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Mobile Gaming Made a Splash at E3, and It's Only Going to Get Bigger

Gaming publishers are getting serious about iPhone and Android players.
June 22, 2015, 6:43pm
Screenshot: Tomb Raider Go/Square Enix

E3 2015 was full of surprises, from the Final Fantasy VII remake being made official, to the announcement that the Xbox One would be supporting backwards compatibility. But compared to recent years, it was also a show that took some interesting risks—like focusing on several mobile titles in between announcements of the typical triple-A mega titles and independent releases.

In the past, mobile games were largely regarded as fun-size, inferior substitutes for the more complex console and PC games. Now it seems the form is really coming into its own.


At Electronic Arts' press conference, for example, the company introduced an initiative to make several of its popular titles available as mobile games that will also work on the Apple Watch. That showcase was followed by several minutes of precious stage time showing off the upcoming mobile game Minions Paradise, a town-building adventure featuring the diminutive banana-yellow fan favorites from Universal Pictures' family-friendly Despicable Me.

When you stop and consider the massive popularity of mobile gaming, especially among new demographics that traditionally eschewed video games, it's not so strange at all. In fact, it would behoove EA to split off its mobile games into a special mobile showcase where the audiences who want to see these things can do so without wasting their time with the console and PC titles they may not ever play.

It's becoming more and more obvious with each passing gaming conference, and it's nothing to be afraid of

Electronic Arts wasn't the only company scrambling to ensure mobile gamers were included. Square Enix announced the mobile iOS port of Final Fantasy VII as a companion to its upcoming remake, as well as Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ and the Final Fantasy Portal App, which will act as a guidebook and encyclopedia to the entire world of Final Fantasy. Later in the show, Lara Croft Go looked poised to continue the Go franchise from previous showrunner Hitman. Hitman Go was a slick, reimagined version of the long-running franchise in which you're provided a target to assassinate. It distilled the finer elements of the game into an easily-digestible mobile title. Lara Croft Go follows the same pattern, keeping familiar Tomb Raider mechanics yet altering it for on-the-go play.


Where mobile truly triumphed, however, was during publisher Bethesda's E3 showcase, a show that took place before most of the E3 festivities even began, when Fallout Shelter was simultaneously announced and given a release date for iPhone. Bethesda went one step further and offered Fallout Shelter, a free-to-play app that wouldn't feature compulsory microtransactions and would be playable online.

Fallout Shelter proved itself to be everything a Fallout 4 companion app should be. The community-building game in the vein of Tiny Tower places you in the shoes of a newly-minted Overseer, or the individual in charge of all activities in the Vaults in the world of Fallout. You have to build all of the rooms and facilities that your tiny vault dwellers need, including living quarters, a diner area, and shelters for them to, well, couple. Fans flocked to the App Store and impatiently refreshed the "new games" section until it finally made its appearance, and it's been sweeping the competition. Not only are players finding they're spending hours in-game with their Vault dwellers, but the app rose to the top of the App Store in a matter of hours, dominating the "top games" list and bumping Candy Crush Saga from #1 after it held that position for nearly three years.

What the presence of these games and the subsequent response to them proves is that the appeal of mobile gaming is stronger than ever, and it's more than evident the larger companies that primarily cater to "hardcore" gamers are making sweeping efforts to understand and alter their strategies to include the millions of players out there who carry iPhones or Android devices and prefer their games bite-sized with a healthy dose of microtransactions.

It's becoming more and more obvious with each passing gaming conference, and it's nothing to be afraid of: We should welcome the mobile revolution with open arms, especially if it continues to yield us games like Fallout Shelter with near-instantaneous release windows. When larger, triple-A titles are receiving earlier announcements and release dates that often dissolve into thin air, this offers gamers something tangible to look forward to, and a real product to evaluate much sooner, ensuring that support is still there behind the title from announcement to launch.

Like it or not, these games are the future, and a model we should be keen to embrace with grins on our faces, as they grow and evolve beyond what we're familiar with.