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Android Headliner: Konami and Square Enix’s Mobile Focus Isn’t Great News

May 15, 2015 - Written By Tom Dawson

Earlier this week, major video game publishers Konami and Square Enix made announcements to focus on the mobile market, and no, we’re not talking the 3DS or PS Vita here, folks. While Square Enix was less direct about the change of direction, Konami is effectively betting the farm on smartphones from here on out. You might not know this, but it’s probably unsurprising anyway, but we like our games here at Android Headlines. Many of us are PS4 players, while we have Xbox One gamers as well as mobile obsessives, too. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been playing Final Fantasy X HD on my PS Vita, and the PS4 version arrived yesterday in all its steelbook glory. With big releases like Final Fantasy XV for Square Enix and Metal Gear Solid V from Konami coming later this year, it makes this news all the more interesting and for some, quite concerning.

First of all, let’s start with Konami which has a whole lot of drama going on right now, who told Nikkei news this week that Konami “will pursue mobile games aggressively’. The machine translation is a little wonky, but Konami is dead serious about this change of direction and said that “following the pay-as-you-play model of games like Power Pro and Winning Eleven with additional content, our games must move from selling things like ‘items’ to selling things like ‘features”. Basically, Konami sees mobile gaming as the future of gaming for them, or at least their accounting department do, anyway. Square Enix weren’t quite as direct, but in an a recent earnings report said that the environment “surrounding the Group is in the midst of major changes, where smart devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs are spreading rapidly, while the console game markets in North America and Europe are increasingly competitive and oligopolistic. In light of such environmental changes, the Group is focusing all efforts on a substantial earnings improvement through driving reforms of business structure in order to establish new revenue base”.

Last week, I pondered whether or not the PlayStation brand could have saved Sony’s mobile division from poor sales and a lack of exposure, and I stand by that, but this is not quite what I had in mind. Square Enix have been publishing games like the classic Secret of Mana and one of my all-time favorites, Chrono Trigger, on Android for some time now. While fans often complain about the price, at least there’s no in-app purchases in these classic gems. This is the problem with this week’s news that these companies were focusing on mobile. The idea of bringing classic franchises to more gamers than ever is exciting! Having to cough up another two or three bucks here and there to unlock the next level however, is not. In-app purchases continue to make up a massive amount of revenue for game publishers, but they’re not suited for the types of games that Triple A publishers create. Take a look at Monument Valley, a fantastic game that looked great and had innovative gameplay was fairly inexpensive however, when the creators – rightfully so – asked for a fee for more levels, people complained. In-app purchases are best for things that keep gameplay going, that give you “MOAR” but not “more”, if you follow the analogy. Just take a look at Sonic Dash and Dungeon Keeper.

Then, there’s also the issue of controls. Personally, I detest playing a game for long on a smartphone or tablet. It’s horrible. Then again, I’m a mid-twenties guy who grew up with a Sega Genesis, the PlayStation, the GameCube and the Xbox 360. Physical controls not only give you all of your display, but they’re familiar, there’s fewer user errors, and it’s all good fun. Sliding around controlling a 3D action game on my Nexus 9? Not my bag.

I realize I am in the minority these days though. If I talk to friends just a few years younger than I and the majority of games they get excited about are all mobile-only games. I have a few favorites myself of course, like Fruit Ninja, Monument Valley and Subway Surfers. My girlfriend’s little sister, who is 8, runs rings around me in Minecraft, while I pine for controller support and curse my poor dexterity. There’s money to be made off of mobile games, and I’m sure Konami and Square Enix will find their pot of gold, I just hope that they don’t lose track of creating console games, or games in general, for the sake of it and not just gold coins.