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Mobile Phone Game

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By 1997, cell phones were everywhere, and PDA functions were being built into them. They had small LCD screens, similar in resolution and color to the displays of 1970s microcomputers like the Apple ][. So Nokia decided to put a '70s computer gaming classic, Snake, into one of their phones. Thus was born a new platform for video games.

The rise of camera phones a few years later greatly improved the hardware, and thus, at the rise of modern mobile phones, its gaming horsepower were equivalent to 5th or 6th generation consoles such as the Nintendo GameCube, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, and Xbox and steadily rising as storage space and engine optimization becoming the norm. The iPhone in particular, with its heavily developed "App Store", and its subsequent tablet-lovechild the iPad, has shown itself to be an actual gaming platform, as to a lesser extent (due in part to widely varying hardware) has Google's Android.

Compared to console games, mobile games have less distinctive "generations". Most early mobile games during the early-mid 2000s were coded in Java ME and are designed for playing in short bursts, with the player controlling the action using the phone's number pad, while online play and downloadable content were still years away. Examples of this era include Doom RPG and God of War: Betrayal. The release of iOS in 2007 and Android in 2008 with their dedicated app stores, as well as the decline of older model phones, greatly changed the mobile gaming landscape, and by the era free to play games and Microtransactions became commonplace, mobile games can potentially net publishers more revenue than console games. This can be partially attributed to the greater accessibility of smartphones across the world, allowing developers to target audiences not traditionally associated with gaming.

A major issue with mobile games is preservation, as almost no mobile games come in physical mediums. Many older pre-smartphone games, especially ones from Japan, are lost today due to the closure of the older distribution platforms. Even many newer smartphone-era games are regularly pulled from the iOS and Android app stores, whether due to loss of licenses, replacement by newer releases, lack of compatibility with newer hardware, or online-only games having their servers shut down. Unless the player purchased them previously or resorts to emulation, good luck trying to play Infinity Blade, Mass Effect Infiltrator, or Dead Space mobile.

Computer Wars Time! Mac vs PC?

Most games start out on iOS. The reason for that is very simple. Apple releases an average of 3 touchscreen devices per year. Android, in comparison, gets something like three thousand new devices per year, all with different screen dimensions, screen resolutions, processors, memory and other hardware concerns... and since it came out in 2008, you can imagine how many permutations have piled up. It's like PC vs. Console, but worse—way worse, actually, since PC manufacturers can alter the hardware but can't really mess with Windows. Android manufacturers can: Android is open-source software, and each phone company can (and does) make alterations to the OS as they see fit. The "Android OS" you experience on an HTC One may be very different than that of a Motorola Moto X, or a Samsung Galaxy, or a Google Pixel (just to name a few flagship phones). With this much "fragmentation" on Android's side, it's no wonder that iOS is, simply, easier to program for. There’s also the fact that iOS is more lucrative: its users spend about four times more money in the App Store than Android users do in Google Play. (Not only is it easier and less confusing, but Apple users tend to be middle-to-upper—they have to be, since Apple hardware is expensive.)

The flipside is that Android is way less restrictive. To program an iOS game, you need to 1) buy a Mac, so that you can 2) download the free-but-Mac-exclusive program Xcode, with which to 3) program your game. Then you need to 4) buy—yes, buy—your "I'm allowed to put experimental software" licenses from Apple (either Development Profiles or the Enterprise program), which allow you to 5) provision to your iOS devices' Keychains before you can 6) upload rough drafts of your game to them. Oh, and just for fun, 7) those licenses run out in a year, so you'll need to buy them again if you plan to keep updating your game post-launch. Android, in comparison, just requires you to 1) download Android Studio, which is free on Mac and PC; and then 2) press a certain button seven times in your phone's settings to enable "developer mode", allowing you to 3) sideload rough drafts of your game.note  The first money that changes hands is when someone pays you for/in your game. To top it all off, while you do need to pay for the privilege of publishing your apps on Google Play, it's only a one-time fee, and after an approval process you're free to publish your apps on the Play Store.

Android also has a much bigger hold on large parts of the world such as China, Russia, India, the Middle East, and South East Asia, due to its open-source nature and competitive, generally cheaper pricing. To use the Faction Calculus trope, Apple is Powerhouse while Android is Subversive, and it shows in the prices: while Apple users spent $650 or more on the iPhone 6, Android users could get their hands on a two-year-older, used Nexus 4—with, as one satirist pointed out, almost identical features—for $250, or a Moto G with slightly inferior hardware for $180. Google is consciously exploiting this fact with its Android One and especially Android Go programs, rolling out cheap devices in the developing world and seizing a market Apple hasn't touched—a market Apple cannot touch, unless they change their policies drastically. Apple exploits the Cult Classic mentality, so they're unlikely to go out of business any time soon—in affluent places like America, Japan and most of Europe, iPhones have the lead—but the ratio of iPhone users to Android users worldwide is simply not going to swing in Apple's favor unless Apple drastically changes how they make money.

It should be noted here that even if, as noted above, mobile hardware has horsepower comparable to PCs and video-game consoles of not much long ago and includes things as high refresh rate screens (120 hz, with some phones designed for gaming going even higher) even on mid-range devices it's designed for power efficiency as it must contend with limited resources as available power (the tablet/phone's battery, even if power consumption improves as technology progresses), storage (there's less available storage space on a phone even if flagships have up to 1 TB of it), and overheating (as all components are crammed in the same chip and most devices have at best, except some designed for gaming, passive cooling systems).


  • iOS Games
  • Android Games
  • And others, mostly deprecated BREW (i.e. the software platform used on Verizon's VCAST and the ill-fated Zeebo), Java, Symbian, and FOMA systems, the last of which is Japan-only.