Not Even Crazy Taxi Can Escape the Boring Idle Game Fad

With every human advancement, there's always a fad right behind it. And for mobile games, that fad is idle games.

Since the emergence of home computers, incremental -- or idle -- games have been an integral part of the gaming experience (for better or worse). Evolving like Pokemon, the genre has seen itself move to myriad mediums and through many different models, such as online subscription gaming, social gaming, and mobile gaming. But one thing remains the same – hours of mindless, inactive fun.

Currently, idle games are all about numbers and clicks. The more clicks, the higher the numbers go. Eventually, it leads to some reward or unlocked level or character, all of which lead to more clicks and bigger numbers. It all seems mind-numbing and simple, yet players dedicate copious amounts of time to this phenomenon.

And even vaunted franchises have joined the sub-genre. 

Victim of (Mobile) Circumstances

Sega’s much-cherished Crazy Taxi series has become the latest victim of said trend. The original game and its countless sequels are built around getting a customer to his or her destination in the fastest time possible.

But Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire does away with that concept for a click-your-way-to-an-empire scheme. Instead of conventional racing, the player must build a fledgling taxi service into a booming empire by collecting and upgrading a fleet of cabs and drivers. This move toward an idle game of a beloved classic seems to a desperate move by SEGA to make a quick buck from fans.

Everything Old is New Again (But Not Necessarily Better)

But Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire is just the tip of the iceberg for SEGA, who has even more plans for mobile games. The company really wants to expand beyond the console and into the PC and mobile gaming areas by using existing IPs to draw in consumers and generate bigger results and success. SEGA's motto for success revolves around the belief that recognizable characters will make it more viable in a Nintendo-versus-PlayStation market.

SEGA isn’t alone in its quest for mobile domination, either. Nintendo has pledged to release two to three signature games a year, which began with Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes. Like Sega, Nintendo seems to believe using old games and iconic characters is the best way to succeed in the mobile games market, which seems to rely on nostalgia for profit.

These two companies aren’t the first to abuse the nostalgia factor with classic titles as PlayStation launched its mobile division in 2012 to little fanfare. But that failure hasn't slowed down Sony's effort to best Nintendo as the company plans on getting back into the mobile arena with releases beginning in 2018 (whether that means old or new games remains to be seen). The only problem for Sony is that PlayStation doesn't necessarily have the IP recognition the way Sega and Nintendo do. But these mobile ventures have been met with mixed reactions from both critics and fans. Many pointing to the fact that these games are building on established franchises but take rather than add to their legacies.

But these mobile ventures have been met with mixed reactions from both critics and fans over the years. Many point to the fact that these games are building on established franchises but take from those franchises rather than add to their legacies -- adding to the dearth of original content in the space.

Lack of New but Plenty of Nostalgia

But the real problem for many gamers and fans comes from the reliance of these companies on past IPs for mobile content rather than creating new properties for mobile platforms. The lack of new content seems to signal a gaming industry unwilling to take chances on a relatively young platform. 

Their fear of failure and aversion to losing money makes established IPs a better option for profitability, but it seems to hurt not only the legacies of these IPs but the companies as well, especially when it comes to integrity and the gaming fanbase. With so many indie games popping up on all platforms, it would be more beneficial and profitable for new games to be funded rather than using vintage characters for profitable nostalgia.

These revered companies seem to be falling behind in terms of innovation and influence in the mobile games market rather than taking the genre to new levels and pushing the boundaries like they did with consoles and handhelds. SEGA, Nintendo, and Sony have forgotten they helped shape the video gaming industry and now seem to follow trends rather than setting new ideas loose in the mobile arena.

What’s so Wrong With This?

Many complaints by fans come from the simplicity of idle games, especially in the case of Crazy Taxi. The words “generic” and “rip-off” come to mind when referring to the game. Plus, it’s not even a good idle game when compared to many others on the market right now.

Like other games, Crazy Taxi relies on in-app purchases increase in-game score. This component has left many fans of the series crying foul on SEGA. On top of in-app purchases, the game relies on another idle game trademark – game activity without the player. This quality leaves many idle games boring and bland, as one doesn’t even have to interact to level up or gain rewards. That seems very unsatisfying to the average gamer.

And for a series like Crazy Taxi, one that is inherently predicated upon action and movement and player interaction, it's nearly a sin to plunk it into the idle games genre. 

Better Future?

Hopefully, as the franchise-meets-idle game train rolls on, developers will start considering (more often) fan investment when creating these mobile versions of treasured franchises in the future. Or it’ll continue to look like a money ploy for them to cheat fans.

Published Jun. 21st 2017

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