E3 is many things to many people, but it is clearly not the place to announce mobile games. The days leading up to the official start of E3 so far have brought a decent bag of new game announcements, sequels, and of course, some underwhelming news.
Microsoft hit it out of the park this year. Its format should be emulated by all. Within the first half hour of the presentation, we were already privy to over twenty games that look fantastic, and even before Keanu Reeves showed up, the presentation was entertaining and informative. Sony did not present this year, most likely because it did not have sufficient new material to give to their fans. It was a smart move, as the idea that Sony is staying home so that it can prepare for a big event next year is already exciting fans.
Sandwiched among Bethesda’s presentation of games like The Elder Scrolls Online and Fallout 76 was one announcement that felt oddly out of place, and that was the reveal of Commander Keen… for mobile devices.
The reaction to the game can best be described as polite indifference. This is a franchise that launched in 1990 and that we last heard of in 2001. The reaction might have been better if the series had been teased in some way or if we were receiving a proper sequel or reboot, but instead, the reaction was lukewarm at best since Commander Keen is being developed as a mobile game that doesn't even look that great.
There are also The Elder Scrolls Blades and The Elder Scrolls legends, which are both for mobile platform, although the latter is coming to the Nintendo Switch.
We hate to be negative at an event as exciting as E3, however, it became clear during the presentation that mobile games simply have no place among this year’s presentation of what are supposed to be the best games.
Are mobile games inferior to console and PC games?
This may be an opinion that some consider elitist, but mobile games are simply not up to snuff compared to their console counterparts. The performance is limited by one’s smartphone, the controls feel sloppy and imprecise compared PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controllers or to a keyboard and mouse.
Of course, mobile games are very profitable, so much so, in fact, that it seems that every developer is pouring resources into making their own game for a slice of that massive revenue pie. No one can blame developers for wanting to make money, but seeing mobile games presented among the rest of the industry’s best is nothing short of embarrassing.
Part of the problem is that many mobile games are either cash grabs, pay-to-win, or filled with addicting loot boxes and gacha mechanisms that are only now beginning to face appropriate limitations when it comes to targeting children. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.
Clash Royale is certainly an outlier, as it is well made, balanced, and has an emerging esports presence in the world. Still, it is one of the better mobile games, though it does contain significant microtransactions.
Where is the best place to announce mobile games?
This is an important question for the future of developers everywhere. BlizzCon 2018 gave us the perfect example of where not to announce a mobile game.
The crowd collectively groans in frustration and Blizzard follows up with the now and forever infamous line “Do you guys not have phones?”
So, an event like BlizzCon is clearly not the way to go. Of course, there were other factors that affected the response, namely that fans had been waiting for a proper sequel or expansion to Diablo 3 or an HD remaster or remake of either Diablo or Diablo 2, and instead they were given a clone of a game that already exists in China with the assets of Diablo 3.
So, where is the best place to present mobile games? Perhaps developers should have a place to present them that is far from the traditional games. The question is not an easy one to answer, especially since there is so much potential to have good, high-quality mobile games. However, we still haven't seen too many yet, so fans are clearly still skeptical.
Perhaps we need to be patient, as it may simply be a matter of time before mobile games become more accepted at events like E3 once their quality improves. On the other hand, we may never see the acceptance of mobile games among console and PC games. Technology for mobile games is improving, but so too are next-gen consoles and PCs. Mobile games might forever occupy a space of intermediacy, in which their purpose is not to be played for long stretches or competitively, but rather as short-term distractions while riding the bus or half-heartedly paying attention while watching an episode of The Office.
Though we don't have the answer about where mobile games should be announced yet, we can certainly say that E3 is not the place to do it - at least not yet.