From Mobile to Mobile

Originally published on Trevor Trove on February 23, 2016

I had the honor of reviewing Hitman GO Definitive Edition for my friends over at KnerdsOnline this week. I hadn’t played through the game when it originally came to phones and tablets in 2014. I had heard good things but with no attachment to the Hitman franchise, I didn’t feel the need to load it onto my phone. When the follow-up Lara Croft GO came out last year, though, I picked it up and enjoyed it enough to name it #9 on my top ten games of 2015.

At PlayStation Experience, Hitman GO was announced for PlayStation 4 and Vita. I played a bit of it on the show floor and figured I’d pick it up when the time came. If it was anything like Lara Croft GO, I figured I’d relish the opportunity to dive into a new series of puzzles from the Square Enix Montreal team. And sure enough I played through the whole game yesterday after work. These are the kinds of mobile games I would love to see more of on the handheld consoles like the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS. I get that it’s probably not worth the investment for the comparably small install base compared to iPhones and Androids but that fact that Square Enix recognized the passion of the PlayStation audience suggests that the brand awareness is also worth it.

I have no doubt, the timing of Hitman GO on PlayStation 4 a few weeks before the episodic new console game hits on March 11 is no coincidence. And I was be just as confident that, assuming sales aren’t terrible, we’ll see Square Enix give the same treatment to Lara Croft GO later this year when Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s Xbox exclusivity deal wraps up. And I’ll be sure to pick that one up too, despite having already enjoyed it on my phone. The level designs of these games is great for small bursts of play before bed or on a break at work.

I would love to see other developers get in on the act but I understand why they wouldn’t. When the free-to-play Angry Birds came to console and abandoned their ad revenue model, they released it for $40, presumably to recoup the cost. Going the other way, though, there are also the multitude of Final Fantasy ports onto cell phones (again by Square Enix), typically listed at $15 each. Not that the games aren’t worth that (though after 20-30 years there’s probably a greater level of markdown), but the touch screen versions of many of those games are subpar and charging $15 in the land of free is laughably out of touch with the “casual” audience they’re trying to attract.

So while I’d love to see something like Monument Valley make its way onto my Vita, I won’t hold my breath. Even a guaranteed success like Hearthstone doesn’t seem in the cards because Blizzard recognizes that anyone who would want to play it on a Vita or 3DS is probably already playing it on a phone, tablet, or PC so what’s the point of investing the resources in porting it to another system/network and dealing with all of the hassle therein when they can just keep designing new packs instead.

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