors and their HD 520 graphics card. And the same goes for Android as well with Nvidia’s Tegra X1 chip, and Qualcom’s upcoming Snapdragon 820. For those that have no idea what that means, the i5 coupled with a HD 520 graphics card has the ability to play a game like GTA V at 720p and medium settings. GTA V on my iPad? Hell. Yes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Now enough with the rambling and on with the actual news, and the reason you clicked this article. About a week ago, Sony Computer Entertainment – Sony Interactive Entertainment as of April 1st – announced a new division within their company called, ForwardWorks. The job of ForwardWorks will be to take existing Sony intellectual properties (i.e Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted, etc.) and creating games for both iOS and Android platforms. Head of Sony Computer Entertainment, Atsushi Morita, is said be the head of ForwardWorks as well. Moreover, and more importantly, the released statement says that the company will also be responsible for creating brand new, “fully-fledged” games for the platform. “Fully-fledged” gives the notion that Sony’s going to take a more traditional route in development, rather than making games that are; well, “mobile.” We’ve seen this last year as well with Nintendo, when they announced, similarly, that they will be taking their efforts onto the mobile platform. However, because Nintendo is; well, Nintendo, they clearly want to experiment more with this platform. Evidence of this is their first official release of Miitomo, a Social Media platform that uses Nintendo’s classic “Mii” characters. It’s not a Mario or Zelda, but it’s something. Sony hasn’t announced what ForwardWorks will tackle first, or when we can expect to get our first actual game from the company, but they have said that they will be focused on users in Japan and Asia initially. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with Sony’s initial failing in the mobile market with PlaystationMobile, a service that was made, and quickly died, on the Vita. Though I’m sure if and when this new venture takes off, the company will move forward in taking the games global. And the likelihood of that is on the fairer side as Sony has already had a couple games receive universal acclaim, with one being Hitman GO, a title that, in my opinion, is one of the finest on mobile.
What Does This Mean For Mobile Gaming?
Yes, I know that many Android users, myself included, are able to download a beautiful thing known as an emulator, and play pretty much any N64 and PS1 game in the palm of their hands, for free. Add a clamp on your PS4 controller that attaches to your phone, hook the two with an OTG cable and bam, you’ve got yourself a portable NES, SNES, PS1, PSP, and whatever the hell else you can get, on the go. But let’s be honest, how many times does a PS1 or N64 game actually work flawlessly? I’ve had countless times where I downloaded some 3D game (2D games usually don’t have issues) and there was always something (controls, sound, graphics, etc.) that was off. So to know that two of the biggest developers are working to make fully realized, official games for this platform is great. Mobile gaming is usually looked down upon by gamers as “casual.” And though I tend to mostly agree, I do see the potential, and have so for many years now. All this platform needs are two, maybe three, kicka$$ games that are beautiful, long, and full, and that stigma will be lifted. Will this be the official end for traditional handheld gaming? As one who loves his Vita and 3DS, I would hate to think so. But if both Nintendo and Sony are successful in both making and selling their mobile games, then rest assured many other developers will follow suit; which would clearly diminish the demand for traditional handheld consoles. Ah well, it only further validates the purchase of my iPad Pro (shut up and let me be happy with my wasted $800).
The one major thing that holds back mobile gaming, however, are the controls. Touch screen buttons are simply nowhere near on par with physical ones. It works for games like Monument Valley, which literally requires one finger to control. But for bigger and more traditional games, two joysticks and face-buttons are essential. And if Sony or Nintendo realize this, I fear that they will resort to simplified, and “mobile” versions of their vision. Much like the recent Rayman game on iOS and Android, though very fun, it has Rayman automatically run for you, while you simply use one finger to swipe to make him jump. More “hardcore” games like Dead Trigger follow a similar pattern as it has your character do the “shooting” for you, while you the player move and aim. This is obviously to reduce the number of on screen buttons and for an overall streamlined experience; but that’s not what many of us – especially those who are reading this article right now – want with upcoming games from Sony and Nintendo. Now sure, you can fork over $30-$50 and buy yourself a decent bluetooth gamepad from Moga or otherwise, or if you have an Android phone, do the whole attaching your phone to a Dualshock 4 mentioned above; but for me, that makes the whole experience very “eh.” The reason I love the Vita and 3DS is because there’s no waiting. I know I sound completely absurd and like an a$$hat of a millennial with my BS first world problems, but it’s true. I don’t have to wait for bluetooth to connect, I don’t have to get frustrated with the clamp not gripping on my phone properly; it just works. Now I don’t know what they can do to get around this, but something does need to be done to attract the hardcore. Maybe work around the mechanics of games like Infinity Blade? Whatever they do, I better get a damn Metroid, Jak & Daxter, and Uncharted for iOS.
What are your thoughts on Sony’s recent announcement? Are you excited? What IP’s would you love to see on your phone/tablet? Let us know in the comments below!