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.
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.
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
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!