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Mobile Devices, including phones, tablets, media players, and calculators, is a catch-all term for portable electronics that are not specifically designed to play video games, or at least not as their primary function. However, particularly in recent years, many of these devices have had the ability to play games, often via digital distribution.
The first mobile games appeared in the mid 90's, as versions of games such as Tetris and Snake began to be included in some cellphones. Snake in particular was very popular for some time, and would find its way onto hundreds of millions of devices. These games were typically embedded into the devices in question, and games could neither be added or removed from the system.
Calculators, meanwhile, were another hotbed of game development. Whereas cellphone games were typically sponsored by the companies making phones, more complex calculators had games designed by amateur enthusiasts. To this day, calculator games have advanced little, due to the limited hardware necessary for such a device, but a sizable community of game designers has grown around them, and some calculator games have become the favorites of students worldwide.
Mobile games began taking off in the early 2000's, as more advanced cellphones and similar devices became more popular in places such as Japan. Soon, a wide variety of mobile games appeared. These games were often based on retro titles and genres, or were otherwise designed to be played in short spurts. However, attempts to make game-oriented phones were unsuccessful.
Since 2007, mobile devices have been making great strides in being able to compete with specialized gaming handhelds. Apple's iOS series in particular, which includes the media players called iPods, cellphones called iPhones, and tablets called iPads, has been the home of literally hundreds of thousands of titles, which have been downloaded billions of times.
Most mobile games, even in recent times, have a notably different design philosophy than typical console and even Game Boy titles. For one, due to their lower development and sales costs, mobile games tend to be much shorter or limited than games on other platforms.
Another difference is how money is generated from mobile games. Whereas most games on consoles and on the Game Boy are one-time purchases, with DLC being an occasional option, mobile games often sell in-game resources, such as extra time, currency, and items, for a modest price. Many allegedly free games are often only feasible to complete after purchasing a large amount of virtual resources.
Like the Game Boy Nitro, most modern mobile devices have a touch screen that can be used to play games. However, unlike with the Game Boy series, this comes at the cost of many buttons, including traditional face buttons, shoulder buttons, and D-Pads. Therefore, although it is possible to emulate buttons using the touchscreen, many games have simple controls, reliant on tapping and drawing lines on the screen.
Success against the Game Boy Series
Mobile games have become very popular since the mid-2000's, with some games being downloaded more often than the best selling retail games of all time have had copies. Furthermore, since mobile devices are more popular than Game Boy devices, many more people tend to play mobile games than Game Boy games.
However, the success of mobile games has not come at the cost of the Game Boy series. Despite launching only about a year before the iOS family of devices did, the Game Boy Nitro became the best selling dedicated gaming device of all time. Furthermore, although its successor, the Game Boy 3DS, has only been out for a relatively short time, it has enjoyed healthy sales.
Furthermore, although many new and small companies are flourishing on mobile devices, most major game developers and publishers have continued to support the Game Boy series. Neither Nintendo nor Sega have released any of their games, new or old, on mobile devices, instead keeping them exclusive to their hardware. The chief exception to the rule is Electronic Arts. Electronic Arts was never a major supporter of the Game Boy series, instead focusing on PC and console games. However, EA has recently ceased support for the Game Boy series, with one EA executive calling the 3DS "a waste of time."
Initially, games sold on digital stores for mobile devices were rated by the managers of the store in question. For example, hundreds of games and applications were submitted to the iOS app store in 2007 and 2008, without any official ratings. However, after a series of controversial apps passed inspection, an uproar was caused among many lawmakers. Upon a Congressional threat to pass video game regulation, the companies behind several online stores, including the Apple App Store, agreed to require games to be submitted to the ESRB.
Since the ESRB requirement was passed on many digital storefronts in early 2009, the nature of digital distribution has changed. The costs associated with the ESRB rating system have driven up the cost of games, drastically cutting down on the number of games released and sold. Furthermore, whereas many early applications and games cost as little as 99 cents, many post-2008 games cost from 2 to 5 dollars. Alternatively, many freemium games have increased the price of their virtual goods and rights.
List of Popular Mobile Games by Release Date on Mobile Devices
- Tetris (1994)
- Snake (1997)
- Bejeweled (2006)
- Insane Pong (2008)
- Space Invaders Reborn (2009)
- Miami Shark (2010)
- Paper Planes (2011)