E3 and WWDC came and went this week with practically nothing special shown about mobile gaming. Mobile games were invisible from E3 press conferences after only getting cursory mentions last year. E3 press conferences are all flash and spectacle, and I'll admit many mobile games don't do well with flash and spectacle. And the reaction to Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ [Free] before Kingdom Hearts 3 was...not great. But at least Apple, where games are by far the largest category on the App Store, would have some kind of showcase for mobile games? Nope! Games were an afterthought, with the only interesting tidbit about games being a mention of ReplayKit streaming, which it took Mobcrush to explain more about after the keynote. The Platforms State of the Union, which is like the keynote but a hundred times nerdier, had some information on games, but nothing that enterprising developers poring over new release notes hadn't already leaked out about tvOS game controller requirements, ReplayKit, and new Metal graphics features.

That's it? Maybe we should have known how little Apple cares about gaming when they scheduled WWDC to be during E3. I know that Apple had a bunch of new features in iOS 10 to introduce – they have to pull back up even with Android and other messaging services, after all – but you'd think they'd show it a bit more love for the category of app that dominates revenue? Other apps might be more about post-App-Store revenue for their developers, but it seems like even a bit of love for the developers making a living on an underappreciated gaming platform would go a long way. Because nobody else seems to care about making a big deal about them!

The company that probably talked the most about mobile gaming at E3 was Nintendo, of all companies? Nintendo at least had something to say about Pokemon Go. Square Enix Montreal at least treats mobile gaming seriously with the GO franchise, and Deus Ex GO looks really neat. But nobody else besides EA even pretended mobile existed at all. Nobody cry for the mobile gaming journalist – but if you could toss a few pennies into the Patreon jar I'd appreciate it – but it was frustrating watching most every single second of press conferences on Sunday and Monday hoping for a scrap of mobile gaming, and getting nothing. E3 is about image, but it feels like a vicious cycle where people keep treating mobile games as second-class citizens because everybody else does.

Even Apple barely treating mobile gaming like it's serious is a problem. Because it sure seems like the future of gaming systems is going to transcend toward all-in-one boxes. The leap from generation to generation is shrinking, and even Sony and Microsoft are going towards smaller, intra-generational upgrades. We're going to hit a singularity soon where all-in-one boxes can contend with gaming consoles for powerful experiences. And a company like Apple, who makes one of these aforementioned all-in-one boxes, can't manage to sell them at least to a point where it's worth it for developers to make Apple TV apps, it's troubling. I'm not optimistic about the future of the live TV service that would help sell more Apple TVs after they made a big deal about Sling showing up on Apple TV. Maybe someday, but my confidence is rather wounded right now.

It's just frustrating, because I love mobile gaming. And it's not hard to see with the likelihood of the convergence of platforms that mobile-based platforms, particularly with the infrastructure to take games anywhere. Theoretically, mobile should be ready for that future. And I'm not that optimistic that console players want to jump into the PC-style iterative update future, either.

And for that matter, I think everyone's going a bit hard into VR well before its value as a consumer product has been proven. PlayStation VR will be the real test, but it's not like expensive console add-ons have a bright history to them. Maybe in a few years, but I think the 2D viewing effect of VR, where it's not great for convincing people as to the quality of VR, is a problem that needs to be addressed by people experiencing it. And again, this is where mobile VR is going to come into play – and where Google might actually be smart with Project Daydream. And Apple is being slow to the playing field again. I think mobile VR will be the thing that sinks or swims VR – the ease of access will be what convinces people that they need bigger VR experiences. But it almost seems like these big companies are way too focused on trying to not upset fanboys who will scoff at anything mobile to actually create a competent mobile VR experience.

Or perhaps because Apple has been slow to the punch with VR, and iOS is still the dominant mobile gaming platform in many ways, publishers don't want to risk mobile VR until they see an established market there. In which case, Apple's lackadaisical attitude toward mobile gaming is a vicious cycle.

Regardless, I am dismayed at the status quo has become that mobile gaming has become the industry's dirty little secret. I'd expect the "don't tell anyone mobile gaming exists" attitude from the major gaming companies, at an event which is pretty much just about peacocking to their established audience. But for Apple to basically pretend like gaming isn't the majority of what brings in revenue on their store, in front of an audience of their developers, is baffling. And it speaks wonders about why the App Store perhaps hasn't reached its full potential yet, if not even Apple will take pride in the platform.

  • ROGER-NL

    You are right Carter, I saw nothing at E3 I haven't seen before sequel after sequel number 4 of that game and number 5 of that other game not one, well the new Zelda looks great but I don't want to buy a new console for one game no sir not me, I love the IOS and stick with it, don't know for how long but it has some years to go IMO.

  • Stuart Wallace

    Surely part of all this is that the likes of E3 are becoming quite passé whilst mobile moves forward at lightning pace. Mobile doesn't need the big show stage?

  • Rain1dog

    Gaming on mobile was going to high and mighty places the first 2-3 years of its beginning. We had killer games like Hero of Sparta, Space Miner:Ore Bust, Dead Space, and few other truly top notch fun games. Those games were truly like a full fledge console/PC gaming expierence. Once the games started going away from the .99 price point is when the gaming on mobile started its downward journey. Then came the free to play, base building, base raiding clones filled with iap's, commercials, timers... That pushed away a lot of gamers who grew up with every console, Alienware CPUs, SLIed big rigs, Half-life nuts. Now a lot of the graphics look sharp but it's that weird looking style that once you see it... You know it's a mobile game(i.e. That kingdom hearts game style graphics) which is a huge turn off.

    I used to soooooo look forward to the call of duty clones, FF type games, God of war types... But now I don't check for new games on mobile at all, if I play longer than 15 min a week now that's a lot. It really does sting... Because the potential is limitless.

    • Lochheart

      The problem with Mobile gaming is the organisation of big companies.

      The business model to develop on mobile is not the same as old school gaming.

      If you look at who earn money today, you will not see any Activision, Take 2, EA or other traditionnal gaming company. You will see new company / start up who have adapt their structure to the mobile business model.

      And look at what happen ? Big traditional gaming companies uses mobile spécialist (like Kabam or Dena) or buy them like EA (Firemint / Iron Monkey). And now they trust the top.

    • Graysmith

      I was going to say this exact thing, pretty much. Mobile games were amazing the first few years. I remember Zen Bound utterly blowing my mind because it was like nothing you'd ever seen, a game fully exploring the possibilities of the touchscreen. Of course it also benefitted from being a pioneer, Zen Bound released today might not cause as much excitement as it did back then, but then again hardly anyone even bothers to make games like Zen Bound these days. And today that game would be filled with ads, in-app purchases, "energy" and all that garbage too, no doubt.

      A really high quality mobile game is nearly impossible to find these days. There are many enjoyable ones, many with gorgeous graphics, but hardly any that I will remember 5+ years down the line like I do with a game like Zen Bound.

    • Agkelos

      I completely agree with this. The other huge problem I see with mobile gaming is that one doesn't actually own any games that one "buys", but only rents them since games can break/disappear without warning or compensation at any time. If I buy a game on either the PC or console, I can be 100% sure that my game will always work for the platform I bought it for and I'll always own it. This is completely not true for the mobile scene, and this is a huge problem. There is a complete lack of consumer confidence.

    • Septim

      Rain1dog's comment pretty much sums up the feelings I have had towards mobile but never thought to express. I'm a mid 30's gamer and I feel I'm out of the App Store's demographic now. Clones, aforementioned cartoon graphics, voxel, and 8bit graphics rule now. Truthfully, much of it I categorize as "kiddie" games. There was a long period of time when I played mobile games and neglected my consoles. Now I find myself back to consoles almost exclusively. Minus a few gens that come out on mobile. I also remember having multiple game folders filled with premium apps and fun gaming experiences. Now I have one gaming folder with less than 10 apps that I consider the essentials. The landscape has changed on the mobile front. More and more aimed towards casuals and less and less for hardcore gamers.

  • bhy_kim

    Mobile games are considered to be cheap now, should be less than $5, and people are complaining on Square-Enix's over $20 games. Now mobile game platform is more powerful than 3DS, performance-wise, but look at the price tag on them! $4.99 vs. $39.99!!! It's so funny people tend to spend tons of money on temporary, consumable items from free-to-play games but 40 bucks on premium games. I was a game designer myself, I was sick of making f***ing f2p games and changed my career to web designer. If I can get a chance to make a game as I wish I want to try to put a $39.99 tag on my console quality game on App Store.

  • cmmc38

    TL;DR: 30 years of Apple policy has, almost without fail, harmed the gaming potential of their devices. If anyone out there has any ideas why Apple consistently impairs the gaming potential of their hardware, I would love to hear them.

    As a dedicated gamer since the mid-80s, I have owned and enjoyed both a current PC and at least one member of every major console generation since I got my NES in 1987. I am also both a PC and Mac user (gaming on the PC, OSX for everything else). I say this merely to drive home the point that I have been a "hardcore" gamer for a long time. Over these past 30 years, I've seen horrendous hardware become fantastic gaming platforms (Nintendo's raison d'être), and fantastic hardware become forgotten junk (Sega's hardware legacy). All of these seemingly improbable events are easily explained in retrospect (and many could be seen coming far in advance). But what I have never been able to figure out is Apple's attitude toward gaming.

    Throughout the past 3 decades, Apple has maintained an antithetical relationship with the very concept of gaming that I will never understand. When the Apple II first introduced the very concept of gaming on a PC, instead of embracing the concept Apple switched it's focus to the Mac, a platform that remains gaming-unfriendly to this day. The closest 20th century Apple came to embracing gaming was the IIgs (my first computer btw and the source of my lifelong PC gaming fascination). And Apple basically killed the IIgs right after release by failing to support it even a little.

    I became a Mac user in 2007 with the transition to Intel processors and the release of BootCamp (allows me to own a Mac and still be a PC gamer without breaking the bank). But again, Apple stubbornly refuses to cater to gamers. Every high end Macbook Pro (and even Mac Pro) is released with subpar, outdated graphics hardware. And worse still, Apple's refusal to support modern APIs makes the graphics hardware they have totally hamstrung!

    It would be so simple for Apple to release a dedicated gaming MacBook pro. They could charge a monster premium for it and the Alienware/Falcon Northwest set would shell out for it immediately. They could support Vulkan, the modernized multiplatform OpenGL API (that Apple helped develop - they are/?were a member of the Kronos group that developed it) instead of clinging to Metal, their proprietary API that it simply does not make economic sense for developers to learn and utilize. And while I'm not at all sure of the technical and legal specifications they may even be able to port in some kind of DirectX support to OSX (along the lines of WINE but officially integrated).

    When the iPhone was first introduced I saw all of Steve's demonstrations and thought "meh, I'll wait for the improved version". Then I walked into an Apple Store the second day it was available and almost fell over the first time I picked one up. The gaming potential of this thing was what hit me right away. A piece of hardware that is more powerful than a PSP/Vita, with a MUCH better screen that is ALWAYS online and on your person at ALL times?!? This is the ultimate portable game machine!!

    Sure, the lack of physical buttons needs a workaround, but on day 1 back in 2007 my first thought was "somebody could easily make a pocket-size snap on controller for this thing and the dedicated handheld market just shut down overnight."

    I watched with enthusiasm as the App store was born and the gaming potential began to be realized. I waited and waited for more "hardcore" titles to be released, and really enjoyed the few that were. I assumed that the dominance of mobile was an inevitability - after all its an immensely powerful and slick piece of gaming hardware with a nearly unlimited install base! It was only a matter of time before big name developers and publishers began to embrace it...

    I waited and waited. I figured the first step needed was for Apple to release an official controller. And then the absolute debacle that was (and still is) the MFi program came with a whimper. The totally bizarre and harmful limitations Apple placed on the early MFi controllers made them almost set up to fail (and required them to cost $80 for controllers that were subpar in every way compared to anything from a major console manufacturer). And on top of that there were multiple standards released at once - always a great idea which will attract developers like crazy (just ask Sega).

    It's almost as if Apple was ashamed of the program; they have all but ignored it ever since. I STILL can't tell if a game has MFi support by looking at its page on the App store. And Apple's promotion of the controllers in the retail space has been half-assed at best (despite the anemic push they gave it this week). Apple's forbidding developers from making "MFi only" apps means the devs have to make games that many people will play in a limited and impractical way, and then come away frustrated and leave bad reviews. And Apple's lack of promotion of MFi combined with its hardware limits that guaranteed a crop of expensive, yet poor quality controllers made it a certainty that few developers would put the time into writing/porting controller-friendly games anyway. It was an is a vicious self-perpetuating cycle that was almost consciously engineered by Apple to be a failure.

    Don't even get me started on the absolute joke of Apple TV being a threat to console makers... Everything about MFi applies here as well.

    And finally we come to the progression of the App store itself. I watched with dismay as the App store became more and more of a disorganized mess where any app more than $0.99 sold like crap and was derided in its reviews for being "too expensive". Then I became even sadder as low-effort free-to-play garbage began to be the only apps making any money at all.

    My hopes of big name developers and publishers embracing mobile gaming were dashed. And what stung me even more is the venom and derision with which the gaming press treats mobile games. Even if a lot of new, original App store games are stinkers or free-to-play money grabs, the App store is a goldmine for classics that don't require a controller. The definitive version of many of Sqeenix's best classics are the mobile versions. And yet the press dismisses them out of hand or ignores them completely. The gaming press almost seems to hold a hatred for the mobile platform which I simply cannot understand. How is an iPhone 6plus with a good controller (I prefer the HoriPad Ultimate myself) in ANY way an inferior experience to a Vita or 3DS? And while I don't understand the position of the gaming press on mobile gaming, it's easy to see that we have Apple to thank for it.

    The consistency with which Apple makes corporate policies that impair the gaming potential of their devices is quite remarkable. It's almost like Apple looks at GamerGate and the Call of Duty crowd and says "lets do what we can to make sure we are not associated with those people." Their game-breaking OS changes with little or no legacy support written in show their total lack of consideration for game developers (and app developers in general). What I can't figure out is why they have done this consistently for 30 years (looong before the negative "gamer" stereotype of today came into being).

    In the Steve days, one could argue that "Steve hates video games". Ok fine. He was making enough money elsewhere that he did't feel the need to compete in a niche market he personally disliked. But what about today? Does Tim Cook not only hate gamers, but hate money too? The gaming market of today is far bigger than the movie market of yesteryear. Embracing the gaming market seems like it would be so lucrative for Apple with so little effort!

    • http://wizodd.tumblr.com Wizard of Odyssey

      Wow, a comment longer the the article that spawned it

    • Ponyfox

      Amen!

    • mozaicflo

      Bro delete your long

    • mozaicflo

      Not only is this post probably longer than the article, it's hard to understand and there're gaps above and below it which draw attention away from others' comments on the article. I don't appreciate that.

      • speedyph

        😂😂😂😂😂

      • Tallgeese

        The gaps occur for some reason when you view (/make?) large comments via the TA app. Returning to the article and selecting view in Safari (or copy-pasting the url to another browser) should make the gaps go away and the message untruncated.

  • http://wizodd.tumblr.com Wizard of Odyssey

    I have it when "gamers" piss on mobile. Ugh

  • spader623

    I mean... Is it really that complicated? Look at what's popular: free to play, money grubby SHIT. All of it? No, there's a few premium paid gems but so much of it, clash of clans and angry birds: whatever the new one is and clash royale and clash of clans and bubble popper 3D etc etc. where's the innovation, the uniqueness, the fun, the thing that's not been done a billion times? It's hidden and for better or worse, the garbage floats up while the gems, most of them excluding ones like monument valley, sink down.

    So why is mobile looked down upon? Because there's not much to look forward to that everyone can see.

  • http://www.qbeecle.com/ Iqbal Kurniawan

    Errr.. Maybe that's why there is GDC? I don't think those AAA console/PC game developers are into GDC as much as mobile game developers...

    • Agkelos

      This is actually not true. Indi games are being better supported on both PC and consoles. There are very few good innovative games that are made for mobile. Most are made for PC/consoles 1st, then, if we are lucky, get ported over to the mobile scene. The price difference is a major factor in this. The fact that each iOS update seems to break games doesn't help, either.

      • Themostunclean

        The race to the bottom pricing model and sheer number of games killed indie on mobile. It used to be THE place to find new and innovative games but now most indie developers aim for console or PC first.

        One of the main reasons I loved mobile was because of how much creativity there was but now... Well this is the first time I've commented on this site in almost 6 months if that tells you anything. On my PS4 and X1, and even my 3DS I've got games like Steamworld Heist, Hard Reset, Salt and Sanctuary, Stories and Ori and the Blind forest over the last half year. On mobile the only thing I've bought in that time is Crashlands.

  • mozaicflo

    There are too many games on mobile. How would an indie developer afford to get coverage? Which games would get coverage and which wouldn't? I like that the App Store allows for indie developers because it encourages creativity. That being said, it also has resulted in a sea of games; most of them being discarded after a few months so the next cheap game can be given time and attention, and making any given game unworthy of being presented at E3. I think games on the App Store would be taken more seriously if they were on par with the gaming experience of console games (i.e. If they costed more, had better graphics, didn't have ads spamming players, etc.). As they are, they're a whole different animal, only rarely fit for the E3 or gaming mags even. The fact that there's not even a gaming mag and only a few websites presenting mobile gaming news is another example of this problem.

  • idmonfish

    Vainglory had a Samsung partnership and sponsorship tournament at E3 - thats a pretty big deal for at least one mobile game.

  • Derrythe

    The majority of mobile developers probably don't have the resources to make sense paying to go to E3 and the ones that do make enough to afford it make Game of War or Clash of Clans and know that E3 attendees aren't their primary audience and they frankly don't need to coverage.

    • Agkelos

      And even if the makers of clash of clans and clones did go to E3, I get the feeling they would probably be laughed off the stage. Can you imagine presenting the next clash of clans iteration on the same stage as Sony's phenomenal E3 presentation? Total laughing stock material.

  • Callys Caves 3

    CARTER ROCKS

  • Tallgeese

    My shameful little secret is called "deodorant."

  • NeoZeitGeist

    You are right it's unfortunate, but Apple still has a love hate relationship with Games and Gaming on all Their platforms. It's pretty much are machines are Pro create games be a creative, but please whatever you do don't play those games on our machines after all they are just too good to run something as primitive as a game.

  • Alexythimia23

    Great article carter, it saddens me also that what it ultimately comes down to is Apple does not care enuff about gaming. They can turn this round in no time if only somebody saw the potential at Apple but it looks like its gonna get worse 😞

  • predator8u

    In the last month you've shown why, with square removing the Chaos ring series and Bad piggies going free to play. iOS gaming is abusive to its consumer. No other experience in my whole life as a consumer have I continually been disappointed by the way we are treated. Like crap. Money stolen, purchase histories ret-coned, wonderful indie games forced to ruin gameplay(going f2p) just to make a 1/1000 a penny on ads, targeted ads/tracking users to exploit them, continually hardware/firmware changes destroying things they shouldn't.

    Don't kid yourself Carter(which you seem too do all the time) iOS gaming is toxic. The 2-3 great indie games a week doesn't change that.