What separates the mobile gaming experience from the console gaming experience? I don’t mean obvious differences, like the size of the screen or the control interface, though those are important. I’m also not talking about the on-the-go nature of many mobile games, nor the huge price difference between retail games and those distributed digitally. These are legitimate differences that certainly influence the play experience, but they are differences intrinsic to these two platforms. What I’m talking about is the game content itself.
What are the core components of a good game?
Are those components the same across mobile and console platforms?
I contend that the main goal of any game on any platform is to be interesting. Boring is the opposite of interesting, and boring games have little value. An interesting game has good mechanics, layered and intricate content, or sometimes both. There’s some reason for the player to return to it over and over; something about the experience represents a problem worth solving, or a story worth finishing. The princess is in another castle, one unlike those we’ve seen so far. In playing we will be forced to think, to strategize, to learn. This is the essence of fun.
The problem is many games, in fact most games, fail to pull this off. On the console side of the universe development costs are so high and the audience so narrow that experimentation is very difficult. The genres are well defined but the best games are those that explore uncharted game design territory. Unfortunately, deviation from the precedent is a luxury that few console developers believe that they can afford. Emphasis is instead placed on areas of development that are considered “safe bets”–better graphics technology, brand licensing, and sequels.
On the mobile side, experimentation abounds but many titles lack depth. So many mobile games are simply an exploration of a single mechanic. A great mechanic can carry a game for a while, but eventually it becomes routine. If there’s no other content to keep the player interested he’ll eventually move on to something else. And if the mechanic isn’t so great to begin with he may drop the game immediately.
We are console game developers. Between us, we’ve shipped over two dozen games for various traditional platforms. We believe that while the interface, audience, and economics of mobile games is different, the core components of quality are the same.
At Robot Invader we bring console development techniques to mobile platforms to build fascinating games. We are interested in the space between Minesweeper and Gears of War. Games that grab the player and pull him in with interesting content and story but can still be played on the go using simple, expressive mechanics. Games that stay with you after the phone is turned off. Games that invade your dreams.