I don't think I'll find anyone who will argue with me when I say that the App Store of 2016 is a crazy place. The fun thing about being involved in the world of the App Store since before there even was an App Store is just how deeply I can appreciate how insane things have gotten. For this particular story, let's rewind the clocks back all the way- When the App Store was new, and most of the games were supremely basic. We're talking solitaire games, tilt-controlled mazes, and "games" which effectively amount to toy apps that used the touchscreen in weird ways like Koi Pond. Gameloft, believe it or not, played a massive role in legitimizing the App Store as a platform for "full" game experiences through rapid-fire releasing loads of games which at best were highly "inspired," and at worst, were straight up clones.


Gangstar: West Coast Hustle is a fantastic example to point at, perfectly illustrating exactly what I'm talking about here. In 2009, a lot of great games were released, but most were pretty basic or otherwise iterating on game formulas which had worked really well in the past. Puzzle games, line drawing games, dual stick shooters, tower defense games, and other quick experiences were king in 2009. Gameloft coming out of left field with a open-world Grand Theft Auto-like game was mind-blowing. The thread in our forums exploded with excitement, and to fully appreciate just how big of a deal this was, take a look at iDracula, another game for the era that was considered one of the best things you could get on the App Store at the time.

If you were even vaguely interested in iOS gaming, you gladly flipped out the seven bucks for Gangstar. Accusations went flying that all Gameloft was doing was ripping off Grand Theft Auto, particularly amongst the surprisingly vigilant contingent of Gameloft haters, but it was easy to rationalize away with a thought process along the lines of, "Well, GTA isn't on the App Store and probably won't ever be on the App Store." (Remember, back in 2009, iOS gaming was looked down on even harder than it is now because it had yet to truly split from J2ME cell phone games in overall consumer perception.) The logic continues, "So, I might as well grab Gangstar because I like GTA and playing something that's at least sort of similar is better than not playing it at all."

60744.gifThere was a very long time where Gameloft was incredibly far ahead of the curve when it came to providing these "full" experiences on iOS devices. Their trick was they were able to pull from their extensive back-catalog of other "big" games of theirs to port them to iOS, but as soon as iOS started getting huge they switched gears to making brand new iOS games that felt a lot like the "real" console games you recognized. The experience of course was never 1:1 with the original, but it's like going to a restaurant and ordering a Coke when all they've got is RC, you still drink it because it's really your only choice if you're feeling like cola. Back in 2008, Gameloft was all about the iPhone, and that trajectory persisted through 2009, particularly as they then went on to release successful knock-off after successful knock-off. Hell, we only recently got a "real" Assassin's Creed game, meanwhile Gameloft had a pretty decent clone out all the way back in 2011.

Recently though, things haven't been great for Gameloft. We haven't covered all of them, but Gameloft has been scaling back and closing studios left and right. They've also seemed to really struggle to find their place in the modern App Store, particularly as they change course on games like Modern Combat 5 which was originally pitched and released as a "gamer" game with one price and no free to play hijinks... Before shifting gears to a kludgy free to play conversion in March of last year. Most people consider the MC5 team to be Gameloft's top-tier developers, but when they released their own (admittedly, pretty good) Clash of Clans clone, no one cared.


It's a fascinating study of App Store history, as if anyone would've suggested back in 2010-ish that in only a few years Gameloft would be struggling to keep their heads above water to the point that they're now the target of a hostile takeover by Vivendi... Well, that would have been insane. It's not much of a surprise though, seeing how things have gone. Looking back at our Gangstar example, why on Earth would you ever download Gangstar now, when instead you can not only decide to download a real Grand Theft Auto game, but decide which game from a spread of classic GTA titles ranging from Chinatown Wars to San Andreas.

A few of their recent heavily licensed games like Minion Rush and Spider-Man Unlimited have seemed to have done alright, but with no titles currently anywhere to be found in any of the top 200 lists, it's unbelievable how far Gameloft has fallen. Gameloft's early strengths came from being intensely familiar with developing across the dumbfounding array of different cell phones available in the 2000's, then using those massive resources to build game experiences that were bigger (and often better) than anyone else. In 2016, when there's effectively two platforms between iOS and Android, and players can just choose to download two different Halo games over Gameloft's Halo-like NOVA, those strengths have been effectively totally negated.

Where does Gameloft go from here?

  • Jakeopp

    I'd take NOVA 3 over the Halo games they released on iOS any day. Annoying top down view...

    • Jakeopp

      NOVA series was great IMO, it's a shame they never released a 4th game(though at this point I doubt it'd be a premium title).

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      I guess the point more is back in the day you had to be like "Hmm I enjoy Halo what's on the App Store that's close to that." These days, you just type in "Halo" and can download two legit games without needing to do any extra legwork or research that might lead you to Gameloft's catalog of Halo-likes.

      • skylerolson

        But gameplay-wise they are not like "real" halo at all, if you want a halo-like fps you're gunna download nova. Seriously hope nova 4 is announced out of nowhere

      • Duane Locsin

        I still think there is a lot of room in the Apps store for Gameloft if they can remain consistent and drop that quick cash grab freemium games.

        N.O.V.A. series is still the Halo game on mobile, because it is in FPS with decent mechanics, I just wish they put in mFI controller support.

        There are still big games a lot of devs and publishers refuse to put on iOS and Android in their console like form.

        StarCraft (Gameloft should take another crack at a sequel)
        Street Fighter (a version that supports mFI)
        Mass Effect (third person that supports mFI)
        Fall Out series

    • Mekklesack

      I loved NOVA 3! It still holds up pretty well visually today, in hindsight it was a class A experience. The opening theme was better than it had any right to be especially considering that the story and dialogue were pure cheese.

      Fantastic shooter.

  • Sithinious

    I really resent the tone of this article. I LOVE RC cola and prefer it to Coke.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Me too, but everyone thinks I'm some kind of weirdo. I vastly prefer RC.

      • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

        Mr. Pibb!! Accept no alternatives!

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        Mr. Pibb? Dude didn't even get his degree.

      • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

        Don't get me started on that holistic quack Pepper.

    • H4nd0fg0d

      Ppl still drink soda in 2016? Eww, sugar and carbs.

      • nini

        Yes, I remember the day when carbs became more carcinogenic than tobacco.

  • Animosity16

    Sick of their compromise. I swear, if they flake on the NOVA franchise in done.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      I can absolutely 100% promise you if another NOVA game is ever released it will be free to play.

      • Jakeopp

        Unfortunately...likely true. Gameloft is basically done releasing premium titles at this point.

      • Duane Locsin

        they already did release another NOVA game ...albeit it is NOVA 3 in freemium form. 'Freedom' edition.

        I think GameLoft needs to slow down, focus on only a handful of games and make them really console level premium and market them as such.

        The Apps store could really do with a Bioshock series (with mFI controller support) since I reckon 2K are lying with their intentions of re-releasing it.

  • Der-Kleine

    I'd say Gameloft's biggest problem is that they used to REALLY stand out from the competition. Now they don't.

  • Spudboy

    RC gets no respect :/

  • Animosity16

    Boycot them

  • WP

    I will always appreciate that Gameloft at least attempted to bring recognized games to iOS early on, even though they were clones at least someone was trying to port them essentially. Figured Gameloft's popularity would fade if PC or console developers ever took interest in the App Store, though.

  • speedyph


    • https://www.youtube.com/user/rrvirus redribbon

      you broke your caps button man? Lol 😀

    • Baracus

      And your full-stop failed after 3 hits 🙂

  • t3chnoboy

    Love gameloft hope it's coming back from the dead with premium games amin

  • callmericard0

    Good article. I absolutely loved the old premium Gameloft.

  • ineptidude


  • Carabak

    Gangstar Vegas was an absolutely superb game and stood shoulder to shoulder with the iOS GTA titles. Most people would buy both IMO. But they ruined it by going freemium...then they did the same with Modern Combat 5. That was me done with Gameloft.

  • Tallgeese

    They should obviously try and bank on a Warhammer 40k game...

  • Rain1dog

    I loved gameloft from the beginning. I just happened to download hero of Sparta or whatever their God of war clone was and was blown away with what a phone could do. The action/rpg gripped me and forced me to play it non stop until I beat it and loved every second of that game. Then Dungeon Master, The war games, FPS, the FF clone around Xmas a few years ago all provided for some amazing game times. I truly truly do miss it... Big time. I bought a iPhone 6s Plus for games and I've played a total of 3 games on it. The free to play, card games, match 3, bejeweled, city growing stuff does not appeal to me in the least on any level.

    I use my phone for my FPV phantom 3 and 4 flights now more than anything.

    Hope gameloft can make it... They gave me some of the very best times on my iPhone 3s, 4s, and 5s.

  • http://ScottSoapbox.com/ Scott Soapbox

    For me, it was Gameloft's switch to freemium. Their games went sooo far in to F2P shenanigans that I simply stopped looking at Gameloft games. We'll never know, but it would have been interesting if they had instead gone after the cheap (premium) clone market. For example, a decent GTA knockoff at half price seems a better niche in than adding timers to an open world game.

    • curtneedsaride

      Yeah, their timers and energy systems ruined experiences for me. I was only able to keep playing Iron Man 3 when they finally removed the stupid cool-down timer. Spider-Man Unlimited and that Jousting game both retained their energies or timers, and I had to give up on them. I mean, they are both online only to begin with, but then they limited how much I could play when I had time to actually sit down and play, and I don't have time for those kind of games. I'd rather play one of many good premium experiences like Final Fantasy IX or KOTOR.

    • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

      The problem is creating a decent GTA knockoff is just about on par with creating an actual GTA game. It still takes a big team and tons of money to develop. So if real GTA games are going for less than ten bucks, and you're targeting half the price, you're never going to make your money back anyway. Besides, while people on mobile do seem adverse to paying for stuff, if the choice between a knockoff GTA and the real deal was just a few dollars, I'd imagine most people would shell out the extra few dollars for the actual thing.

  • curtneedsaride

    I became a HUGE Gameloft fan back when I had a Motorola V400 flip phone. I spent quite a bit researching and finding great mobile games back in the early 2000's. And Gameloft not only made great games for those phones, they actually had great licenses too.

    So, it really helped turn my flip phone into a great GBA alternative. So, when I got an iPhone, I promptly checked to see what they had available. I can't remember all of the GL games I've bought over the years and in what order, but they definitely were great in the beginning. N.O.V.A. was awesome, and gave me my Halo/Metroid Prime fix. Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six, Spider-Man, Iron Man... I mean, they were my favorite developer because they made full games and everything on the App Store was premium in the beginning.

    But as the App Store shifted to F2P, Gameloft slowly stopped making fully premium experiences, and premium experiences came with a bunch of IAP. My favorite of this era is probably The Dark Knight Rises. That game is like a slice of Arkham City in your pocket. Way better than any actual mobile Arkham game. However, when their games went full F2P plagued with timers and energy... I stopped bothering with Gameloft altogether. For me their glory days were when premium games shined.

    I'd love to see them come back, but I have no idea what it would take. Maybe the App Store needs to run its course with F2P, and hopefully birth gamers' desire to have more premium experiences. Or maybe Gameloft just needs to find some indie developers to create original content that can utilize the needed F2P mechanics in a fresh way. Where I once had folders full of Gameloft games, I now only have Iron Man 3 and The Dark Knight Rises on my phone. I wonder if the older ones would even work anymore.

  • john glentzes

    Great article . Gameloft's console clones would be great with today's mobile technology . No other publisher has really taken their place . iPhone 6s and iPad Air 2 Backstab 2 , shadow guardian 2 , nova 4 , that resident evil 5 clone e.t c.

  • H4nd0fg0d

    GL should file for bankruptcy or let the Vivendi hostile takeover consume them.

  • M0rdresh

    In a way they pioneered core games at the time on a platform with little ambition and full of casual games I call throw-away games. However industry veterans turn to mobile and the scene has changed, Gameloft appears to have missed that boat. Their attempt at Clash of Clan, Siegefall, was quite decent, though apparently largely ignored.

  • AppUnwrapper

    Sacred Odyssey 🙁

    I had hope of a sequel until they removed the original from the App Store. That was probably my favorite of theirs (and I can't play it ever again). Also liked a lot about Avatar, but hate to think what they'd do to it these days if they get the license for a game for the second movie. Ick.

  • http://www.twitter.com/supaflyindie Supaflyindie

    I think most players have no issue playing clones if it's well made and particularly if the original doesn't exist, but once it does there's really no reason to ignore the "real thing", especially a classic. And I can't help finish this off by saying Pepsi destroys Coke and RC any day.

  • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

    NOVA was a guilty pleasure, I will admit. One of the first games to convince me that touch could be fine for first-person (although they used too many extra on-screen buttons).

  • nini

    This comes down to two things, Gameloft finding better profit in licensed games and core gamers flipping tables because F2P murdered their kitten.

  • Enker

    I enjoyed the hell out of Eternal Legacy back in the day - more so than Chaos Rings at the time in fact. I remember thinking that if Gameloft could produce that then why was Square settling for ports of their first two titles - showing that GL were ahead of the curve in thinking of the iPhone as a real platform and making the most of it.

    • Rain1dog

      I loved Eternal Legacy!! Game took my mind off of some really crappy things unfolding in my life. It was nice to climb into bed and get comfy and game on for a few hours.

  • doublezz

    I used to love Gameloft even they cloned others' games, until the day they make everything free to play but suck our blood as crazy. Their last game that finally destroy my love on them is God of Rome.

  • InTheAir

    Honestly, in the app store landscape we live in the depth of the game doesn't matter but only if it has all the ingredients to "catch on". No kid in the universe cares about the actual depth of an app, and only picks and cherries whatever they have on hand. If Gameloft wants to go full-scale, they sadly would have to make the same free liscensed crap to actually maximize profit.

  • Modjular

    I think big studios should make enjoyable freemium experiences, and indie secs should stick with premium gems.

    • Stormourner of the Nature

      some indie deveopers makes freemium games not only the big companies

  • vicsark

    To add a bit more on the financial aspect, Gameloft is mostly collateral damage in the Vivendi power play on Ubi Soft. The main reason Vivendi launched a hostile takeover bid on Gameloft is to put pressure on the Guillemot brothers, one of which is Gameloft's CEO, and the other one Ubi Soft's CEO. The Guillemot family has still big stakes in both but not big enough to prevent Bolloré, a French tycoon activist who controls the board of Vivendi, to buy them.
    Bolloré is a smart and dangerous guy, he took control of Vivendi with only a small stake in it, and is known to do things his own way. So the guys at Ubi and Gameloft are legitimately scared of an hostile takeover.

  • madreviewer

    I have asked this question 2 or 3 weeks ago-
    I think game loft will just become a mindless corporate abusing the free to play system.
    They will be targeting the casual demographic

  • thumbs07

    Was never a gameloft fan, I believe the best games are the ones designed for the device not to try and repeat console experiences. However very surprised they doing badly, thought they had hit the jackpot with Order and chaos.

  • Lamar Taylor

    I've always been a Gameloft fan and supported their games. I hate that they switched up doing what they did best...making console quality games at a reasonable price. The whole free to play model with timers ruined mobile gaming for companies like Gameloft because they tried to copy that format and now their games just aren't as fun and aren't as good.

    I hope they make Nova 4, GT Racing 3, and MC6 and charge a set price and ditch the free to play nonsense and go back to making quality games.

  • http://www.googlepants.com/ Wizard of Odyssey

    I wish you would talk about Order and Chaos 2 a little ... I think it's loads of fun and worth playing. There are probably lots of Gameloft players who are just doing their thing, playing their games, without the benefit of your critical eye

  • cabuckn

    I used to really enjoy Gameloft titles, back in 2010-2012. Too bad they're struggling so hard now. I will be curious which direction they go this year.

  • Quazonk

    Definitely glad to see Gameloft losing relevance. Don't like to see devs lose work but I'd much rather Gameloft go tits-up and then the talented developers that work there go on to work for different companies, or form new ones that aren't so Gameloft-y.

  • Touchmint

    Awesome article I love stuff like this as a player and developer!!

    I think they really dropped the ball with the new order and chaos also splitting the mmo userbase just didn't make sense especially when they follow close to the same model. If one was full subscription and the other was freedom it would make a bit more sense.

    Even with all that said their gameplay and monetization system in o&c2 was just horrible at launch its like the game wasn't even finished and they just had to release. I wanted to love it but couldn't :/

    It's too bad like you said they really brought iOS gaming to the masses.

  • Grummie

    Over iPhone games now, been a huge supporter over my decent game on iOS since early 09 but now I'm out! Have way more fun on 3ds now a days!! Cya layta 😎

  • crazy dad

    Think it's worth noting that besides bringing high quality games, they were doing so when the market didn't want to pay more than .99 (angry birds) and everyone wanted updates with extra content for free. They need to make money and jumped on the freemium which kind of worked for them but alienated those that don't like that model. I never paid money for extras in asphalt, but my brother put in like $40+ on car packs and upgrades. He played the hell out of that game and to him it was worth it. He got a great experience and for a ps1 or ps2 game (the quality is about the same) he and others would pay that much. Times hopefully are shifting and with many games over $5 to start with ff series, they may finally be able to make a game like nova 4 (fingers crossed) and charge a premium. It is a business and they need to make money too. Are we ready to pay an upfront price?

  • rhinofinger

    I actually really enjoyed Backstab... was just craving playing through it again when I realized it was no longer on the App Store

  • deano13

    They still make the best mmorpg's (order & chaos 1&2) and dungeon crawlers ( dungeon hunter) to PC/Console games, no other MMORPG or dungeon crawler comes close in the App Store to there versions..

  • Mo310

    The real Problem about Gameloft is that in every single game you need to pay money to have fun.

    • jonnyb086

      Totally agree. The reward system and progression system is so bad that you have to spend real money to advance as you would in any other premium game. People won't spend money up front for a game but damnit they'll spend $20 on a pack of gems. Human beings , full of contradictions.

  • Cayjak

    I used to love the gameloft games! I wish there was a way for me to play backstab, it was my favourite....

  • Out5poken

    imo gameloft's Asphalt series has been pretty solid- I think they'll do well to release an Asphalt 9 instead of bloating 8 with features.

    It definitely feels like the golden era of the appstore has passed 🙁

    • jonnyb086

      How is grinding the same races over and over for almost no cash to upgrade your cars a good experience. Asphalt is a perfect example of a beautiful game ruined by what's turned into a horrible gameplay and progressive model. I played it in the beginning and had some fun. Then they tweaked the mechanics where races got extremely difficult forcing you to replay old races ad nauseum before you A, got enough cash to get a much better car or B got frustrated enough to start buying IAP. And I collected most stars up until that point (in 2014). Totally owned in Asphalt 6 and 7 as well and loved those games because they had a clear reward system. You get first place, you get enough cash to continue upgrading your car. You have to not only get first place in A8, it only gives you a little cash making you grind and grind and grind , over and over and over. It's garbage.

      • crazy dad

        Asphalt 6 was the best in terms of balance and rewards. I was able to go through and beat the game. No extra money spent. Every vehicle open to race in any track if I remember right. This game got me wanting more. Asphalt 7 they tweaked the balance and made classes. Made for a little more grinding but still very doable and fun. Asphalt 8, while visually stunning, not balanced for the player. Seems the more I tune the car, the ai goes just that much faster. Played for a long time without iap, got really good at multiplayer maps, but hit the wall too much and became repetitive. The effort-reward balance was off. If they came out with like a "platinum edition" in which they balanced the effort-reward system to not need iaps but could be used for the impatient (remember those days) I would pay another $6 for that.

  • jonnyb086

    Gameloft tried to cash in on freemium while still parading nice graphics and the illusion of a real game to users. They built themselves up on amazing titles with balanced gameplay like Modern Combat 3 and 4, Dungeon Hunter 2, Lets Golf, NOVA. They then tried to take those same games and build them around a freemium model which doesn't work. If you wanna do freemium stick to candy crush and clash of clans clones. But you can only dupe so many people for so long under the illusion of a premium game with IAP.

    I used to be a huge gameloft fan from 2009-2013 until they started bastardizing games like Modern Combat 5 with IAP. But to be honest the game was horribly done from the start with low res graphics and finicky controls. I suck 80 hours into MC4 and loved every minute of it. It was balanced beautiful and tons of fun.

    Greed has taken over the App Store and no one person or company is to blame. Apple is to blame for fostering this kind of garbage and not helping companies create premium experiences, gameloft and other companies are to blame for attempting to cash in with just horrible experiences. And the people are to blame for continuing to buy gems to speed up whatever tower they're trying to build.

    So basically mobile gaming is screwed. Thankful there a few developers out there that still make quality premium experiences like Square Enix and the hitman/Lara croft go games.

    Speaking of.....TA let their mobile apps die without an update in years what's up with that?

  • SMU Fanguide KaL

    As the Founder of the Official Spider-Man Unlimited Fanguide, We have been working hand in hand with some of the development team to improve the game, and more importantly the player/developer relationship that has been a longstanding problem for this company.

    I believe for Gameloft to climb back to the top and become relevant to gamers again, they must open their communications with the players that DO play their games. They have lost many dedicated players over the year, and earned a bad customer service reputation due to the policies that were in place for so long.

    Recently we have seen some changes and allowances in those policies, which have allowed players feedback to be more directly involved with the ongoing development of these games, resulting in much higher player retention, IAP sales, and overall player satisfaction.

    As Gameloft moves forward into 2016, i think it is ESSENTIAL that they also begin to dissolve the policies in other games, and work hand in hand with their community to improve all of their existing titles.

    This will also allow them to have a better understanding of what players currently want and expect from a mobile game title. This would give them invaluable knowledge in building future games, and structuring them so as to account for a good, rewarding user experience, while still allowing room for considerable profits.

    Few mobile gaming companies truly utilize the wealth of knowledge and feedback their fans and players have to contribute, and Gameloft could become a powerhouse by setting a trend for other major developers to follow their example.

    Some of these games are great, no matter if they are clones, or heavily branded titles, they underlying problem seems always to be, Gameloft's inability to recognize and acknowledge their players feedback. Only when they open their mind and act upon the ability to use this information in a postive way, will they begin to fix the situation they currently face.


  • AlexsIpad

    They have lost their identity, so the company might as well be dead at this stage. There seems to be no future for their 'proper' games - no mention of a modern combat 6, and the Nova series seems to be long gone. These were really their two game series' that made them stand out on the App Store, but they seem to have dropped both titles. Instead, they are bringing out freemium games that are probably not as successful as they would have liked, and now they offer nothing. They've dropped their 'console quality' premium game series' and they don't compete well enough on the freemium market. In a limbo.

  • PlaystationPaul

    I've pretty much stopped buying iOS games, I have enough to last a lifetime, over 400, including a ton of life consuming RPGs. Plus all the excessive iOS updates that break games and F2P crap doesn't instil much confidence in me. I have enough, just need to take time to enjoy what I paid for, I'll update when I finish them all or get a new device, will be some time as Apple products tend to last decades, (my old blue G3 tower still works) and are easily repairable most of the time if they do break.
    That said I'd like some of my remaining store credit to go to all the old GL games I missed. Main problem, they are too expensive at 4.99, I'm sorry but they are, relatively speaking at least. When you consider I can pick up something like Batman: Arkham City GOTY, brand new sealed for 9.99, which is an amazing production packed with content, 4.99 just seems steep for what GL games offer. I beat most of them relatively quickly and whilst enjoyable in their own way don't represent the same level of bang for your back, seems ridiculous saying this about budget priced games but there you go, the proof is in the pudding, you can get more for less, much more, so why wouldn't you? Plus buying half a dozen games priced at 4.99 each, it'll add up. If they dropped the price to around half what they are now I'd bite for sure. Not that it would save the company or anything but can't see many people buying into their legacy as things stand.