What is stopping smartphone gaming from becoming the next big thing? The problems, and the possible solutions

With powerful smartphones in our pockets, we no longer need to finish our work, reach home, sit on that chair, and start playing our favorite game. With a good enough smartphone, we just need to have time, and we can start playing anywhere. Wait, before taking that seriously! Take a deep breath and think, is it the same in 2024 playing games on your PC and smartphone? Well, not really. If you are a 90s kid just like me, mobile games of today might seem more fluid and look better compared to PC games of our era, and yes, it is, because computers back then weren’t that powerful. 

However, if you play PC games today, you will feel how good PC games are, compared to that of the mobile games of today. But trust me, smartphones of today are mighty little devices, however, the games that we play cannot squeeze the real power of these handheld beasts. That said, today I will talk about what is stopping mobile games from reaching the desired milestone, the challenges, and what could be the possible solution so that we could find great mobile games in the future.

So, without any further delay, let’s take a deep dive into the black hole of mobile gaming.

The initial days of mobile gaming

The initial days of mobile gaming

The first mobile game dates back to around 1994, for the Hagenuk MT-2000. It was a game of Tetris, and since then, as mobile phones became more familiar, we got better games. But for today’s discussion, we will consider the initial days of mobile games to be around 2008 to 2010 when smartphones started becoming popular and started creating ripples for amateur gamers. 

The start

In the initial days, at around the beginning of the last decade, smartphones started garnering power. We started getting phones with around 256 MB of RAM, and it wasn’t that long before 512 MB, and ultimately 1 GB RAM became standard for phones below Rs. 30k. 

New genres

In the starting days, we got some great new games like Subway Surfers, Temple Run, etc. These games defined a new genre, the endless running genre, and within a very short time, we found everybody playing those games while commuting to work, during free time, during breaks at work, or almost every time. 

Other popular titles

No, it isn’t just endless running games, as games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and Doodle Jump also gained popularity because the game dynamics easily got baked into the touch controls, which is the key control scheme for modern smartphones. Candy Crush and similar games also became popular and Candy Crush is a top-grossing game, but I personally never liked the game.

We also got some other developers developing games for Android, across some other already established genres like Beach Buggy Racing, Riptide GP series, Into the Dead, Monument Valley, Modern Combat, etc. No, the list doesn’t end here, as there are many others, that not just offered great controls, but real-like console-quality graphics, and overall, decent gameplay. 

Not as immersive as PC games

Not as immersive as PC games

The initial days of mobile games showed the real potential of these devices, and time went on, but mobile gaming never actually took off. 

Not as interesting as a PC game

Most PC games have a storyline, and if it doesn’t have a story like for eSports titles, you have to develop new strategies to compete with more powerful players, and eventually you stick to that game for hours, without actually getting bored. On the other hand, the new genre of endless running could easily make you bored after several hours of gameplay. Even though new content is added to some games like Subway Surfers, the basic dynamics are still the same, and the only thing you have to do is swipe left, right, jump, and achieve high scores.

The exceptions

However, that is not the case with every Android game out there. I have tried several games on smartphones, and for some games, new content is added frequently. While on other games, there are several increasingly difficult levels, just like PC games. That way you have to play the game for hours and stick to it. Talking about other exceptions, games like PUBG, and Fortnite also gained popularity among mobile gamers, but it seems it all got saturated at that point.

More power and hence PC game ports

More powerful smartphones and hence PC game ports

As smartphones became more powerful, we started getting Android ports for PC games, like the GTA Trilogy, and Max Payne, and most of them were well-optimized for Android devices, on the performance, and gameplay side. Thanks to the modern chipsets, the optimization efforts paid off for the developers. However, the problem lies and still lies elsewhere. 

Keyboard and mouse are the best

PC games are supposed to be played with a keyboard and mouse, or a game controller. However, when these controls are programmed for the touch controls, the overall gameplay is adversely impacted. The tactile feedback isn’t as good as using a keyboard and mouse and using the on-screen controls can be messy. 

Using a game controller can make things a little better, however, those games that are supposed to be played with a keyboard and mouse cannot be enjoyed to the fullest with a game controller, and there’s no doubt, that using a game controller to play FPS games won’t fetch you as many kills as a keyboard and mouse will do, unless you have practiced enough.

Free but not free

Games called Free but not free actually

PC gaming is a luxury, not because of the per capita income in India, but for other factors, I will be discussing shortly. Several people in India don’t even know that games can be purchased online, and they consider downloading the games from websites as the only legitimate way to get hands-on such games. 

Games are easy to download

Talking about mobile games, both Android and iOS offer apps and games through the Google Play Store and App Store respectively. It is much easier for people to download games than it is for PC users downloading games from Steam, and Epic Games, and get over the hurdles of at least starting the game after again downloading the individual launchers by the game developers, like Rockstar Games Launcher, EA app, and the list goes on.

Microtransactions and pay-to-win elements

As Indians and many other users don’t prefer purchasing games and digital products, the developers offer the game for free and introduce pay-to-win microtransactions. That way, if you love playing a game, you cannot compete with a child who has spawned with a silver spoon in his mouth. Developers find it a great way to earn money as users download the game for free, play the game for some time, and when hooked up with the gameplay, progress is heavily influenced by microtransactions, and thus, the real fun of the game is lost somewhere.

Dark patterns

Sometimes, some great games bake in dark patterns, where you have to play ads and earn some extra rewards, even if you don’t need them. All these make the developers rich, but the games don’t offer the fun we gamers deserve. It is not that PC games are free from microtransactions, but we can still find many PC games free from pay-to-win elements and frustrating microtransactions.


Clickbaits Android Games Ads

No, it is not that click baits are limited just to YouTube, as we often come across Android game ads that advertise a specific type of gameplay, and when we download them, they are different. Furthermore, these games are also loaded with a ton of ads, and these ads pop out from nowhere while playing the games. The intention of the developers is simple. Lure the users with exciting gameplay and make them download the game to simply show ads. Heavy marketing of these so-called games increases the number of downloads, and hence they occupy the place for the most downloaded games on the Play Store.

So, these are some of the serious problems with mobile games, especially Android games. Trust me, Android and most modern smartphones are very competent when it comes to running high-end games. But the developers need to figure out how to build games for the small screen with decent controls using the touchscreen. Nowadays even the smallest of the tasks can be carried out on our smartphones, and unless some specific tasks is tough to do on a smartphone, people don’t buy PCs. Building a great mobile game can easily target many users, and hence smartphone gaming has a huge potential, needless to say. The developers must get over the greed of earning more money by merely developing games that are good for nothing.

Even the PC ports can be made suitable to be played on mobile devices, by discarding some elements. The Rocket League Sideswipe is a great example. It is a fun Android game built with inspiration from the PC version of Rocket League, where movement on the mobile version is limited to just two dimensions. Similar strategies can be carved out for other PC ports.

So, that’s all about why smartphone games are not as good as PC games, and the ways smartphone games can be the next big thing. Do you have anything to say? Feel free to comment on the same below.