Mobile games should revisit the past…

I’m sure there’s a reason, but why is it that the most popular games on mobile devices are mindless efforts like bird-flinging?  Don’t get me wrong…Angry Birds is addictive and fun, but it’s also generally mindless.  Games like Plants vs. Zombies are slightly better, because they require a bit more strategy and planning, but they’re still not on par with some of the games from the past.

What happened to the amazing games of our childhood, though?  Games like the original Super Mario Brothers series, or Baseball Stars (quite possibly the greatest baseball game ever created)?  Most of these games are far superior to today’s mobile offerings, and are generating little to no revenue for their owners.

How hard would it be for SNK to take the original codebase for Baseball Stars, slap it inside some native container, and port it to iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone?  I mean, perhaps I am missing something, but if you had a wildly successful game on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (something high school seniors have probably never ever heard of), why wouldn’t you continue to push that game onto other platforms?

This post was meant to start a discussion.  Why do you think we’ll never see some of the amazing games of our childhood on our mobile devices?  You can’t tell me that Atari wouldn’t want to sell a couple hundred thousand more copies of Adventure to mobile phone users, right?

What do you think?

15 thoughts on “Mobile games should revisit the past…

  1. It’s because big revenue generation comes from advertising, and that comes from many screen refreshes. Angry birds in the perfect example – 3 or 4 birds; fail; rinse; repeat; new ad impression.

    I have thought the same things as you, however when I made a business model up, the game that people can play for 30 seconds to 5 minutes at a time is the way to go.

  2. Because of controls. You can’t just slap a touch screen picture of an NES controller on the screen, because that works really badly. Mobile games, really good mobile games, need to be written specifically for mobile controls. Which means you can’t just shovel it over (generally), which means costs go up.

    And really…Baseball Stars as the best baseball game ever created? Puh-lease. Let’s start with the Bases Loaded series, MLB2K series, Baseball Advance, and then we’ll talk about Baseball Stars.

  3. I’ll go on record backing you up that baseball stars is the best baseball game ever created. I would love to see that resurrected on Xbox Live Arcade.

  4. Mobile games that do well understand the limitations of the interface – almost every hit on mobile involves using just one finger to play. Mobile games also need to be aware of when they are play – spare moment in the day. You need to be able to stop playing a mobile game at anytime to put the phone away and you don’t want to be punished by the game for it.

    As for the NES/Atari style classics? I carry a DS Lite with a set of emulators and rock them all!

  5. Like Matt said the controls are probably the biggest hurdle as you’re not going to see a lot of companies create dedicated hardware for games on the mobile platform right now (Sony’s Xperia is the only one that does so and it’s part of a larger move by Sony into the smartphone space). There are a few add on devices for phones that add joysticks to your phone but nothing major has really broken through.

    As for old games there are a ton of licensing and royalty issues wrapped up in some of the older games that makes them unprofitable to produce (Sega had to remove a lot of content from Crazy Taxi for inclusion in it’s best hits package).

    Guessing this is a trend we’ll see pick up in the future but honestly the control issue really holds a lot of games back as you can’t sell peripherals to play a game that’s going to cost more than $3 or so.

  6. Make an NES controller that plugs into the USB port on said phone.

    Then you pretty much have a Nintendo DS for the cost of the controller.

    Can’t wait to play some Contra on my EVO some day.

  7. I hope it’s coming. Good Old Games ( is making a nice bit of money taking old PC games and repackaging them so they’ll run on modern versions of Windows. Valve is doing the same thing on Steam. Hopefully some one in the mobile space will pick up on this.

    If you have kids I highly recommend the “Incredible Machine” pack from GOG — it’s a lot of fun but also exercises problem-solving skills. (We bought it for my autistic 11yo for that reason.) And at $10 it’s a steal.

      1. It was enough to get me to buy it…my kids are already addicted. Thanks for the mention!

        Also, I discovered Many of the old NES games emulated through a Java add-on. Pretty awesome.

      2. Glad you like it. I’m really glad GOG picked this one up — I can get a lot of older game/edutainment titles to run on XP by playing with the compatibility settings, but this wasn’t one of them.

  8. I have to agree on the time commitment and aspect ratio. I can’t commit playing a long game plus my battery life wouldn’t be able to support a full feature game. I also agree that the screen is clear and all, but the controls are limited.

    The best games I have played are turn based games that require little movement or touch sensing. There are some great racing and airplane simulation games that use the motion sensing capabilities but sometimes they are glitchy or don’t respond as you would think they would.

    I have a smartphone for it’s main purpose, a communication tool (facebook, phone, text, etc) and games are just a bonus. If you want to focus more on games then the phone needs modified. Maybe something like the new PSP phone to be released?

  9. I do think the controls have a lot to do with it; screen real estate is another consideration. An engaging gaming experience on a console or PC will not necessarily translate well to a mobile device. I can’t imagine trying to play a Halo or Portal title on my iTouch, but I’ll bet I wouldn’t like it.

    But to expand on @Jono’s point, you’re also looking at a different audience. To use your example, a baseball game takes time; it’s one thing to sit at home and work on that, it’s another thing to try and do it on your phone when you’re standing in line at the food court. I think mobile app usage by definition lends itself more to small chunks of play … so the more “immersive” games are naturally going to be less attractive to port over.

  10. I too agree that Baseball Stars is the best baseball game ever! Whew, I played that game a lot.

    Side note: You’ve been putting out some great thought provoking posts recently, nicely done and keep it up. P.S. Nice choice on the Focus (I don’t have one, but I came to the same conclusion a couple of years ago myself).

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