Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Another Reminder Why Smartphones Aren't Going To Kill Other Handheld Gaming Devices

It's time for another segment in our ongoing series, "Why smartphone gaming isn't going to destroy standalone handheld gaming, part who-knows-what of infinity."

The story is that Rockstar Games decided to release Grand Theft Auto 3 for smartphones, including iOS and Android devices. However, ArsTechnica has a screenshot and a very good point:
Take a look at the screenshot included in this story. Just look at it. The virtual buttons added to touchscreen devices when traditional games are ported tend to be hard to use and easy to miss, and the mess that's on the screen in that shot makes it hard to get excited about this release. I know Apple isn't keen on releasing a physical controller for iOS devices, but c'mon guys, something has to be done.
I agree, the screenshot looks absolutely terrible. I can't imagine playing a game like this and having a good time.

So we have someone who makes this comment:
I would have to imagine this is unplayable using on screen controls. I can't play super mario brothers in an emulator using touch screen controls - this has to be ridiculous. And there are way to many overlays there, you are bound to screw up and hit the wrong one since the screens aren't very big (speaking from a phone perspective really).
Agreed. But then we have this opposing view:
The same argument is made every time a new console franchise is ported to smartphones. [...] The most telling aspects of media coverage such as this is that it it nearly always, if not always, conducted by non-iOS-focused tech sites. And the posters who chime in and agree are very often non-iOS or non-Android gamers.
He then proceeds to list a bunch of games that are great on iOS/Android.

OK, let's get this straight: No one is saying that touchscreen controls are bad. They work very well for a certain type of game. The games that the previous commenter mentions are games that transition very well to a click/drag interface.

However, most games simply do not. They don't. You can't bend them or stretch them to do so. In many ways, touchscreens simply cannot replicate the precision necessary for a fast platformer like, say, Super Mario 3D Land or a driving simulator like GTA, where one crash can mean death. It's not elitism or being a backward-looking fool. It's just a fact. Making this sort of straight port just hammers the point home. You simply can't take a game that uses a controller with four face buttons, four shoulder buttons, two control sticks and a D-pad and make that transition easily over to a touchscreen.

iOS/Android gaming is pretty cool, and it's amazing how quickly it's grown, but once again, standalone handheld gaming devices aren't going away for quite a while, and it's nice to have reminders every once in a while.