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Mobile game industry (2016-present)

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"So pay up... or be owned!"
The Headmaster, Transformers: Animated

A mobile game is, as the name implies, games that are designed to be played on mobile phones and tablets. These games are usually casual games, but there are also hardcore and large scale games (that are sometimes on par with mainstream games) that can be played on these devices.

The early days of the industry can be traced back to 1994, where a mobile variant of the iconic Tetris game was a stock game for the Hagenuk MT-2000. The industry would then rise to fame with Nokia's iconic Snake game in 1997. As mobile phones evolved, the games also evolved too. Mobile gaming became widespread with the Android and iOS operating systems. Other smartphone systems like Blackberry and Windows Phone were also involved, but to a lesser extent.

Since the smartphone era, developers started making games for the mobile game industry, with some being good or bad depending on their content. But nowadays, it became much worse than the AAA Game Industry.

The industry has been heavily exploited by greedy companies, whether it's corporate, indie, or solo. The industry has received hate by mainstream gamers and has been disregarded by many as a cash farm.

Why It Sucks Now

  1. Negligence. First of all, developers in this industry have no concern for a mobile gaming experience, as they only make games for financial purposes. Because of this, most games nowadays are very simplistic (such as hypercasual games or even strategy ones) and are rife with certain monetization schemes. In addition to that, most games don't take advantage of the phone's hardware (especially with the existence of gaming phones like the Xiaomi Black Shark) and graphical capabilities, yet they use a large amount of the phone's memory, making tons of RAM go to waste. This gave the industry a bad reputation.
    • Not helping with that is that the audience is made up of youngsters who don't have consoles (they can't be blamed for that, though), those who have just debuted on the gaming industry or those who are into free games. They are only vocal about the game's performance and the numerous ads interrupting the gameplay. Because of this, companies tend to lure them with free-to-play games in order to trick them into paying for microtransactions.
  2. Microtransactions, the biggest trend of mobile gaming. This practice was originally founded by this industry, but it got worse ever since it came to console gaming market. Gameloft and Electronic Arts (in their mobile games) were the infamous masters of using this practice. In fact, they were prominent even before 2017, although it was not a mandatory requirement to progress through the game back then.
    • Because of this, games are no longer paid like they used to be, and the items behind paywalls either require you to pay for it or spend hours of grinding. Not to mention that the acquisition of said items are harder without microtransactions. Therefore, the standard business model (buy-to-play) is almost gone from this industry.
    • And yes, the lack of microtransactions has now become a selling point for the aforementioned business model.
  3. Rip-offs. The industry is also infamous for its clones. Most of these are based off GTA, Minecraft, Mario, or basically any famous game franchise, especially for Naxeex who made a lot of GTA clones. Despite mobile clones existing way back then, these ones are no better than those ones, due to their low quality appearance and predatory monetization.
    • Speaking of clones, if you look up for a popular game on Google Play such as the aforementioned franchises, the search results will depict the clones only, making the original games very hard to find. This only occurs if you live outside America or Europe.
  4. Always-online DRM. Most single-player games nowadays require a constant internet connection to run, meaning that if they ever shut down, the game will be completely unplayable, and therefore, forever lost to time, for example, Dr. Mario World and Tom Clancy's Elite Squad, which shut down in only a year.
    • Some examples of quick mobile game shutdowns include Chaos Chronicle, which launched on August 2016 and died on December 2017, Record of Grancrest War Quartet Conflict, which launched on October 2018 and shut down on June 2019 due to the lack of players, and Kingsense (best known for its 5* rating campaign on Google Play) shutting down in only four months, from June 2021 to October 22 of the same year.
    • It was later discovered that the reason they make their games always online is because they can't get players to pay for MTX or watch ads without it, since many players attempt to obsolete both features by either turning off the Internet (for ads) or using third-party hacking apps to bypass microtransactions.
  5. Exploitation. A few AAA publishers like Konami have started to shift into mobile gaming, only because you spend less on developing it, and generate a lot of money from the game. They only provide games for mobile only for the sake of milking the industry. This also explains WISN #18.
  6. Timers. One of the most infamous mobile game tropes, where you have to wait for a specific amount of time to upgrade your character/gear. What makes this even worse is that the more powerful the character is, the longer the upgrade time, meaning that you either have to wait for hours or spend premium currency to rush the upgrade, which in turn requires you to grind for it or buy microtransactions.
  7. Most of these games use the Unity engine, which runs terribly on most devices. This is because of the developers not being careful with optimising their games. Some games use Unreal Engine (which also works with mobile devices), but the worst thing is that those games come with a large file size, and take up more space than the Unity games.
  8. Advertisements. Known to be the industry's biggest disease. They have spread across the industry, so no matter what you play, you will get ads no matter what, especially pop-up ads when you first boot-up the game. Genshin Impact for example proved that these type of ads are no longer necessary in mobile games, as they ditched ads in the game. While most mobile games use advertisements responsibly (ex. where they only play when you want to claim in-game currency), some of them cross the line and play as much ads as they can just to generate more revenue. Sometimes the game itself is nothing but ads.
    • They also have a near monopoly on the advertising market, as almost all of the ads you get are for mobile games.
    • Most of these ads can also contain inappropriate content. For example, the Riddle games ads sexualize and objectify women.
    • The ads have even spread all across the Internet, in an attempt to get customers. Badly enough, all the clout usually goes to the ads and not the game, which explains why mobile game ads are more popular than the games.
    • Fortunately, they can be avoided by turning on Airplane Mode or the Internet off, but this does not work with WISN #4.
  9. This industry made lots of poor ads just for money. Voodoo is the best example for making mysterious spams to their horrible games. In fact, the ads are even more than those on TV channels!
  10. Classic mobile games started to decay over the years. During the release of The Angry Birds Movie 2 and the 10th Anniversary of Angry Birds, Rovio decided to remove every classic Angry Birds game except Bad Piggies (which was also removed until 2020). Fortunately though, as of 2022, most of these games (all but the ones that require licenses from Disney) were re-released again on stores.
  11. Continuing with #10, many old school mobile games always get taken down after a couple of years by their publishers. As a result, the oldest mobile game would be at least 8 years old.
  12. Because of the industry being dominated by evil companies nowadays, the OG companies have been following them in their footsteps. Most mobile developers have delisted their older games. Playrix has turned from a decent causal game company to an infamous false ad crimelord. Nekki has implemented microtransactions and pay-to-win mechanics into the third Shadow Fight game despite being absent from its predecessors. What will be the worst to come to this industry?
  13. Some devs of this industry can't take criticism at all, especially Voodoo, who made an attempt to overshadow Ben Esposito's title Donut County by releasing high amounts of ads for their title Hole.io, which was a rip-off of said title. Some of them even bribe people or use bots to give positive reviews to their games.
    • The most recent practice of ducking criticism, has to be Early Access on Google Play. Similar to Steam, the games released here are full of ads, and there is no rating or review system, which helps scumbags make money out of this practice.
  14. They moved movie-based games onto this platform and most of the tie-in games are either from the match 3 or endless runner genre (which are easy to develop). If the tie-in game is losing popularity, it will eventually be pulled from mobile storefronts permanently. This is common with many of the movie tie-in video game adaptations on this platform.
    • Sometimes, they even come in the form of limited time tie-in movie events for pre existing mobile games. This can come in either extra levels, unlockable characters, or other bonuses.
    • Although not common, some of them do not have a license to the movie's content, which is a crime.
  15. Many beloved mobile game companies like ZeptoLab, Playrix, and Gameloft have started to imitate EA or Activision.
    • Gameloft might be the first victim of this. After being bought by Vivendi, Gameloft have started to milk their games but with microtransactions.
    • It was even a motivation for other companies which just started making games as they followed in the footsteps of them.
  16. Like Sony and Nintendo, some of them get cocky on their successful titles, causing them to unintentionally spoil the next game. Some on the other hand, milk their games to the point where they turn it into a multimedia franchise, most notably YouTube Web series.
  17. There are cases of global shafting, or shafting where the Japanese/Korean/Chinese region get the best treatment, and the cases where global servers get things like raised prices and obvious censorship. Nexon was notorious for this on many of their games, but the part where Nexon started to improve was when they announced Blue Archive won't be censored and will be given the same treatment as the Korean version.
  18. Many greedy companies have started porting their crappy games to mainstream platforms (as if the mass ads weren't enough), mainly the PC and Switch, just for the sake of seeking mainstream fame and milking console gamers. Thankfully, these games are either obscure or fail on the platforms.
  19. Sometimes, they might use false names on their ads, which is just misleading. For example, Kingsense ran ads under the name Chameleon Games, when it was actually ran by Superprism.
  20. When it comes to AAA companies making exclusive games for this industry, especially if it is part of a franchise, they just simplify the whole game and release it as freemium. Examples include Forza Street and Driver Speedboat Paradise. Thankfully, this is not the case with ports.
    • Many of these games stray away from their franchises' style. For example Driver Speedboat Paradise is a boat-racing game instead of an open-world action-adventure driving game.
    • These games usually fail and are short-lived.
  21. Some of these games (especially indie ones) are trend cash-ins, meaning that they're based on Internet memes and trends (which last for a short time). Although some of them have effort implemented into them, the majority of these games are just shovelware and are full to the brim with ads. This proves that they make such games for a quick cash grab, and try to make it in time before the death of the trend.
  22. It is clear that most of these games are rushed, (despite the devs not announcing said games on social media or on their site), due to them suffering from numerous bugs and glitches.
  23. Racing games are basically cash farms, as almost all racing games boast console quality graphics, and always try to be the first to include a newly released car before other games. Said cars are locked behind limited-time paywalls.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Despite its reputation, there are still some good games, but most of them come from the 2000s and early 2010s. There are also good games being released to this day, but they're obscured by shovelware.
  2. There's still some good mobile game developers, even though some of them are indie devs or even solo.
  3. There are some great console games on mobile like the Final Fantasy games, the 3D remake of Castle of Illusion and some Grand Theft Auto entries.
  4. Games back then neither had microtransactions nor ads. However it was due to the fact that the games were paid. Unlike console games, players could download a free demo of the game to see it for themselves and if interested, they could buy the full game.
    • Plus, there were also HD versions of certain mobile games for high end devices, which contain graphical upgrades. However, this was ditched when games started having their own graphical customisation settings.
  5. Some games take advantage of the phone's graphical abilities, and give off a definitive experience. This is more common in racing games like the Asphalt series.
  6. Since mobile gaming is not in the spotlight, it is immune to political correctness.
  7. Some ambitious developers try to improve their skills with every game they release and take criticism well.

Bad Examples

  • Gameloft (2016-present) - The masters of microtransactions, as they milk the Asphalt franchise and Minion Rush (and sometimes Gangstar) just to make money. They even shifted to online single player gaming, meaning that newly released games require a constant Internet connection. (This is not the case with pre-2016 games that are still being updated).
  • Rovio (2017-2020) - Known for milking the Angry Birds franchise as much as possible, as they remove non-Angry Birds games and replace them with Angry Birds ripoffs. They even had the audacity to remove the better Angry Birds games during the franchise's 10th anniversary.
  • NetEase - Releasing several rip-off reskinned games with licensed titles for a quick cash grab.
  • Voodoo - By making clueless 60 second ads that do not make any sense and some of them are even inappropriate. Also infamous for their crappy "hyper casual" games.
  • Lion Studios - Like Voodoo, they make ads that don't make sense and rush their games.
  • Ketchapp - Known for making shovelware hypercasual games just like Voodoo and Lion Studios. Although they do not engage in false advertising (or do they).
  • Plarium Games - Released a shitty pay-to-win RPG game and relied on YouTube sponsorship for clout (which unfortunately went to the ads, not the game itself).
  • ZeptoLab - Like Rovio, they milk the Cut the Rope franchise (most especially their popular character Om Nom) hard, for example in order to complete such games like Cut the Rope 2, you have to pay for certain types of power-ups but can be rewarded via daily gift, they've also recently introduced a premium monthly membership subscription in both Cut the Rope games, which costs $9.99! (The games can still be completed without the membership). There are too much ads in their games and even made Om Nom knockoffs (such as Om Nom Run) under their business unit, ZeptoLab Green. They even announced that they will make NFTs focused in Om Nom.[1] Plus there has been no announcement of any new Cut the Rope game since 2015 since they are now focused on their business unit and producing their webseries "Om Nom Stories", which by the way has over 19 seasons as of 2021!
  • Playrix (2019-present) - They try very hard to be famous, but with false advertising and generic choice ads which has damaged their reputation as a whole.
  • Playgendary - Milks their popular games like Kick the Buddy and Bowmasters with microtransactions in order to make more money.
  • BBTV Interactive - Makes deals with terrible YouTubers and creates games that are just shovelware. Mainly they use common mobile game themes.
  • 1Games - Made over 300 shovelware mobile games in a decade, and even dared to port one of them to the PlayStation 4.
  • Naxeex - They've been cranking out GTA clone titles every year with little to no effort at all. In fact, their entire catalogue is made up of GTA clones.
    • Over the course of 7 years, they've produced over 71 GTA clones games on Google Play.
    • They even reboot the original games with every update, making the previous updates obsolete.
  • Z&K Games - Kept releasing every shovelware horror mobile games that are asset flips of each other, also relies on using music and sound effects from freesound.org.
  • Yotta Games - One of the most infamous mobile game devs of the late 2010s, their biggest crimes are asset theft and false advertising. Even outside of Mafia City, their games are still full of stolen assets.

Good Examples

  • Keplerians - They try to learn from their mistakes since their debut title and also always listen to their fans.
  • Niantic - Made high quality AR games and also have a pretty good relationship with Nintendo.
  • miHoYo - Among all Chinese developers, they provide high-quality mobile games the most, the main example of which is Honkai Impact 3rd and Genshin Impact, which have also been released outside of mobile devices.
  • Rovio (2009-2017, 2020-present) - Despite their downfall, they’ve now started to listen to their fans by bringing back their delisted Angry Birds games thanks to the new CEO.
  • Gameloft (1999-2016) - Made pretty good games for phones and also created high quality titles from various media.
  • Halfbrick Studios (2001-present) - For 20 years, Halfbrick is still developing games, including updating old games like Jetpack Joyride. Not a single franchise being milked.
  • Outfit7 - Created Talking Tom, a game known for being a "virtual cat".
  • Playrix (2004-2018) - Before their downfall, they made 2 casual mobile games that were great for their time.
  • RobTop (2012-present) - Created Geometry Dash, an iconic music platform game that would later become big in the mainstream industry.
  • Feral Interactive (2016-present) - Although the company has been publishing macOS games since its foundation in 1996, they treat this industry the same way as the console industry, as they create high quality full-priced mobile games that never rely on microtransactions or ads.

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