Mobile Games Subgenres – Exploring Mobile Game Tropes

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This may be controversial, but I believe mobile games have their place in the gaming landscape. There is potential for greatness in the mobile market, whether it be ports of currently existing games or a brand new experience. I will agree with the gaming populace that most of the time, game developers and, more commonly, publishers squander that potential with obnoxious monetization practices. While searching for hidden gems on the Google Play Store, I’ve noticed a pattern: most games fall under mobile-specific subgenres.

Now, typical game genres are nothing new. Grouping games as such helps us determine at a glance if a game is suitable for us. In mobile games, however, many have tropes that I’ve grouped under their own subgenre. I considered reviewing some of these games until I realized the review would be: “it’s like X, but with a different coat of paint.” There are probably many more subgenres that I don’t include today, but here are a few that I’ve explored recently.

Genre 1: Idlers

Idlers are games that require little to no input from the player. These games generate resources automatically to strengthen their characters, upgrade efficiency, or decorate their locale. As much as I hate to admit it, I like these, to an extent. Cookie Clicker is a prime example of an idler, where the player generates cookies by clicking. As the player gains more resources, they can automate the process through upgrades. Idle games follow that mindset with little deviation. Mobile examples of what I consider idlers are Idle Planet Miner, AFK Arena, and Tap Titans 2.

Where mobile versions of this idea take it a step in the wrong direction is with its monetization practices. The game often incentivizes players to spend real money on in-game resources to boost their production speed. If the player wants a boost but doesn’t want to shell out the cash, they can watch a thirty-second advertisement. On paper, an ad to get a free boost doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but this can quickly get annoying if the advertising interrupts the player’s game. I like playing idle games in short bursts, but they can get old quickly.

Genre 2: Wanna-be RPGs

These are games that, on paper, seem like typical RPGs. At first, the game has the player select each character’s actions deliberately and even throws in a few strategy elements in there. When the player gets to a certain point in the game, however, it introduces an “auto” option, which has the game, basically play itself. Examples include Princess Connect Re: Dive, RAID Shadow Legends, Disgaea RPG, and Dislyte. 

I can see some people make the argument that one doesn’t need to turn on the auto option. My problem with this is that the game usually takes care of ninety percent of the threats thrown at the player. When the game does put up a foe too daunting to be disposed of automatically, it ends up being too strong for the player to take on most of the time. At this point, the game requires different resources to power up the player’s characters to progress.

I understand that each game has its own optimization strategies, but ultimately, these games end up feeling the same to me. I tend to get invested in them for a little bit, then realize: “Oh! It’s the same as [other game].” At that point, interest declines sharply, and I drop the game entirely. RPGs do have a place in the mobile game scene; I wish they offered meaningful experiences rather than copying and pasting the formula of others.

Genre 3: Arcade-like Games

Back when the internet was relatively new, there were websites dedicated to free, small-scale games using Flash. Most of these websites are still around today (Newgrounds.com and Addictinggames.com, to name a couple). With the emergence of mobile games, one would think that it would be a decent place for arcade-like games to thrive. Some are fun when they don’t go overboard with their monetization or ad placement. Notable titles include Every Hero, PinOut, Archero, and Blade Master.

When done right, these games are a great way to pass the time when waiting for an appointment or traveling. However, some of these games have ads that play after certain stages. When that happens, it takes the player out of the experience. I want the person who thought of interrupting the player with an ad to think about where they went wrong. If developers want to place ads in their games, they need to have the player’s consent to play the ad and should reward the player for sitting through it.

Egregious Monetization

All the genres listed above have one thing in common: they employ at least two forms of monetization discussed in the article “Monetization in Games” article. I understand that a game has to make money somehow, but there are ways to monetize a game without being obnoxious. Having ads in your game can truly sour the experience for some people, which is when they aren’t overly intrusive either.

Time is Money

One common argument I see online is: “the game is free, so why are you complaining?” I have a couple of issues with that statement. Firstly, while it is true that the games that those games have no cost of entry, playing the game requires time and, in some cases, dedication. I like it when a game rewards me accordingly for the time I spent on it, either through mastery of complex game mechanics or by granting me proper in-game rewards. 

My second counterpoint is that it doesn’t take much for players to spot a cynical design philosophy in a game. If there is a massive difficulty spike in the game because the enemy now has overwhelmingly higher stats than the player, then it becomes clear that the game wants the player to spend money to boost themselves up. I understand that the people arguing against this don’t want to admit this point, and if they don’t see a problem with it, more power to them. I’m saying that I’d like it if those games didn’t try to take up all of my time or money by placing arbitrary roadblocks.

As mentioned, there are other mobile game subgenres I didn’t cover today, but as I play more mobile games, I’ll undoubtedly find more and make a follow-up article. I ended up going on a bit of a tangent at the end, but monetization in mobile games is something players should always approach with vigilance. A player’s time and money are valuable to them; it’s a shame that some developers don’t see it that way.

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