Time and time again, I keep hearing about how mobile gaming is taking over. With tablet and smartphone sales increasing and Angry Birds becoming the most downloaded game ever, one would think that gamers like me would become convinced that mobile gaming is taking over. Guess what? We’re not, and the recent iPhone 5 announcement helps to prove that mobile gaming still has a long way to go.
Apple revealed the iPhone 5 on Wednesday along with their revamped lines of iPods so that the Apple faithful can throw down their money to get an upgraded piece of hardware. Now there’s nothing wrong with that; that’s how Apple does their business these days. What is noticeable from Apple, however, is that they really don’t care about gaming.
Yes they may mention how the iPhone now has more power to run games, and that the App Store has thousands of games that selling hand-over-fist. Still, those are just stats. The attitude from Apple is that they want to produce high quality products, which they do, and extend their brand even further as they have been for the past decade.
Nevertheless, gaming is not their focus, and you can’t become a leader in the gaming market if it’s not a focus. Atari, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sega have all been the king of the hill at one point when it came to gaming. Those companies, or at least a significant portion of them, solely focused on video games. That is the attitude needed to be on top. The apathy that comes from Apple over gaming is a clear sign that they’ll let the chips fall where they may, and regardless of whether their platform becomes the sales leader or falls into last place in terms of game sales, they won’t bat an eye. Hell, there are games right now that don’t work on the iPhones and iPod Touches from three generations ago, let alone games that are iPad only. It's no wonder Angry Birds is the most downloaded game ever; it’s one of the games that actually can work on all those different devices.
I don’t buy the ‘mobile gaming is taking over’ arguments, and neither do many gamers out there. I’ve been on many message boards and sites, and mobile gaming is simply not a priority right now for most gamers. Regardless of what many tech journalists want you to believe and the many panels that talk about how mobile gaming is taking over, do not believe the hype. What is happening is that more people that didn’t play games before are buying mobile devices and using them to play games for a few minutes when they're bored, and there are a lot more of them then there are of us.
If mobile gaming is going to truly take over, it will take a device that is dedicated to playing games. Games cannot be an afterthought but need to be the primary focus of such a device. Devices like Sony’s Xperia Play phone and the Wikipad tablet were made with gaming in mind which make them more attractive to gamers. Indeed, the Ouya has made gamers genuinely excited over a device that plays Android games because the people behind the Ouya are focused on gaming. If Apple were to announce their own version of the Ouya, I have no doubt in my mind that it would propel them to becoming the big dogs of the gaming, but Apple doesn’t care about gaming.
Mobile gaming isn’t ‘taking over’ anything until all those smartphone and tablet owners start demanding higher quality games on par with the ones that can be experienced on dedicated portable gaming devices like the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita. Until then, mobile gaming platforms will continue to be filled with shovelware, because any jerk can download an SDK, put together a crappy casual game, give it a clever name, and get some easy sales from kids using their parents’ phones to buy and play games.