Pokemon Go's huge success makes me fear, not cheer, the future of gaming

1 comment
It might be eating through a lot of data on your phone - but it's just a blip when it comes to New Zealand's soaring internet usage.  Photo / Michael Craig
It might be eating through a lot of data on your phone - but it's just a blip when it comes to New Zealand's soaring internet usage. Photo / Michael Craig

Nintendo's recent foray into the mobile gaming space has been super effective, to say the least. And that could be a nightmare for hard-core gamers like me.

Sure, Pokemon Go is making millions of people go outside, get exercise and meet people in real life. I won't deny it's fun: I'm a level 13 trainer on "Team Valor", and last weekend, I even took part in a Pokemon walk across the National Mall.

Pokemon Go definitely has its perks, but that's not the point. Photo / Michael Craig.
Pokemon Go definitely has its perks, but that's not the point. Photo / Michael Craig.

But the app's runaway success is evidence for developers who have been saying for years: "Mobile is where the future of gaming lies."

So said Hideki Hayakawa, chief executive of Konami, the Japanese game publisher that has been the steward for many beloved gaming franchises such as Castlevania and Metal Gear Solid.

Thanks to that mobile-above-all attitude, Konami has become one of the industry's most reviled publishers: In October, it cancelled the highly anticipated Silent Hills game that was to be directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Norman Reedus was supposed to be in the now axed Silent Hills.
Norman Reedus was supposed to be in the now axed Silent Hills.

I'm not saying Nintendo is going to put all of its eggs into one basket or incubator. The company is already committed to its upcoming NX console, and the 3DS handheld device has been a success story. No, I'm worried about all of Nintendo's imitators - basically the rest of the gaming industry.

Mobile-game development is a low-risk, low-cost enterprise, creating games for the most widely available gaming platform out there, the smartphone. And it's a lucrative business, making up 85 percent of all mobile app revenue: US $34.8 billion worldwide.

Pokemon Go might be a fad or a "craze," as Wedbush Securities gaming analyst Michael Pachter put it. But think back to the last time Nintendo created a global craze - that had a real impact.

In 2006, the Nintendo Wii console, with its easy-to-use motion controls, became the "it" gift that Christmas. People cleaned out the shelves with Tickle-Me-Elmo-like fervour, and the console became a staple in living rooms, retirement homes and rec centres across the world.

Ah, the good ol' days when the Wii first came out. Photo / Supplied
Ah, the good ol' days when the Wii first came out. Photo / Supplied

More importantly, the concept was quickly seized by Microsoft and Sony, who diverted money from other potential projects to produce the Kinect and the Move. Microsoft poured a half-billion dollars into marketing the Kinect, a device that gamers not only rejected but that actively hurt the sales of the Xbox One console by driving up its cost. The PlayStation Move entered and left the market with relative obscurity.

Think about it: A half-billion dollars went to market the Kinect, when it could have gone toward funding developers and high-quality, rewarding gaming experiences and stories. I have no doubt that Microsoft and Sony are plotting a similar response to Pokemon Go, which has already boosted Nintendo's market value by US $9 billion.

Gamers are already feeling the fallout as game developers shift their focus to mobile. In addition to cancelling Silent Hills, Konami botched the release of the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain by showing Hideo Kojima, one of gaming's finest auteurs, the door.

It was released with its story unfinished and underdeveloped. And what's next for Metal Gear, a high-concept postmodern saga critical of the military industrial complex? Pachinko.

A scene from Metal Gear Solid 4, before they botched the fifth one. Photo / Supplied
A scene from Metal Gear Solid 4, before they botched the fifth one. Photo / Supplied

On top of all that, the mobile-gaming market is choked with trash games (see Zenda, a cheap Zelda knockoff) with in-app purchases that nickel-and-dime players with virtual advantages that used to be called "cheats" in video games.

It's not unlike the market before the video-game crash of 1983, when successful Atari games were followed by dozens of copycats sloppily put together to make a quick buck.

Yes, Pokemon Go is pretty delightful. I've added tens of thousands of steps to my daily routine, and I've made several new friends just from participating in walks and Facebook groups.

But history suggests that the gaming industry will take the wrong lessons from its success, trying to capture Nintendo's Pikachu-lightning in a bottle at the expense of investing in high-quality titles.

There are as many types of gamers in the world as there are Pokemon. I just hope the industry won't forget us as it searches for the next mobile blockbuster.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 10 Dec 2016 07:00:29 Processing Time: 436ms