5 Reasons Why Mobile Gaming Isn't Garbage

Mobile games aren't bad, gaming has just changed

The popular opinion around gaming culture is that mobile gaming is considered to be garbage. It's not a minority opinion held by a small audience. Popular voices discuss how mobile gaming is bad, and many popular gaming websites only mention mobile gaming when something happens in Pokemon GO. Mobile gaming isn't taken seriously, and part of that is because even independent developers consider it to be full of bad games. We're not here to say that mobile gaming doesn't have its cheap, derivative titles, because it does. But to say that diminishes the many great titles that mobile gamers enjoy. It's a matter of perception because other gaming platforms have a similar blend of poor and great games.

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Mobile Gaming Stores Are Different From Other Markets

Google Play front page
Google Play

Mobile gaming's nature has made it very different from other platforms. From the beginning of the App Store era of gaming, mobile has always been about the one central store where everything is, like a Walmart or Target, where you can buy cheap goods or high-priced ones in the same store. While Android is a bit different because users can install non-Google app stores, iOS users are tied to the App Store for all practical purposes. The issue is that mobile hasn't let a market for high-quality, premium games in particular thrive. Even major indie games that release on mobile wind up being the same price. And that's a big reason why the platform has such a flawed reputation.

But just because when you search for a game on mobile you might also see some low-quality work does not diminish the quality of everything else that's good in the store. Mobile is full of good games, many of them of smaller scale than games on other platforms, but still full of them. And there are the occasional PC games that release on mobile for cheaper, too. It's just that everything is lumped into one store, and it's easier to be exposed to some poor products.

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PC Games Are Diverse Too

Video game screenshot

The thing is, mobile isn't that different from PC. It has a similar spectrum of games, from short time-wasters to more involved experiences. Oh, and there are both paid and free-to-play games. It's just that PC games are more clearly separated into different tiers. There's Steam and other marketplaces for large-scale games that appeal to traditional gamers. Meanwhile, it's easy for those gamers to avoid Facebook and social games. And Flash games, which may have appeal to gamers looking for more casual experiences, are yet still separated from other platforms with other categories of games.

What's ironic about PC being considered the superior gaming platform to mobile is that not only is it full of the same games that mobile is dismissed for, but Steam is gaining a foothold as hosting low-quality games as well. Since Steam Greenlight has become vastly easier for developers to release their games on, it means that shoddy work has appeared on the platform more often. It's gotten to a point where one studio, Digital Homicide, tried suing users and one critic who spoke negatively of their work. To say that PC gaming is better than mobile gaming because of the quality of its games ignores that perhaps the first incarnation of mobile gaming was back in the days of shareware. Games distributed on floppy disks by small startup shops, and eventually compiled on compact disks, were often of wildly varying quality. Shareware was the mobile gaming of its day.

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Console Gaming Has Never Been in the Same Perspective

Screenshot of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, available on Android
Gearbox Software

Why don't console games have a lot of so-called garbage? Well, because they have historically been locked down by the console manufacturers. The need for physical distribution on cartridges and discs made it so that only big enough companies, with the approval of the first-party companies, made it so that they could distribute games. This also limited the total number of games that released on consoles, meaning that, while perhaps there was a baseline of quality, theoretically, releases were often limited.

We're seeing this change now as independent developers are able to release games on consoles. The Xbox Indie Games portal on Xbox 360 was often known for its mediocre quality of games along with its hidden gems. PlayStation Mobile on PlayStation Vita had games that could be clunky and of poor quality. The worst-reviewed games on modern consoles are often from small developers. While it's still not an open platform, consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One are far more open to independent developers — and as such, will get some low-quality games.

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This Is All a Byproduct of Digital Distribution

Screenshot of Android racing game Maximum Car
Tea and Cheese

The reason why so many bad games are now able to exist on mobile and otherwise is because of digital distribution making it easier for more games to be released to the world. Think about how digital music made it easier to get your favorite music, but also how many low-quality covers are on YouTube, and how upstart bands with limited talent can be on Bandcamp. Similarly, now, it's easier than ever for developers to get the tools to make games and to get an audience for them. And there's no guarantee that they'll be good. It's not just web portals, now it's mobile app stores and even console game stores digitally distributing games. And with tools like Game Maker and Clickteam Fusion being used to make hit games, tools designed initially for amateur upstarts, the fact is that the presence of so many bad games is just because it's easier to get them out to the world. And it's not just on mobile, it's everywhere that games are.

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You Have to Take the Good With the Bad

Minecraft Pocket Edition game screenshot

Ask yourself a question: would you trade all the bad mobile games for all the great new games that are appearing? It would be a lot harder for Minecraft to be a success without the ease of digital distribution. I firmly believe that the indie game revolution would not have taken off the way it had if the initial App Store gold rush hadn't convinced developers that there was money in independent game development. It helped spur far more independent game developers to release games for mobile, Steam, and consoles, and for marketplaces to be more accommodating to indies. Yes, a lot of mediocre titles have become prominent because of it, but how about all the great games that have come out since then? We now live in a time when there are too many games to play, and mobile was a big catalyst for that.

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