Mobile games are hot garbage


Kenneth Castro

Most mobile games are filled to the brim with ads and microtransactions.

Kenneth Castro, Yearbook Section Editor

Most people have played a mobile game before, whether it is Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja or Jetpack Joyride. These games existed in a time where the market was still fresh and unexplored, so the ideal of high-quality portable gaming on your phone was still promising. The era of mobile games being small fry is long over. In 2020 alone, $81 billion were generated by mobile games, almost double of what the revenue was in 2016. 

Despite the massive dollar streams, most of the games available on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store are extremely low-quality. The requirement to appear on app stores is not very high, with Apple requiring a yearly fee, as well as a review period before any app can be published. Similarly, Google requires your app to use a tested Android API and removes extreme content (violence and sexual content). Needless to say, it doesn’t seem very hard to get a game that has enough polish and simple gameplay to keep users glued to their phone for a couple of minutes.

Most smartphone games are free-to-play, meaning their revenue comes through in-app purchases and advertisements that pop up. Ads are a great way for developers to make money off a free game, but ads are always extremely obtuse and aggressive. Advertisements, especially in games with a very small budget or simple gameplay loop (ie, an infinitely long platformer), can appear as banners on the side of your screen or flash on the screen at seemingly random intervals. The constant bombardment of ads simulates the experience of playing Cool Math Games with the ad blocker turned off. It can be done properly, as long as viewing ads are voluntary, such as watching advertisements for extra in-game rewards.

In-app purchases are similarly a creative way to increase revenue but suffer a similar fate of often being predatory and in-your-face. Intentional limiters are placed on gameplay like timers, powerful characters, or extra lives, but can be bypassed by spending money. These limiters are especially tempting for competitive games since the urge to always win can be a very enticing force. Mobile games are intentionally designed to crack open credit cards and consume your time, creating a deadly combo where an addiction is likely to develop. 

These problems would be significantly less annoying if most mobile games were any real fun. Lots of free games on the app store are clones of each other, with the gameplay consisting of poorly made 3D models dodging obstacles or collecting items. Many games that are worth playing such as PUBG Mobile or Roblox are often better on different platforms, instead of one where your two thumbs take up half of the screen. Even paid games, which are often of significantly higher quality, are usually mobile ports of games that appear on PC or Consoles, like Terraria or Minecraft.

That being said, there are diamonds in the rough. Some games do play well and would probably only ever work in a mobile game setting like Pokemon GO or Clash Royale. However, most still suffer from internal problems of game balance and excessive in-app purchases. It’s unlikely this type of model will change anytime soon. Maybe smartphone games are cursed to be bad until the end of time. Until then, mobile games are a flaming heap of garbage.