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Editorial: 2012 – The Year E3 started taking mobile gaming seriously

There was a trend beginning to grow at this year’s E3. Though previous year’s E3’s have led up to this, it was inevitable, but nobody is could predict what it would be in it’s current form. There were a few key words floating around E3’s press conferences this year. Some important examples were, cross-platform, web-app, asymmetric gameplay and tie-in, but the word that took the conference by storm this year was mobile. It has taken a long time for people to fully realize and utilize the potential of mobile games. At this year, It may have finally happened.

Originally, portable gaming was a market almost completely dominated by Nintendo. Though there have been competitors, none have been able to match the success of Nintendo in this space. Nintendo’s innovative Game Boy line has spanned decades and they somehow managed to strike gold a second time with the runaway success of both the Wii and Nintendo DS. The Wii and DS were products that made people realize that gaming could be easily accessible and that anyone could do it.

Microsoft’s Kinectimals on Android

At the time, the Wii’s motion capabilities were a novel addition. And the Nintendo DS’s dual screen layout, that could be used in a variety of different positions. The Nintendo DS was popularized by games like Nintendogs and Brain Age for their low barrier-to-entry and both were examples of what could be done with a touch screen and some imagination.

As the years passed, so did the E3’s. For a long time, the only platforms being paid any attention to were home consoles and handhelds. But with the rise of smarter, faster and more powerful phones. There was an obvious shift in development efforts and slowly development time aimed at the more traditional handhelds like the PSP and DS were eschewed for development on smartphones, a newer and more imaginative platform. It seemed like there was an untapped potential for developing on mobile as a viable option.

And it’s been a long time coming, but the wait was worth it. In the past two years especially, mobile platforms have been favored more than other handhelds, and it shows. Big Developers like Square Enix, Capcom, Sega and Ubisoft have all been seen actively developing for the ever-expanding array of mobile phones and tablets. Companies like GREE, a mobile social gaming network, gaining support from big publishers like PopCap and 2K to bring their games to GREE’s service.

Final Fantasy Dimensions by Square Enix

We’ve seen a shift from platform-exclusivity, to a more, multi-platform way of thinking. Due to Android’s openness and flexibility, the platform has seen a huge growth in market share, making it desirable for companies to develop for the platform. A lot of the games announced for consoles had some sort of mobile feature integrated into them whether it was social features or more companion app style integration.

As we’ve seen this year, mobile devices, both phones and tablets, have become a driving force in the games industry. With big publishers like EA and Activision making am effort to develop triple-A titles on mobile and a lot of the time these are original titles. Even to the bigger console manufactures, with Sony’s recently re-branded Playstation Mobile, opening up the suite and making partnerships with OEM’s like HTC, giving the HTC One line of phones access Playstation Mobile.

Also, Microsoft’s Smart Glass, which allows you to access extra data about TV shows, movies and games on pretty much any device with a browser. It’s forward thinking, and then there is Nintendo, who’s making the biggest progress, in my opinion. Nintendo, a company much rooted in tradition is releasing a platform-agnostic web app to communicate with their new online service.

Even 3rd party hardware manufactures that would normally be putting time and effort into making controllers for all the big consoles. They to have switched focus to mobile. Companies both Power A and Nyko are developing controllers for both Android phones and tablets. With Power A’s MOGA controller, which cradles your phone and pairs via Bluetooth to add more traditional feeling, physical button handheld-like controls to phones. Nyko’s effort is also, seemingly, just as impressive with both the PlayPad and PlayPad Pro controllers.

Nyko’s PlayPad

Both Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip and Qualcom’s Snapdragon 4 have greatly improved the experience of mobile gaming. Both having separate and exclusive app stores that show off each processor. Each are having graphically impressive, console quality titles being released.

The way consumers perceive value has changed. Home consoles become more and more powerful and change from being devices made solely for games, to more of a set-top box that act as entertainment centers. Console games cost more money to make and the big publishers are less willing to take risks.

Thankfully, the same can’t be said for mobile. The mobile games industry is still a very new thing, focusing on more independent and original titles. There is a paradigm shift in the games industry and I think it’s changing for the better. It’s an exciting time and next year’s E3 should be even better for mobile.

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