It’s no secret that the sales of mobile devices have skyrocketed in the last five years, especially in relation to PC sales. It’s also pretty apparent that one of the main goals of an MMO is to tempt players into spending as much time as possible playing the game, thinking about the game, and contributing to the game. Why, then, don’t more MMO’s supplement the base PC game with some sort of mobile element? The devices are prolific. The opportunity is ripe to keep players thinking about and interacting with your game all throughout the day, as they have a few spare minutes.
Some gamers tend to obsess about the differences between casual/mobile gaming and hard-core PC gaming. But are the demographics really that different? Or do the same people who slay demons in an MMO by night pass a few minutes of boredom with Candy Crush during the day? And even if the demographics are different, why not try to expand your player base by adding mobile elements that compliment – or could even be played in place of – the main game? Major game studios seem to be ignoring the trends, as the latest three MMO’s of note (ESO, Wildstar and Archeage) all launched without a mobile offering. To do so in any other major tech-related field would be considered short-sighted. While RIFT does have an official mobile application, it feels very…anemic. It seems like they developed it to be able to say that they have a mobile app.
From the recent post Girls Playing More Video Games Than Boys, regarding British gamers:
apps are the most popular video game format (played by 55% of the online population).
The next most popular format was online games (48%) followed by disc-based games (40%).
More than one in four (27%) people played all three formats, rising to 70% of 8-12 year olds.
Mobile concepts that I think MMO’s should consider including:
I know some people really like the crafting aspects of MMO’s. I like the idea of making items for myself, guildmates and the auction house, but with my limited play time, I hate the fact that in order to level up crafting, I must sacrifice an entire evening’s play session. Imagine setting your character in motion during lunch break and coming home to a full-fledged smithy!
Inventory Management & In-Game Mail
I really can’t think of any reason that I should have to fire up the game client on DX11 through my dedicated GPU in order to drag stationary icons into little boxes. Like crafting, sorting inventory is not something I want to spend my evenings doing, and would be an easy thing to pop in and out of while riding on an elevator or waiting for the bus to arrive. Likewise, checking and sending in-game mail would be an obvious convenience.
This is the one thing that I thought RIFT got right. Offline guild chat allows guildmates to connect outside of game, plan events, and check to see who’s in game. It’s ironic that the very games that depend on player interaction to survive are stuck in the pre-web 2.0 world with regards to integrated social features. Don’t think so? Why do players need to create external guild pages just to stay in touch with guild friends and organize events? Shouldn’t these features be built directly into Massive Multiplayer games? Constant connection requires mobility, and the platforms of today are perfect for this type of integration.
Makes sense, right? Pull out your phone, try on outfits from your inventory, bags and even……
Here’s where the suits should perk up their ears. Imagine the possibilities, here: easy and immediate access to crafting ingredients, cosmetics, inventory slots. Smartphones were practically invented for this type of commerce. Micro-transactions are very often impulse purchases, but how much of an “impulse” can a purchase be when you’ve got to wait until you are home sitting in front of a computer to open up your wallet? MMO’s have long tried to figure out how to use the micro-transaction model within their games, but have completely ignored the devices on which these business models have seen the most success.
There is a certain type of player who really enjoys the economic aspect of MMO’s. These folks can turn trading and in-game commerce into a sort of mini-game unto themselves. So, turn it into a mini-game! This constant, immediate access to the AH would also boost the economic activity within the game, increasing competition and availability of goods. Cash flow equals a healthy economy.
This is less of an issue in most games today, due to immediate travel to beacons and discovered milestones throughout the game. Travel isn’t nearly as tedious as it used to be. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to have a moment of inspiration on your commute to work that you’d love to mine some ore in the land of far, far away but have inexplicably parked your toon on the doorstep of nearby? No problem, launch your mobile app and tell him/her to start walking. By the time you’re able to grab your pickaxe that evening, he/she would be in exactly the right spot to dig!
This only really applies to games like STO or AC:Brotherhood where groups of minions are sent on missions to level up their skills. Again, perfect fodder for a mini-game, and an opportunity to keep your game’s brand placed blatantly in front of a player’s nose.
In the day and age of MMO’s trying to be everything to everybody, I’m constantly surprised that they don’t also attempt to be more convenient, immediate and social. Mobile apps that compliment the main game would fill all three of these gaps.