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This year I picked up a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 with the hopes of trying to become a "mobile gamer".

I started playing Minecraft: Story Mode, which proved to be worth the investment (in the game, not the whole tablet).

I have several others lined up that I'm hoping to participate in later this year, including Pokémon Go and Skylanders Battlecast, and my wife was quick to get me playing Dragonvale.

Everything seemed to be fine...

Enter the 3DS.

When Amanda expressed interest in Pokémon I was quick to join her. When I finished my twentieth hour in the game last night, I realized I'm only halfway through the story and I have less than half of the pokémon collected.

When I hit 40 hours logged in this game it will mean I have spent $1 dollar per hour of entertainment. That is a very low investment.

Thinking on that, I realized that all of the content this game offers was handed to me in the $39.99 price tag. I can get 100% completion without spending another dollar on the game. It's cheap to play a game like this.

And that's where mobile has gone wrong-ish from a gamer perspective.

It's called... money.

Now, I could easily make this about how greed seems to fuel the mobile game industry, but that's a little silly. Nintendo fully intends to make a profit from their games. Every business, at the end of the day, is trying to produce a product that sells like an iPhone.

So we know it's about profit, but not just profit... we're talking profit margin. 

Mobile developers found great success with "Free to Play" models, which allow individuals to download and play a game for free, while adding limiting factors that can be bypassed for a fee. The goal is for just 10% of the player base to pay for these fees. A "successful mobile game" is a game that finds a large player base willing to throw money for just one more try.

It works, and it allows developers to limit the content they produce, which means they can stay a small operation and pull in large revenue. When I say large I mean at and beyond 20% profit margins from quarter to quarter.

To compare, Nintendo has to work very hard just to maintain a positive profit margin

You could argue that mobile gaming isn't considered "real gaming", but the truth of the matter is that argument died years ago. With Activision buying King and Nintendo aiming to flood our smartphones with their own free-to-play games, including Pokemon Shuffle Mobile and Miitomo, it's time to admit that the highly profitable mobile game market has become the mainstream.

In fact, the rumor was 2015 was the year that mobile games overtook console games in profits. 

Earlier this year I was crossing my fingers that Pokémon Go would be the pokémon game I always wanted as a kid. Just like the handheld versions, but incorporating the real world so that I could go outside to fight and capture those beloved pocket monsters.

Now that more details have come out about the mobile game, I realized that this will be, by definition, a "successful mobile game", which means Nintendo is aiming for 20% profit margins, not the thrill of bringing their franchise to life.

I don't blame Nintendo for this, they are a business and this is a surefire way to boost their revenue. It would be foolish for them to not make something like this. 

There's plenty of that youthful cry as to why they're going this way. 
Many of us had the same burning question:
"Why didn't you just make a pokémon game for smartphones? I would have paid $40-60 dollars for that, easily!"
Maybe.

We probably would have; millions of us I suspect. They would have made a lot of money... for a quarter, or maybe two quarters, but they'd have also lost the sales of their 3DS counterparts as more people transitioned to smartphones.

Then what? If they want to maintain that profit margin they're going to have to crank out a new game every few years like they already do.

This brings us back to the precedent that was set years ago with microtransactions. Pokémon Go as it is currently described, is a game that can easily live for several years with only minor updates and bug fixes. They can introduce hundreds of creatures from their collection in a slow bleed, while also selling fans the 3DS games that will continue to be released.

Knowing what I know now, will I still play Pokémon Go?

Yes.

And that means I'm part of the problem. I'll probably even spend $10-20 on this "free" game to buy up some gear to catch my own pokémon before I burn out and move on to something else.

Meanwhile, 10% of the player base will spend hundreds (potentially thousands) of dollars to complete their collections. It's a win for Nintendo and anyone that calls them stupid or says they're worried for the company has got to take a time out.

This is going to make a lot of money for Nintendo. Not doing this would be a bad move. If anything they've waited far too long to roll out their mobile game arsenal.

So what's this mean for my tablet? Is there any hope for mobile games?!? Am I doomed to only find full-featured games on consoles and PC?!?!

I stand by my opening bit. Minecraft: Story Mode was a great game to experience on a tablet. I look forward to more stories from Telltale in the future. Meanwhile, other developers are experimenting with porting over their old console games to the mobile market to make some extra money, like Final Fantasy IX. While this has promising potential, I'm not convinced this isn't just a move to cash in on some old games they had in their vaults.

So, final answer? Maybe I am doomed, but maybe I'm not.

I think of Free to Play games as a genre. Just like any other genre, fans will eventually turn to something else. Ten years ago paying a monthly subscription for an MMO was normal operating procedure. Now, not so much.

People, and how they game, changes over time.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Free to Play evolves into something more exciting. I'll just have to report back next year and see where we've ended up!



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