Dear smartphone developers, I have a simple question, who are these gaming phones for?
Over this past year, we have seen more “gaming” phones not only being developed but actually sold and marketed as this new brand of phones. They sport impressively high-level specs, sometimes questionable designs, and they are all designed for gaming in mind. The term “gaming” in this case is a misnomer, for while these phones may claim they are for gaming (and they might fully well be), there is very little gaming that is happening on these phones.
I would like for you to take a moment and think, what was the last game on your phone that you played, even the last five games you played if you would like, and consider the type of games they were. Were they, graphically intense? Complex titles? Or rather was it something far simpler such as Fire Emblem Heroes, Clash of Clans, or even Candy Crush, one of the many titles that exist to extort as much money as possible? If I was to take a wager, I would guess the latter. But this isn’t a discussion on the value of those types of games, but rather, the phones themselves and their value when it comes to gaming.
The vast majority of games available on the Apple Store, Play Store, or even the Amazon store are these graphically non-demanding games. They don’t require an immense amount of power, they just require a basic smartphone and you are able to play them. They are designed this way to keep the barrier to entry as low as possible, resulting in more people playing, which for the developer, means more people making money. For these developers, they don’t want to have to require an extremely powerful phone, they want to gear their games for the lowest common denominator for the largest pool of players. Attempting to develop for any of these phones in their prime will simply alienate their customer base, and we all know how that isn’t going to happen.
This brings me back once again to why such phones exist. Having the power to play demanding titles is nice, but if you are attempting to be the PlayStation Vita of phones, you should know, you need to have games to back it up.
Take for example Huawei’s latest gaming phone announced, the Mate 20 X. It boasts a larger and better screen, longer battery life, and more power than the Nintendo Switch could dream of, and yet, it falls incredibly short (and costing $1000). The first is what I have been typing throughout this article, there simply are not the games designed for it. Yes, there is always the exception here or there, but this isn’t like when Smart Phones first became popular. Back then, developers were much more interested in mimicking traditional games on smartphones with a slew of titles such as N.O.V.A, designed to mimic Halo, and various other games with the same idea in mind. But those days are past, and now developers focus on designing games to a smartphone’s strength rather than trying to force clunky controls onto the platform. This has largely taken the form of the games we see today, again, not being graphically demanding or requiring extra controls.
But to my second point, when does one foresee a situation where you would want to play on your phone with an additional controller to attach (or play with subpar controls) when you could simply play another game or play on a better system? In both scenarios, that answer is almost certainly, next to none. To be on your phone in a place where you feel you have enough time and space to both carry around an attachment for your phone, and have the time to sit down a play a more involved game, is the same place I could play my Switch. And unlike my Phone, my Switch has a slew of quality titles, including Nintendo games, to play. While my phone, on the other hand, has inferior versions of Minecraft and PUBG. Being in the same situation listed above but with the lack of a proper controller, why would I attempt to play these titles when I can simply play other games designed for my phone and wait to play a title designed for other platforms when I am able to.
This is the issue with gaming phones as a concept, they fit a niche that no one at this present time really wants. Developers are not making games for phones in the same way that these new phones are attempting to fix and gamers are not looking for these games on their phones. Instead, we are seeing a product without a real purpose but to promote how good of a product it is with nothing to support it.