Games Vs Apps – My Take.

Get a grip people.

“Oh, Nintendo are being hammered by the Smartphone industry now they can’t keep up it’s all doom and gloom!” is the journalistic angle I’ve heard in my recovery the past couple of days.

And it’s a massive load of utter, grade-A ARSE.

I have nothing against apps, or Angry Birds, or smartphones – I have a smartphone, I like it. It’s a Samsung Galaxy S2 in white. It’s beautiful, keeps me organised and is a very reliable, durable smartphone.

Do I play games on it? No.

Don’t misunderstand because I have from time to time dabbled in gaming on smartphones, but the general feeling I always get is that smartphones are not really designed for “gamers”, those of us with controllers in hand or heavy fingers which thump the keyboard with a force that borders on the ridiculous. My smartphone doesn’t have games like that.

I have tried gaming on a smartphone, and sometimes its been pleasurable – but by and large, not so. I spent some time playing Order and Chaos, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a competent cheap World of Warcraft clone. But it was so lacking in so many ways – the controls were awkward, there was no real map detail, the menus were clunky and unresponsive and the idea I have to keep paying small amounts for currency and other items to remain competitive made me ask one question; “Why would I play this when World of Warcraft is so much better, and probably in the course of a month costs the exact same?”

Why indeed.

The way that journalists argue that apps are overtaking mobile gaming platforms like the 3DS and Vita is based not on fact, but by what the makers of these apps – Rovio, Zynga et al – are saying themselves. And that, boys and girls, is dangerous, foolish and reckless.

It’s easily forgotten that the likes of Zynga, Rovio etc. are not exactly built on great foundations – there’s talk that Zynga makes a loss on each customer of over $100 per new person. Rovio, for all its bravado, you’d be forgiven for thinking were a dominant force in the market and yet, they’ve only made one game – Angry Birds. Successful? Oh yes. Very much so. Knowledgeable about the market? Perhaps not.

There is no definitive link between the rise of smartphones and lower handheld console sales – the 3DS sales are picking up, arguably due to better content and more polished content delivery. Vita is yet to hit the West, but I think with Uncharted on release the Vita is likely to do quite well over here, perhaps more than in Japan, where Uncharted isn’t a system-seller. No-one has done a study into it yet, it’s an angle that hasn’t been around for a year yet and everyone is bandying around the concept as though it is grounded in some sort of factual data.

I’ll say it again – no link. The 3DS, Nintendo’s Achilles Heel this year, took six months to get good sustainable content out there. Their projected sales forecast was, in any market, bonkers and so optimistic that it borders on the obscene – adjusting projected sales to cover up a bit of a financial mishap on the books is NEVER a good thing to do. Nintendo have made their first annual loss in 30 years of being on the markets – here’s hoping they learn from the carelessly reckless 3DS release.

And the Vita, in Japan, came with a raft of complications – 10% of all systems had to be replaced, which for a new console is an unacceptably high failure rate – and no strong Japanese launch. It’s a different market. Had Sony released the Vita in the States first, I’d put some money down that the Vita would be doing a lot better right now. Maybe Sony can learn from that.

And maybe we can all stop comparing apps and games. I said it before, and I’ll say it again, it’s all a question of value for money. If I can get 60 hours from a 3DS game like, say, Mario Kart 7, that’s 50p per hour of enjoyment. If I play a 69p app for 15 minutes and then discard it, that equates to £2.76 per hour of enjoyment.

And before people try to argue they didn’t pay for their phone – you are. Those of you on contracts are tied into 12, 18 or 24 month contracts where a portion of what you pay is covering the cost of your smartphone – and, in most cases, the majority pay too much on their plans because they want a shiny phone. If you’re not using all your texts and minutes, you’re paying over the odds – in some cases, a smartphone that costs £300 brand new and unlocked, you’re paying sometimes twice that.

I calculated for my neighbour that the LG he’d had his eye on at £45 a month was no better than a cheaper phone at £20 a month. But he wanted the phone, and it was an 18 month contract. That’s £25 more than he needs to be paying – just for the luxury of a shiny phone that, contrary to the ads you see on TV, will not be worth £150 when the contract ends.

The LG phone unlocked would set him back £250. On contract, the excess he pays for the phone and the wasted extras adds up to £450.

So it is simply not true that your smartphone was free. You’re paying for it. And so many of you are being conned into paying over the odds for your phones as well. A handheld console isn’t a phone – but at least, like the unlocked phones, the price is upfront. What you see is most definitely what you get.

After that, it’s about the value you get from your content. And apps are getting better – but many are also getting more expensive as the power available increases, and therefore the size of the studios making the title – and the budgets needed – rise with it, justifying a need for apps costing £4.99 each.

Eventually, the two markets may meet in the middle. But we’re some ways off that yet. In the meantime, enjoy your content, whatever it costs, because I intend to get a good weekend out of Resident Evil: Revelations. I’ll be in bed, resting my leg, with arguably two whole days to kill.

For £27.99, I’m looking forward to my weekend with Jill and Chris, a bottle of lucozade and some nice pain medication keeping me suitably chilled.

Enjoy yourselves. And the games/apps.

If you like them… then they’re obviously worth the money you paid for them.

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