When I bought an iPhone 3GS in February 2009, I was in love. It was a beautiful phone, and as Apple told me “it just worked”. I was delighted and was desperate to see what the mystical “app store” would bring, so I went on to see… fart apps. Fart apps, fart simulators, fake broken screen, fart keyboard, Twitter, fart app and so on. I estimate that 75% of the now fruitful app store was filled with apps striving for the ultimate simulation of gastric expulsion.
A few years on, I’d upgraded to an iPhone 4 and the battlefield had changed. Fart apps had, by and large, been carried away on the wind, and a new era of productivity apps and games had taken their place.
The first time I saw the mobile market as a viable gaming platform was probably around 2009, when Steph Thirion released Eliss on iOS. This was the first game I noticed that pushed the concept of a “mobile game” — a feat that was left unrepeated until the 2013 release of Blek — and the first app that made me start thinking about the input on a touch screen device.
Now a proud owner of an Android device (something that made the wait for Blek particularly painful) I was introduced, quite recently, to a game titled Monument Valley.
I was linked to it via a friend, who gave me only one instruction: “Buy it.”
Notoriously poor with my finances, I looked at the long list of Humble Bundle purchases playable from my coveted HTC One M8, and gave it a pass. At £2.49, it would hardly break the bank, but I just couldn’t justify it at the time.
Fast forward to the present.
Team Ustwo have released an expansion and they’re charging £1.49 for it. Forgotten Shores adds content to a game desperately in need of content. A reasonably short, yet immensely satisfying, game at only 10 levels, an expansion pack was always on the cards.
Forgotten Shores adds a further 8 levels, which “can be completed in 45 minutes!” says one review. Have Ustwo committed what appears to be daylight robbery?
Not in the fucking slightest.
I grew up in the 90s with a Sega Master System and later a Mega Drive to keep me entertained. When my friend Bobby informed me that I could re-experience my beloved Sonic games by simply plugging into Sonic and Knuckles, it blew my mind. I would spend these times with my neighbour, both of us drawing new levels because we figured that we only had three Sonic games, so clearly Sega had ran out of ideas! Good job we’re at hand!
My point with the above is that there was once a time when we literally went out and bought other games so that we could access additional content. Had somebody told me that for £1.49 I could add another world to Sonic, I’d have begged my mother for the change while counting every penny I could find in my bedroom.
Fast forward again to the late 90s. I had discovered PC gaming and I was making the most of it. Having grown up with the likes of the Commodore 64 and the Amstrad CPC464, it was quite the natural progression to me. It wasn’t perfect, of course. This was a time before the common acceptance of the Internet, a time where each game (Tomb Raider especially stands out in my mind) was fraught with peril dare you edge to the Windows key.
A little known game called Age of Empires somehow made it’s way into my CD ROM drive — no burning discs for the common folk in those days — and I loved it. I played it through to completion until I was bored.
One day I was talking to my cousin about the game. He told me about a magical disk that allowed you to play more campaigns!
So I saved my money and bought this mythical “eks-pan-shun pak” and enjoyed campaigns as four brand new armies and not only that, but it actually added new features!
This was the future – today.
And so we’re brought back to the topic at hand: the mobile market.
When I first discovered ZeptoLab’s Cut the Rope, I thought it was fantastic. I dutifully bought and completed the following three offerings: Holiday Gift, Experiments and Time Travel.
Just as Call of Duty: United Offensive is not a sequel to the original Call of Duty, those three games are not sequels to Cut the Rope. They are standalone expansion packs, that people happily paid money for.
Ustwo ran afoul of one of the biggest problems in the mobile market: entitlement. Whether we like to admit it or not, we live in an age where we see £0.69 as “just right” for the average mobile game, and as a result, the average mobile game studio suffers.
Some were so angry at being forced to pay for this additional content that they went back and altered their previously glowing review to just 1 star, along with a complaint about how they were being ripped off by paying for new content. I suppose we should look on the bright side that they aren’t leaving positive 1 star reviews so that the developers will read them. (Hint: they will read your reviews regardless of your rating, your opinion matters.)
Look, I’m not here to change the minds of anybody, but making a game costs both time and money. A game like Monument Valley — something I’d consider to be one of the best mobile games available today — is well worth the £3.98 for the base game alone. By leaving those 1 star reviews, you’re hurting the company and the devs who slaved over this game for 10 months straight, trying to deliver the best experience that they could.
I would most certainly say they succeeded.
So let us all raise a glass to Ustwo, who set the standard impeccably high for the mobile world. Now get back to work – I will not rest until I see Forgotten Shores on Android.