It’s not unheard of to hear about mobile games appearing on a home console. Angry Birds Star Wars has a console version (read our review), Zuma and Peggle have been set-top-box hits, and there are other examples I’m surely missing. But a console game developer going mobile? That’s a bit more novel. Especially when the developer was behind Titanfall.
Titanfall (shown above) was the first non-launch AAA game for either the PS4 or Xbox One, so both manufacturers were watching its success with interest. The game has done well, owning the top sales spot in March according to NPD Group, though it wasn’t the Xbox One-selling phenom Microsoft may have liked. Critically it’s held its own as well, with an average score of 86.7 on Xbox One and 84.7 on PC, according to GameRankings.
While good, those sales and score metrics aren’t eye-popping. Perhaps that’s why Vince Zampella, co-creator of Titanfall and the Call of Duty franchise, and Larry Pacey, a former head of a slot-machine manufacturer, have just formed a mobile gaming startup called Nuclear Division. If the money’s in mobile, why not follow the trail?
The move to mobile isn’t unprecedented. Less that one year ago Microsoft’s Xbox head, Don Mattrick, jumped ship from Microsoft to become CEO of Zynga. It’s just that the timing of the Titanfall creator’s move to mobile seems odd. And, frankly, a bit scary for us console gamers out there.
According to an interview with GamesBeat, the Titanfall creator made the move “to test the waters for some new ideas in game development.” As the article said, that decision is “a big deal, since one of the game industry’s most talented console game makers is recognizing the value of the fast-growing mobile gaming business.”
The Titanfall IP is likely owned by EA, not Respawn, which means Titanfall 2 on iPhone — while a compelling proposition — isn’t a guaranteed thing. At least not without EA involved.
Think about it for a moment. Titanfall is already a multiplayer-only game. Without a campaign, the proposition to play against friends via WiFi or a 4G LTE connection is entirely feasible. Heck, with phone screen sizes getting bigger and increasing in resolution, the chances are high that it’d be downright fun. Screw Words with Friends; how about Mechs with Mates?
According to GamesBeat, “Zampella will continue his main job as head of Respawn Entertainment…. His role in Nuclear Division is more as an investor, adviser, and board member.” Still, if the traditional console-game development world doesn’t allow Zampella and other developers like him to test new ideas, if the only solution is to found a mobile-game studio to push the innovation envelope, what does that say about the future of consoles as a whole?
Nobody can rightfully claim consoles are dead. The PS4 vs Xbox One sales results, though tilted decidedly in Sony’s favor, show the next-gen consoles are alive and thriving in spite of mobile games. But over the long term, when we consider the eventual appearance of Titanfall 2 and other AAA franchises, is it unreasonable to think developers may give more attention to the iPhone and Android versions?
Zampella is clearly enamored with mobile. “It’s a device that I play on because I always have it with me,” he told GamesBeat. “It always connected. You’re engaged with it. There’s something you can do with that. I’m not saying one is better than the other, in terms of console versus mobile. It’s a different gaming experience. Both interest me.”
It is different, no question there. But if developers’ creative outlet and ability to experiment looks less bleak in the mobile space, what’s to keep them focused on Xbox and PlayStation rather than your phone or tablet? At what point will the “second screen” of today become the “primary screen” of tomorrow? Will we see Titanfall 2 on iPhone? And more important, would you play it there? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.