The changing times of mobile gaming

We have a lot of mobile games these days (greedy gits!).  What started as free, preloaded games on our devices has now evolved into a huge juggernaut; devouring our free time, whether on a bus waiting for the driver to pull his foot out and get on with it, begging the hours of the day to drift by at work as you send assorted characters on their daily tasks or swiping at that small screen as you hack n’ slash your way to greatness. That’s right ladies and gentleman; we are talking about the changing times of mobile gaming.

As an 80’s baby, my first experience of gaming on a mobile was the giant-in-a-land of pigmies mobile games… the hit 1998 Nokia preloaded game: Snake.  It was amazing!  The moving toward a stationery square pixel, the horror and fear of it becoming too large… so large, in fact, it would engulf the whole screen in what would become an endless run of excitement.  By “endless run of excitement”, I mean about half-an-hour, but that was all that was needed.  Half an hour was a massive amount of time to spend on a phone back-in-the-day – a phone was just that… a phone.   Back then technology had not caught up with the imagination of the gaming public, or the creators of the big games we are lavished with today.  A simple pixel lined snake controlled by the 4,2,and 6 buttons, and the all-important 8 – eating pixels was just fine for me good sir… just fine.

For some time, I left the mobile gaming platform; I had more pure, console-based technology ready to take over my life.  The mobile platform was sort of dusty and plain. Sure, there was the N-Gage, but that was… well… shite.  However, like any good farmer knows, even in the driest land, will yield the sweet plant, and in 2008 (10 years after Snake hit the big time as a pre-load) gamers were invited into the blossom that is the App Store via iPhone, where video gaming on a phone leapt from second thought to the forefront of mobile use.

From 2009 until about 2013 (which I’d argue was the golden age of mobile-gaming) people would know what they were getting with their 69p.  There would be no adverts, no necessary purchases for extra lives, and none of those dreaded premium currencies (not much, anyways). There were games like Infinity Blade, a hack n’ slash adventure by Chair Entertainment, running on the Unreal Engine 3, all for the affordable price of £3.99.  And Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, which is a gorgeous storybook game where the player controllers a spider on a mission to eat and discover the secrets of said manor.

But it wasn’t until a Finnish studio changed the way people looked at mobile gaming: Rovio was the name, and Angry Birds was the game, and it was at the low, low, low price of 69p.  Angry Birds’ successful combination was that of addictive game-play, comical style, and good value.  Angry Birds was often the first-choice game for anyone new to this gaming platform from: starry-eyed children, to bitter and seasoned frontline gamers.  But in 2015, six short years after the original, and with 11 successful sequels (including two Star Wars crossovers, and the amazing Bad Piggies), Angry Birds changed from a paying mode where a small amounts of money would allow access to all the content gamers could sink their teeth into for as long as was wished, to the freemium Angry Birds 2, with the dreaded premium currency and the mad idea that they had the right to tell gamers how long they could play the game before needing to buy new lives.  How often I asked myself “how many times can I fail at this game before I need to pay for extra lives?”  Shame on you, Angry Birds, shame on you.

Now there are games designed to take gamers cash, and these are usually time-based games where gamers send characters on tasks for an allotted period of time, and speed up the act by paying real cash for the privilege.  Games like Farmville, and The Simpsons Tapped Out: the player is tasked with rebuilding a town, farm or building; returning it to its former greatness, or just, simply, farming money by building those freakin’ same old houses.  For any gamer with OCD, one may be inclined to pay-out constantly; taking everything that’s offered up in the way of the crazily over priced premium currency, however, gamers can play most of these game without using their own cash… but those won’t be progressing very quickly; gamers like this have to be in for the long haul if they don’t want to spend, spend, spend…

This is not just a problem with Rovio, or EA.  It’s common practice with most mobile gaming.  Score! Hero, for example, where gamers only have a set number of tries before they either wait for a timer to re-stock lives, or purchase for a crazy amount of money.   And The Walking Dead Road to Survival begs gamers to spend their free time, and now their cash, on a quick boost to play their games, Sure they’re free to download, but at what cost?


Greatmuertegaming is an old friend and new contributor to The Stubbled Gamer. After years of talking to each other about our love of gaming we have now decided to inflict our views upon the general public. We hope you don’t mind.