Five takeaways for mobile gaming from E3

E3 2013
By Simon Sage on 15 Jun 2013 09:55 pm EDT

I'm back from my very first E3, and as a lifelong gamer, it was a blast. At times, it was hard to put the blinders on and look only for mobile games with so many high-quality distractions around, and harder still to find them once I had managed to do so. Mobile is in a weird spot right now in the grand scheme of video games; obviously consoles will dominate any kind of announcements at a show like Electronic Entertainment Expo, with PC somewhere off in the distance, but across the board you'll find a light dusting of mobile. No, BlackBerry wasn't there in any visible way, but the trends we're seeing at a show dominated by AAA consoles are broadly applicable to mobile gaming, and worth taking a look at following Talk Mobile's gaming week

Mobile platform targeting is becoming more broad

Though the vast majority of game demos I got at E3 were on iOS devices, the goal for many of the developers I talked to was for a simultaneous launch on Android. This bodes well for BlackBerry 10, which will be able to support a much wider array of titles once Jelly Bean support is added in. Unity support in BB10 is also a huge deal, since many console developers use it, and established players like Madfinger Games have already been making mobile games with it for awhile. On that note, Dead Trigger 2 is looking fantastic and I really hope to see it running on BlackBerry 10 soon.

Multiplayer lite

The creators of Battlefield 4 and Watch Dogs both announced companion games where mobile players can hop into matches with console players. Now, these mobile players take on specific roles that are more feasible from a mobile than a full-on first- or third-person shooting experience. They get a bird's eye view of the battlefield, and are able to provide support to those on the ground. Those players are also very flexible, able to drop in and drop out without messing with the game's rhythm. The larger implication for this is that mobile gaming doesn't have to be at odds with console, as discussed in Talk Mobile the other week, but can instead complement it in a sensible way. It also shows that mobile multiplayer is extremely viable outside of the usual asynchronous model, which was also a popular Talk Mobile topic.

New players

One thing that stood out about GDC and PAX East a few months ago was how many mobile game studios had formed out of disenchanted console developers, and that trend continued to some extent at E3. Ninja Theory, a company that whipped up the last Devil May Cry game and Heavenly Sword before that, were previewing their first mobile game, a great 80s-style beat-em-up. Of course, it isn't just the little guys dipping their toes in mobile. At PAX East, Blizzard took the wraps off their first mobile title, Hearthstone. More recently at E3, Square Enix took the lid off their new Deus Ex title, which looks fantastic. Now, none of these guys are going to be stopping their console and PC game development, but mobile will clearly be a permanent fixture in their plans from here on out. I'm just eager to see them bring experience from motion and voice sensing on consoles to mobile, which are technologies we've been looking forward to in Talk Mobile.

Indies are important

E3 2013 Sony unequivocally blew Microsoft out of the water with their PlayStation 4 press conference, and a big part of that had to do with laying on lots of love to independent developers (though the $399 price point and no licensing shenanigans for games helped a lot).  Some very high-profile indie titles made their debut on PS4 at E3, including Don't Starve, Transistor, and Oddworld. Xbox is notoriously a pain for small-time developers to get into, which in a lot of ways translates over to Microsoft's mobile business as well. If BlackBerry can continue to show the proper support to small, innovative game developers with initiatives like their $10k commitment, and the competition proves to be too restrictive, we may see a similar rise in positive sentiment for BB10. As is, I'm already impressed with the lineup of BlackBerry games currently available given how young the platform is - I'd just like to start seeing more platform exclusives, which we also touched on during Talk Mobile's gaming week.

Freemium is here to stay

Plants vs. Zombies 2 was announced at E3 and, predictably, is going to be free-to-play, Even more telling of the model's success was Nintendo's announcement that they would be launching a free-to-play title sometime this financial year. What makes this decision so interesting is that F2P very much has its origins in mobile, and Nintendo has historically been opposed the current mobile gaming environment (which is why we don't see Mario on BlackBerry or any other smartphone platform). Though freemium has been cast as a "dark side of mobile gaming" in our Talk Mobile series, I'm all for it if it's able to keep venerable game makers like Nintendo in business.

E3 was a hell of a follow-up to PAX East and GDC, and looking forward, Casual Connect may be a nice, cozy finish to the busy gaming conference season. We're expecting to see BlackBerry there later this summer, so stay tuned!

Reader comments

Five takeaways for mobile gaming from E3


I hate to see you reference BlackBerry's $10k commitment. Once everything was said and done, I am pretty sure that less than 10 developers actually qualified for that program...

My friend it's just not right to be throwing out random numbers like that. If there was credible data to back up that claim it'd be good to know.

It's an exaggeration for sure, but at the same time, there's truth to it. Probably made with a point of view of disappointment like mine. Maybe it's only 100? 500? A lower number anyways. Or maybe meant to be just 10 that will actually get *paid*. The proof? Scan the list of top grossing apps, or any category for that matter. What percentage actually have the BFB designation? It's really low. I had a lot of optimism before launch about this program, but so far it has not played out anywhere near the way I though it would. The guidelines changed, things are slow in the process etc. I could say more, but will leave it at that. From the point of view of a developer...

They have to get $1,000 in sales in the first year, what makes you say that since BB10 has only been available to the public since early February... I'm pretty sure there's a lot more time left.

Posted via CB10

If BlackBerry just becomes relevant we will be good. The games will come especially with how fluid the ui is for BlackBerry. I'm more for the getting things done apps but this kind of stuff keeps my favorite phone in business.

Posted via CB10

Why didn't BlackBerry have a presence there? Let the world know BlackBerry 10 is very much in the game! Another missed opportunity.

Posted via CB10

I'm really surprised they are taking this long to realize the mobile market value. The blackberry world right now, is just like iTunes in its infancy. Any company or indies looking to make their mark should be now. Where their games or apps can be easily be found. Wait any longer and their's products will be drowned among others.

Posted via CB10

Not a fan of freemium. i'd rather pay to get a game in all its goodness rather than get "nickled and dimed" to play.

Posted via CB10

Exactly. The takeaway for me was 'hope devs use the android player to port their stuff'.

Hardly something to shout about tbh.

Posted via CB10

I really hope BlackBerry pushes to get in the mobile gaming space. I would rather developers make native games than port android... for the time being I guess it is alright. I'm also looking forward to the ps4! pre ordered already!

From the mind of a MaNiAc

Yeah I'm playing mass effects and batman! Battlefields4 would be a great look! For BB10!

Posted via CB10

Ps4 only blew xbox out because of the fans reactions. Everyone is crying because of the no trade, always on console. Which isn't that bad at all. Sony will lose when people see the difference in entertainment capabilities. Microsoft will always win over Sony

Posted via CB10

F2P started on the PC, not mobile. And the best F2P games don't require you to "play to win", but instead will have mainly cosmetic purchases. Or, you might have to play a very long time to unlock an item you could just pay for.

Why must we settle for Android ports. The BB10 is a powerful beast with a untapped market that game makers would be foolish to not tap into.

Posted via CB10

Open position at DICE to develop mobile apps. Requirement is to be adept at one mobile platform.

Don't be scared by the 2 years exp requirement. Everyone knows that BlackBerry 10 hasn't been out for long.

Try applying and developing for BlackBerry 10. Also tell them you were recommended to this position after talking to DICE at E3.

Do not be scared, and apply if you really know how to program in Cascades 3D environment.

Posted via

While ports are great every time a commercial comes on TV about an app,game, TV show or product all you see on the bottom of your screen is AVAILABLE IN THE APPLE APP STORE OR GOOGLE PLAY. No mention of BlackBerry World why because they don't recognize ports as actual apps so they don't get mentioned as an available option.
The ability to play DVDs and CDs on my bluray player while great does not change the fact that I bought it to play blurays. And at least there I don't need a fan site to teach me how to do a hack/install to get a particular application.
Until we start seeing apps specifically made for bb10 you won't see it really take off.
I'm just waiting for Samsung to make a commercial talking about side loading android apps onto a bb10 device and make the argument "why do extra work when you can just get a DROID? "

Posted via CB10

Tom Clancy's The Division has some Tablet play in it too. I hear Watch Dogs with the exception of a few features has pretty week mobile / tablet integration.

The funny thing is BlackBerry has always been relevant, only a relevant company gets all this attention, good or bad.

Cool people love their BlackBerry 10 smartphone experiences, and cool people never start ridiculously whiney threads about the most annoying topics.

Whenever I make a device purchase, I never run to some forum to begin threads on minor problems I encounter because I am smart enough to know how stupid that is, and I'm no genius. But, it doesn't take a genius level of knowledge to understand that whining is metarded.

Posted via CB10 on a Q10 or a Z10, either way it's golden.