What Gamers Can Do To Get More PSP/DS Titles on Android and iPhone
The Release of Blazing Souls Accelate on Android and iPhone Is a Huge Step Forward in the Phone Gaming Market, but There Are Hurdles Ahead
The PSP title Blazing Souls Accelate, which was released previously on the Android platform, was released for the very first time this past week on iPhone as well. It has not been "dumbed down" for either phone. It is the full 100-hour game, and it's a huge step toward opening up the phone market for full release PSP/DS-style gaming titles. But you need to know two things about it, neither of which is avoidable: its price, and its size.
Blazing Souls Accelate is currently listed on GooglePlay for $12.85. It was released on the AppStore this week at $13.99. Seeing a price like that in either market is like seeing Cartier prices at Old Navy. It is seven times higher than any other game featured on the top line of the "New" section on the AppStore today. (Dungeon Plunder is the second highest at a whopping $1.99.) It is infinitely higher than the free titles listed to either side of it. (Of the eighteen titles on that top line, fourteen are free downloads.)
And as if the price weren't tough enough on the current market, the game size is listed on GooglePlay at 1.1 gigabytes. On the AppStore they've managed to condense it to a measly 708 megs. But that's still over fifteen times larger than the 46-megabyte title Please Stay Calm, listed on its right, and a jaw-dropping thirty-seven times larger than the 18.8-meg title Captain Leap - Aliens Invade Harlem City (no, I did not make that up) listed on its left, each of which is far more in line with your average AppStore title.
If Phone Market Consumers Want 100-Hour Storyline Gaming Titles, We're Going To Have To Pay the Price of Development
So why are they charging so much more? Because Blazing Souls Accelate is 100 hours of game play, with over 50 music tracks, over 80 playable characters, non-linear gameplay (meaning you can travel more freely through the game "world" and encounter various elements of the gaming storyline in different orders), over 200 special items and skills, over 900 attack skills and animations, and if all that isn't enough for you, it even includes console-style cut-scene anime videos.
As an independent iPhone developer, I can tell you right now you do not develop a game like that by yourself on a shoe-string budget. It takes a full-scale production with a virtual army of programmers, musicians, voice actors... (actually, the word is they skimped a bit on the English-speaking voice-overs, but I digress...) The point is it takes a whole cadre of people and a welcome-to-the-big-leagues budget to produce a game like that, and if they can't make enough money on the title they won't do it again.
And even though Blazing Souls Accelate has had plenty of time on the PSP market to make a profit (it was released in Japan on PS2 as Blazing Souls even earlier), that doesn't mean they can offer it on phone markets for nothing. If the price is too low, gamers will be tempted to pass on brand new PSP titles and wait instead for them to come out on Android and iPhone at prices like $1.99 or $2.99. But if gamers won't pay PSP prices for big-production games, developers won't produce them.
Mobile Gamers Have To Demand More from Our Hardware: There Are Only So Many Gigabyte-Greedy Games You Can Fit on a 16-Gigabyte Phone
The other major hurdle to seeing DS and PSP titles on the mobile phone markets is size, especially on the iPhone. Handheld gaming machines were originally designed to take games that literally plugged into the system. The games didn't live on the machine, so it didn't particularly matter how big they were. All those cut-scene animation videos and memory-expensive sound tracks and graphics were stored on the game card.
Of course, even with a PSP or DSi handheld you can now download games directly from the network to the machine and bypass those old-fashioned game cartridges, just like you would on your phone, but you can swap out memory cards as needed. The game lives on the memory card. It still doesn't live on the machine itself.
With an Android phone, the same thing is true. The phone has internal memory you can use for the things you always want with you, like your contact phone numbers, for example, but it also has swappable memory cards. So you can put a whole mess of gigabyte games on a 32-gig memory card and swap it out when you run out of space. It's a bit inconvenient, but you can do it. Not so with the iPhone, which has only its internal memory and no swappable cards. Score one for Android.
Conclusion: Be Demanding When It Comes to Memory, and Be Prepared To Pay Big-Production Prices if You Want To See More Big-Production Games
If the phone gaming market is going to continue to develop, two things have to happen. First, gamers need to make memory a high priority when shopping for phones. As long as consumers demand it, phone companies will keep pushing the envelope, whether by upping internal hard drive options or making it cheap and convenient to swap out large memory cards.
Second, mobile gamers need to pay for the quality we want. The "free-download" model is costing us a small fortune for in-app purchases anyway. It's a lot cheaper to pay $13.99 for a game once than to pay $1.99 for it a dozen times over. So if you enjoy titles like Blazing Souls Accelate and you want to see more of them on your phone, vote with your wallet and buy it, or buy other titles like it. It's the beauty of a market economy: the more we're willing to pay for it, the more developers will be willing to put into it.