Web Games Can No Longer Ignore Mobile Players

iPhone 4S - GameIt appears shoppers prefer to use the mobile web rather than mobile Apps to buy online, according to recent research by Nielsen Wire. The study also found men tend to try out retailer mobile apps more than women who prefer browsing the websites on tablets and smartphones.

But does this same pattern apply to multi-player web games? With the number of smart phones that support HTML5 growing daily, it’s easy to think it might be so. Not for simple games like Tiny Tower that are best as apps and playable anytime, anywhere.  They don’t really need the internet but multi-player games such as MMOs or strategy games do.

Converting an existing web game into a good mobile game experience as an app isn’t easy, and it makes changing the website much harder. It’s far easier to make the website work on mobile in the first place and ensure that future changes don’t break mobile play.

One of my favorite desktop wargames is  Sean O’Connor’s Slay, but I didn’t like the iPhone version as much. A game with many mouse clicks doesn’t work as well on a small touch screen. It’s a very good implementation but feels different on the iPhone. It’s better on an iPad with more screen area but a mouse still beats the finger for this game.

There’s also the issue of how mobile friendly the website is to start with. Some websites just do not work well on mobile. Maybe the tricks the designers used to make normal browsing a pleasant experience break it on mobile. Having many pull downs is clumsy on mobile.

Even recent games, including those written in HTML5, don’t quite get it right. When I played illyriad, I issued build orders at home on my desktop in the evening and next day check at lunch on my smartphone. It was mostly playable on my iPhone, apart from the research tree that jumped all over the place.

Designing, developing and testing a multi-player strategy takes months or even years and I don’t think that their developers have seriously considered mobile use until recently, especially if the game client was written in Flash.

The days of only desktop games is over, since mobile friendly games opens it to a growing audience. This begs the question though of what changes to games designs need be made for mobile in the first place. Certainly in the App store, strategy games built on hexes aren’t that common. Slay is one and HexEmpire another.  Let’s have a bit more imagination with mobile friendly strategy web game design!

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