I’m pretty sure I here the crowds outside my windows now. Yup, sure enough I even thought about writing this article and the pitchforks and burning torches are tapping on my bedroom glass. How could it be a bad thing to bring one of the best games of 2012 to iOS, the Apple Operating System, in a full package that is enjoyable on consoles and PC’s? Why is a full retail game a problem on the go? As for a report that originally surfaced on IGN, via a PAX East announcement, that XCOM: Enemy Unknown, would be coming to fruition, this is indeed the case. It’s not bad for consumers that haven’t played it, but it is for those that own it. It’s also bad for the industry in general. Developers ultimately make the decision on what to do with their own game and how they want to distribute it. While it is possible for XCOM to reach audiences it may have never reached before, the issues are that the results of the announcement will impact the industry and direction of others in the future. That is indeed a problem.
XCOM is a great game that should be played by many, but for developer 2K Games to make the decision to port the game to a casual device such as a phone or tablet may have ramifications across the industry. Yes, the game sold amazingly well, as it should have, and made large sums of money, so the thought that the developer could cost themselves money by doing so simply isn’t the case. The issue is that the game will not retail for sixty dollars, or even close to it, and with the cost of games rising to produce the move is questionable. Other developers will undoubtedly look at type of success that the game experiences when it hits iTunes, but for most to make a cost effective decision to do the same is unlikely. So the question becomes, do more companies cut corners on bigger releases for portable versions? It’s entirely possible. More game companies closed in 2012 than any other year because of the issues with the costs associated with producing a solid current-generation title. With that in mind more game companies have to think about how they can maximize profits, and some of that may come down to releasing more iOS and Android type ports in the end.
Everyone has a phone now a days, and many have tablets too, but console and PC gaming are the traditional formats for gaming and there is no doubt that they are also, still, the optimal way to play. With new consoles on the horizon and the thought that cost could rise even more, major players may have to look at alternative means to release games (i.e. - iOS) which means that in the end gamers suffer. Phones and tablets are powerful, and make some great looking games, but there is nothing like the feel of keyboard and mouse keys, or buttons under your fingers to make a game go. We have seen it time and time again, every time developers release games to machines with unconventional controls they never seem to get them quite right. With the thought that some solid AA titles going the way of portable devices is sad to think of.
The other issue comes into play that consumers that have supported a project since the beginning, or since launch, losing out because they could have had the same game for drastically less on their portable device is quite troublesome and creates less faith that game publishers wont pull a fast one on them again. In the end, it affects the bottom line again, and it comes down to money. If gamers know eventually they are going to be able to get a game on a portable device for seventy-five percent less than what they could have bought it for at retail, where is the incentive? Yes, you have to wait for the game and yes, it’s not the same experience, but even losing ten percent of the market means, again, less new game sales which put developers in a bind. Of course, people can wait for a game to hit sales, or bargain bins that all eventually do, but normally those take a lot longer to hit those levels. XCOM will have dropped in price probably one to two more times before the launch of the iOS version, but if the game does well it wont take others as long to release a portable version in the future.
Finally, it pushes a large release at a casual platform, driving more away from the traditional ways to play. I have attempted to play many games on tablets and phones, even using controllers that are out there to do so…. it’s flat out not the same experience. There are so many issues that surround games like these, and it ultimately dampens the cinematic experiences that are found on computers and home consoles. Gamers don’t want games on tablets or phones, casual players do. With the thought of more games heading in this direction, while there will still be games to play on traditional formats, gamers will avoid games such as this and in the end games such as these, will be tailored to the audience buying it. The thought of a game such as XCOM being less hardcore, is just a shame in the end.
It may not seem like a big deal to many, and maybe it doesn’t have an effect on the future, but if the game does well there is little doubt that it will in the end. Pushing games to casual, cheaper platforms makes them less appealing to the people that have been buying and playing these games since the dawn of gaming. Instead, it attempts to bring more people to gaming, but in the end pushes the ones that really matter away. If companies can find ways to cut cost, they will. The ones that are punished by this are the consumers that have supported projects and pushed gaming to the point that it is today. It seems that we may be pushing a little to hard and over the hill it goes towards a fate none of us want to see.