Published on August 6th, 2012 | by Gary Kirwan
Put some games in your mobile, so you can game while you’re mobile
That’s right, I went there. I regret nothing. Mr. Zibit has arrived at Funsponge HQ and he’s putting things everywhere, as is his wont. Humorous title out of the way, let’s get down to business. Let me begin with an anecdote, just to set the mood.
I’m sat at home, it’s the weekend. A weekend not entirely unlike that just past. In fact it may have been that self same weekend. Let’s say it was. I sit in the window seat, gazing at the rain pelting against the pane. Boredom, the enemy of the weekday working stiff, has long since sunk in and even the television has failed me in the pursuit for lazy man distractions. In a last ditch effort to avoid sitting upside down on the sofa with my feet against the wall, I fire up the app store on my phone and ‘lo and behold there it sits. A nostalgic tear runs down my cheek as the installation begins – “Final Fantasy III installation in progress: 10%”. (Events have been altered for dramatic effect. Also, I don’t own a window seat but the image feels right, like a classic romantic comedy. Not that I watch romantic comedies. I read about it. In the sports section. Grr, manly).
I am a Final Fantasy fan – or at least I used to be. I’ve played all except the MMO iterations and have enjoyed them all to different degrees. Discussion on if or when the series lost its lustre seems entirely dependent on the first one you played and we’re not going to get into that discussion here. The series will always have a special place in my heart and so my spectacles admittedly have a somewhat rosey tint. I’m not going to review the game, suffice to say I’m enjoying it. What’s perhaps more interesting is the fact that it’s on the device I use to make calls and have until now been happy playing variations of Tetris and Bejewelled. This isn’t the first time an F’in Fantasy (as the kids call it. Maybe? Probably not) has been ported to a different platform.
Over the years we’ve seen them pop up on any number of consoles and handhelds, from the original Playstation’s port of FF6 to the NintendoDS versions of FF3, FF4 and any number of tie-ins and spin-offs. Not to mention the shady world of emulators and getting your console chipped – ah, those were the days. But for some reason having it on my phone lends it a different kind of allure. I always have my phone with me, much more than I ever had a DS, PSP or a member of the Gameboy brigade. There’s a lot to be said for a games platform that is always in your pocket, not because you may want to play something but because you need it for any number of other tasks – as is the case with the modern day smartphone. I’m not entirely a fan of game-as-you-go to begin with, being a proponent of the game-as-you-sit-in-a-comfy-armchair model, but for the sake of nostalgia I’d probably be willing to change my ways.
The question this raises is as follows: If we’re at a stage when our phones can play these classic (a very subjective term) games, who will be the first to sign a deal for the rights to a series? Let’s say that Nintendo give Google the rights to their back catalogue, if that’s even possible. The phone version is basically the DS version, so the technology is clearly capable. All of a sudden you have the Mario series in the Play Store and the Android platform becomes the go-to choice for a trip down memory lane. Add a bit of spit and polish, maybe some social aspects, slap a premium app price tag on it and all of a sudden the Google money pile is larger than Scrooge McDuck’s. I’m not saying I’d approve of such a move; the same content available regardless of OS would be the preference. But I’d certainly think twice when it came time to upgrade. Would it help phone sales? Possibly. Would it spell the death of the handheld platform? Probably not. Still though, Metroid on your mobile – it’s an interesting possibility.
Sony has tried to claim the mobile market previously with the Xperia Play but it never managed to capture the attention of the masses, perhaps hampered by trying to be all things to all men with its slide out controller. The Ouya has even recently announced FF3 as a launch title for the upcoming Android-based console so it’s possible they’re looking at the same retro game market as a means of getting a foothold in the industry. The Ouya is a different beast altogether though – do people really want to play their mobile games on their television? I can’t say I’ve ever been tapping the screen and thought to myself “this needs to be on my widescreen so I can see the pixels in inch-wide proportions”. The Kickstarter couldn’t exactly be called a failure but as with most funding campaigns on the site we’re pledging money based on concept art, fanciful promises and the hope that we won’t get screwed in the end. It strikes me that if the Ouya hopes to be successful it may need to have secured not only a launch range full of recognisable titles to draw the seasoned console gamer away from his Halos and Uncharteds, but a back catalogue of classic games which could carry the console through the rough initiation year on the strength of the names.
As an actual physical console it may even have an advantage over mobiles in grabbing those gamers who possibly played the originals on the original machines. It’s difficult to tell, but personally I’m adopting a “believe it when I see it” attitude to the Ouya. More choice in the console market is obviously better for the consumer but for an untested concept going up against the next iterations of Sony and Microsoft’s consoles, about which the rumour mill is picking up pace, it may be difficult (if not impossible) to compete without some kind of hook. Clearly it’s a good time to be a gamer though, in both your armchair and on the move.