We take it for granted that mobile games tend to be clever, addictive, and filled with little quirks to keep us entertained. While handheld gaming has been around for decades, the idea of being able to download any game we want, pretty much instantaneously, is still relatively new. Also new are some of the basic features and tricks that have made app games particularly tempting to an entire generation, even when the games themselves are just rehashed versions of concepts that have been around forever.
Consider for a moment the following four types of games, and how the mobile market has singlehandedly revolutionized them.
Here’s a dirty little secret that virtually everyone seems to have forgotten: word games are supposed to be boring. They’re the games you scratched out in a puzzle book on an airplane when you were six, or the ones you played only when your grandmother needed entertaining (sorry, grandma!). But somehow or other, the app market has made them cool, and explosively popular. The clearest example is Words With Friends, a nearly identical mimic of Scrabble that excelled simply by offering players real-time online multiplayer competition. In other words, it’s Scrabble, but you can use it to connect and compete with friends, family, and/or strangers. As part of a massive article on the best app games ever, Macworld included Words With Friends—basically the same game your family used to have to force you to play at the kitchen table. Go figure.
If you think about it, it’s pretty much established that games accompanying movies are usually bad. In fact, there may not have been a good one since Goldeneye on N64 (which GamesRadar ranked among the top-25 shooters of all time even with all the high-tech, mind-blowingly realistic games that followed). Think about it: great shooters aren’t modeled on great war movies; great fighters and brawlers have nothing to do with iconic kung-fu flicks; and even characters who come from movie franchises (Batman, James Bond, etc.) do best in games that aren’t linked specifically to movies. But somehow or another, we ignore this trend when it comes to apps. Most every time a big new action movie or superhero saga comes out, a cheap and unsatisfying app arrives alongside it, basically as a form of advertising. And droves of users download the games, simply because they’re accessible and current.
OK, you got me. It’s not exactly a surprise that casino games would become popular on app platforms given that they’re exceedingly popular everywhere else. But really think about it for a moment: we’re not just talking about poker and blackjack, but rather the whole swath of casino games. Somehow, the ability to play on a mobile platform has made the likes of arcade slot machines and bingo exciting for a whole new population using smartphones and tablets. How? Well, part of it is through the developers’ ability to offer promotions directly to players, thus making real money models more appealing. Gala Bingo’s promotional offerings even feature as much as £10,000 in free bingo chips to new players over the course of their first weeks. Bonuses like this certainly make even the traditionally boring or tedious casino games a bit more enticing, ultimately helping to explain how this genre is so popular in app markets.
There’s a difference between world building and world conquering, and the former, for many years, was considered by a lot of people to be tedious, if not downright lame. Games like Sim City and the like have often been frowned upon as pointless escapism, facilitating the creation of dull, simulated existences instead of real-world experience. That’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Well, I’m not sure exactly how, but the mobile genre made these games not only popular, but cool. Titles like Minecraft and Godus, in which you can build worlds and practice survival to no end, frequently appear on lists of the best or most popular apps. In fact, the category has grown so popular and so active that App Crawlr composed a list of 25-plus great apps for world building. Odds are this is largely because of the constant accessibility we have with mobile games. A world builder on a PC that you have to keep coming back to,
for example. can be more of an obvious detraction from real life. A mobile world builder is always with us, though, allowing us to tweak our activities on the go.
It’s really pretty wild to think how much some of these genres have been transformed without the actual games changing all that much. The perks of mobile gaming are just about limitless, and with innovation in this market ongoing, we’ll continue to see recycled formats and familiar concepts thriving in new ways.