Mobile Games: Proving Grounds for the Big Leagues? [Updated]

Fresh and imaginative ideas can start small, but you need to deliver when you enter the big leagues. Mobile to PC and beyond.

Angry Birds, Plague Inc, Elder Sign: Omens, Into the Dead, and Deus Ex: The Fall...

What do these five titles have in common?

They started on mobile.

[Addition] Before we get started, I'd like to give a glimpse into my definition of 'Big League': Personally I see the hitting the big leagues as making a sustainable product, something that can attract a core following at first and then be picked up due to word of mouth. This happens a lot in the mobile sector, mainly due to the low costs or F2P nature of the titles. Hitting that stride on both PC and console is no easy feat, though the below titles have done so or are very close to doing so.

This should not make you angry.

Take Angry Birds for an example: who could have predicted flinging a multitude of birds at pigs would be so much darn fun? After conquering the mobile market with ease, Rovio, the creator of Angry Birds, took to other stages to showcase their game. From console and PC, Smart TV  to social media, Angry Birds is never more than a few clicks or presses away from your eye

Since 2009, the popular franchise has generated nine titles and a spin off.

Thanks to the success of Angry Birds, Rovio were able to land a licensing deal to make a game (and merchandise) based on a little franchise called Star Wars. Thank you, mobile.

After infecting tens of millions of the Human race on the go, Ndemic moves to eradicate the PC Master Race.

Overall Best Strategy Game - IGN

Here you have Plague Inc. A game about wiping mankind off the face of the Earth by using as many gruesome plagues as you can think up think up. Personally, I like to send a horde of zombies over to New Zealand... NZ is my nemesis country!

Created initially by one man in his spare time, James Vaughan, Plague Inc has gone on to be a smash hit on both Android and iOS. Hitting both #15 and #18 on the top paid titles charts on iPhone and iPad respectively. Plague Inc. also has won many numerous awards, including a 2012 Game of the Year award from IGN for "'Overall Best Strategy Game."

Since 2012, Plague Inc. has gone on to mutate on a regular basis, adding several paid expansions on the mobile front, and now moving to Steam with the assistance of proven games developer Auroch Digital. The early access version of Plague Inc. Evolved is a fantastic next step for the IP. Sporting a redone interface, audio library and graphics, but keeping the same engrossing gameplay, Plague Inc. Evolved is porting done right.

I can only hope that we see more games from Ndemic Creations and its partners. Thank you, mobile.

No matter what anyone tells you... Old Gods know best.

Okay, maybe this didn't start on mobile per say, but it has found a comfortable home on mobile. The Arkham Horror inspired Elder Sign: Omens is a fantastic take on the classic board game mixed with eyebrow raising, eye twitching moments of frustration where you fall victim to the Old Gods.

As with most mobile titles you should expect to put in five to ten minutes and feel rewarded. Or in the case on Elder Sign: Omens, punished. Fantasy Flight spent couple of years supporting the mobile version before heading to PC to add some extra spit and polish.

If you look around you can find ways to play this single player game with friends! Thank you, mobile.

A game that has you running back for more.

Tech Glen

Windows mobile sadly is a very under represented place for games.

Run, dodge, stumble, run, get eaten, and dodge. Simple, effective, and challenging gameplay: that is Into the Dead in a nutshell. Creators PikPok initially made the title available on Android and iOS, a basic start for most games, then with help from Rush Digital Interactive Into the Dead was ported to Windows Phone.  Windows mobile is sadly a very under represented place for games.

Into the Dead has also been ported to Windows 8.1, again by Rush Digital Interactive. So if you ever wanted to run, dodge, dodge, stumble, run and get eaten on your home PC or laptop now is your chance. Thank you, mobile.

We never asked for this, but we are glad it was made.

Android Spin

Set in a futuristic cyberpunk dystopia, Deus Ex: The Fall is a parallel story to that of Adam Jensen's tale in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Increased fidelity and overall polish is nothing short of a master class in the mobile to PC transition.

Created by Eidos Montreal, with the support of the studio N-FusionDeus Ex: The Fall was the game we never asked for. Though, I am glad that it was made; who would turn down a chance to step back into the world of Deus ExBoasting impressive visuals, story, and gameplay, The Fall is a fantastic addition to the arsenal that Eidos and Square Enix have acquired and built, and it gave the world a way to experience being a badass on the go!

March 18th is rapidly approaching and with this we get the PC version of Deus Ex: The Fall. Taking the core of the mobile experience and mixing in mouse & keyboard, enhanced boss fights, increased fidelity and overall polish is nothing short of a master class in the mobile to PC transition, I hope. Thank you, mobile.

 Answering the question.

Do I believe that mobile is the proving grounds to the big leagues? Honestly, yes. I hope that the brief examples I have shown here are signs that it doesn't matter if you are a part-time developer, AAA game producer or somewhere in between, a mobile start will not harm your product so long as you can deliver when it moves to the big leagues.

What are your opinions? Let me know below or via Twitter @ProtoFoe. Thank you, mobile.

Senior Intern

A gamer borne of all formats.I am currently borrowing games off my son, the circle is complete..

Published Mar. 18th 2014
  • Ryu Sheng
    Mobile gaming as a rule are garbage, cow clickers that don't take any skill other than tapping a screen.

    There are some exceptions to the this, Shadow Era for example. But most are useless. The so called 'succesfull' games tend to cash in on something that was already a huge success elese where, usually either console or PC. For example you mention Deus Ex the Fall, that was nothing more thna a cash grab on the Deus Ex series which is well renowned and much beloved. However the game itself was terrible, and was made worse when they ported it to PC.

    Frankly i wish they would stop porting these garbage games to PC. Leave them on phones where as much as they're garbage, they fill a need. Something to do while your on the loo, other than reading the newspaper
  • Andrei Manolache
    To have a great mobile game would mean to have an outstanding phone! I doubt it will be part of the "Big Leagues" too soon, but it's a start :)
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I'm sorry, but I see mobile gaming as reflective of the general dumbing down in all forms of entertainment these days: Faster, easier and unbelievably, outrageously, insultingly trite.

    I do believe that some developers can start small, learn a lot, and then deliver some truly amazing products in the future. And it's great that such a medium exists for newcomers and ambitious creators to give themselves a shot. I will always support that.

    At the same time, I will never say any mobile experience is even remotely on par with what I consider the "big leagues."
  • Proto Foe
    Senior Intern
    Do you see _all_ mobile gaming that way?
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Most of it. There are exceptions to every rule but for the most part, yes, most mobile games are just...silly.

    I will say that none can possibly deliver the same experience as games in the "big leagues," as you say, simply due to obvious limitations. And as I don't have much time to play anymore, why would I waste what precious time I do have playing vastly inferior versions of the big boys?

    But again, it is a great option for budding developers. It's a way for them to get their feet wet, and decide if they love it enough (and if they've got the necessary ambition and talent) to pursue game development as a career. I have no problem with that.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    You're right, a very huge majority of mobile games are crap. But there are some really seriously amazingly good mobile games. Plague inc being one. The thing about plague inc though, it was a flash game wayyyyyy back in the day. This guy has been tweaking and tinkering for more than a decade now on it. The game is still super simple, but man is it fun. It just so happened that the mobile platform was perfect for it.

    I think mobile has incredible potential and we'll continue to see that. Only after the filtering of the crap. Think back when the internet was young and it was an insane 90% porn. Well not we have 90% crap mobile games.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I agree that it has potential, but I still say its limit threshold is well below that of games that utilize far better technology.

    And the other problem is that you'll never filter out all the crap, especially when it's the crap that seems to sell best. I mean, Flappy Bird? Really?

    By the way, you don't want to know what percentage of Internet revenue is pulled in from porn today. ;)

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