To hear some people tell it, the console and portable video game markets are DHO_OMED because Apple and Android also play games. While I could go for an easy pun about comparing Apples and oranges…okay, I just did. Never mind. The thing is, people making these statements are misguided fans of the mobile gaming platform who are failing to recognize some basic truths.
First of all, touch screens suck for controlling complex games. This is not to say there are not genres that can use a touch screen well, nor to suggest that all touch screen games suck. But when it comes to controlling a character in 3D space using a touch screen, the results are less than desirable, nor do they convince me to give up physical controls any time soon. I love buttons and analog sticks too much to part with them, yo.
I’ve played several games on my Win Phone, and I’ve sampled a number of iPad and Android games while hanging out at Fnac and Saturn. Saturn has a cafe with a bank of tablets out for users to sample the goods while sipping coffee or munching a sandwich, and so I’ve had a chance to play with games on both capacitive and resistive touch screens. Even with better sensitivity on those resistive screens, there’s all kinds of times when a game didn’t recognize the right input, resulting in my character’s untimely demise.
On games like Assassin’s Creed for the Win Phone, users are given a direction pad and standard buttons. But if I had a nickel for every time a button press didn’t work, I’d have an impressive stack of nickles. And even increasing the size of the direction pad and moving it to the side of the screen instead of the lower corner, I still had hell trying to get poor Altair to walk slowly in a straight line. He either ran flat out, or he wandered like a drunk. And lest you think it’s just the Win Phone, I watched YouTube walkthroughs of players on the iPad version, and clearly, they were having similar problems. The problem isn’t one of sensitivity, it’s one of failing to imitate haptic feedback. And until they can work out the use of micro-vibrations to simulate “bumps” on a flat surface, this lack of haptic feedback will always hinder certain kinds of games in the mobile market.
Let’s talk about driving or other racing games using tilt to steer. If you let the game handle the brake and gas, what you get is a lame gaming experience that strips away any sense of immersion or even of mild enjoyment. If you add touch controls for gas, brake and nitro, very often the game fails to recognize touch gestures. And tilt steering, while sometimes fun, is not the same as using a physical controller in Forza 4. It can still be fun, but it’s a vastly different kind of gaming experience.
There really is no risk of the phone game market overtaking consoles and portables for now. This is not to say that the mobile gaming market doesn’t have anything to offer gamers. There’s lots of great tablet and phone-based games. But none of these are going to convince me to give up my Xbox in favor of my phone games.
I think the biggest problem with this issue is, some fans get attached to a certain platform, and then everything else is just crap that can’t hang with their precious toy. I’ve seen this same “Only one can survive” mentality with people on either side of the ebook VS print debates, and no matter how often someone points out that print and ebooks can both exist as separate markets, there’s always someone ready to declare one side or the other as the superior market that will survive and stand the test of time. (For the record, I own an e-ink ereader, and I still buy print books and go shopping at local stores. In some cases, I have both an ebook copy and a print copy of the same titles. That’s because while I love e-ink sometimes I still prefer to read a paperback.)
So the real problem isn’t with any of the platforms. It lies in fandoms who are unwilling to admit that other markets or platforms are equally good. It’s an intentional lack of empathy that serves no useful purpose, not even as a recruiting tool.
Look, I’ve got a Vita, and I have no desire for the 3DS. To me, the current game lineup just isn’t that enticing. BUT, when I was at Cartoomics, I couldn’t turn around without finding someone huddled over their 3DS, lovingly tapping the stylus on the lower screen while their gazes were locked on the upper screen. I saw the lines of 3DS fans waiting to try out the next crop of games on the available demo units. And yes, I got in those lines and gave the games a chance. I found some of them to be okay, and in particular, I really liked Super Mario 3D Land. So for this reason, I’m not ready to declare that the Vita will crush the lead that Nintendo has developed after their price drop on the 3DS. (Also, Sony Italy’s infuriating lack of customer support is making it damned hard to be a drooling fangirl right now.)
People, we need to get people over this habit of turning every single topic into a constant debate where one side or the other must capitulate that they are using “a dying format.” This kind of Us VS Them debate is bad enough when it’s something like religious folks VS Atheists. but when you see this same level of religious zealotry from gamers, it’s pathetic.
So, to close with a recap, yes, I know the mobile gaming market is growing up and is cranking out lots of great games. I’ve had a chance to play some of those, and I’m looking forward to a bright future of mobile gaming options for when I forget my Vita or leave it at home for some reason. But I don’t believe that the rising wealth of one game market instantly translates as ailing health for other markets. I think anyone suggesting this is misguided by their fandom leanings, and I wish more gamers would just enjoy their preferred platform without going out of their way to spit on other platforms.
In short, grow up, guys.