Is A Mobile WCG Really Such A Bad Thing?
News of the WCG going mobile-only broke last week, in the form of a leaked letter from Brad Lee, CEO of the WCG, to the festival’s partners. We were sincerely hoping it was an April’s Fool (then) joke – since the news seemed too incredulous – but it looks like WCG isn’t kidding.
We’re not happy. Who would be? But here are some reasons why we think this is actually a sensible move.
It’s getting old.
That’s like saying how the Olympics can get old, right? But let’s face it – the games that made WCG big were games made a decade or more ago. They no longer have the clout to face off against games of today, especially not in the graphics or engagement department (Shinies! Achievements! In-game ranks!). Their successors are also slow in coming – CS Source was released in 2004, and the franchise hasn’t seen a fresher incarnation since.
Because of the lack of updates, players turn to other games to get their fix. It’s impossible to have Counter-Strike 1.6 match up against Battlefield 3. And the truth is, gamers of today are so spoiled by high end graphics and dumbed down gameplay that they’re never going to look back. It’s like asking someone who has played Skyrim to go back to NetHack.
WCG was conceived in an era where good and accessible online play was not yet available to everyone. There was a need for LAN parties and LAN tournaments if gamers ever wanted their social or competitive fix. I mean, there wasn’t much point trying to frag someone on a 56k modem.
Fast forward to today, where nearly every game manages its digital rights by having you sign in to an account over the Internet before you can play. Online play is readily available and highly accessible, with entire tournaments being built around it. Just look at Battlefield 3 and StarCraft II – these games are prime examples of having built thriving communities out of their online play.
Just this year, the prize pot for the Battlefield 3 Worldwide Conquest Tournament – held online up to the final matches – is going to be US$1.6 million.
The gamer’s experience online, made complete with accessible VoIP programmes, can easily match up to the same he might get at a live tournament. Why, he can even play the live stream while kicking asses in his final match. Is there really a need for LAN tournaments anymore?
Of course, we understand the need for offline competitions, especially on a professional level. But we also believe that the convenience of online play will take over pretty soon, much like how e-Books are killing the physical publishing industry.
Low cost, high gain
Unlike PC games, where one can wait for over a decade for a sequel (*coughblizzardcough*) mobile games are cheap and quick to produce, especially as developers fine-tune their production. Mountain Sheep, a Finnish developer with just seven employees, took twelve months to develop the iOS game Bike Baron. It has since broken the US$1m revenue barrier. Their next game, ‘Ice Rage’, took just a month to produce, and development cost dropped to just US$30,000 as the production process got fine-tuned.
In contrast, the production team for Counter-Strike took four months to release just its first beta, and newer incarnations of the game are slow in the coming. Mobile games get their updates at least once a month, and an expansion or update can be popped out quicker than you can finish the first game!
The quick turnover of games can mean a fresh lineup every year, and a new challenge with each gaming festival. Gamers will constantly have to stay at the top of their game.
And higher competition
Because it’s not just the pro-gamer, with his or her sponsored peripherals and salary, who will be competing for the prizes. Anyone from your grandmother to your English teacher from school will be eligible to participate in the Mobile WCG, simply because mobile games are so darn easy to pick up.
Their gentle learning curve means pretty much anyone can play them – and be good at them. Competition just got a lot tougher.
The massive number of mobile games available also means there’ll be a larger games lineup, upping the stakes further by increasing the number of competitors you’ll be up against.
Yes, it’s true that mobile games are primarily for the casual gamer, but they’re not games that can be beaten with just an hour’s practice either. We know a female private banker who’s a crack hand at Bejeweled, and plays it up till 2am each day, even on work nights. Try your hand at beating that.
Or maybe, it’s really like what the WCG CEO said. Mobile shipments are exceeding PC shipments, and it’s just time to change, or fade into obscurity. After all, mobile games aren’t such a bad thing. They’ve morphed the gaming community from a subculture to a mainstream culture, and they’ve certainly brightened up a lot of lives.
After all, challenging your girlfriend to Temple Run while lying in bed definitely beats fragging her into a sulk in a darkened LAN shop.