Do We Really Need Mobile Games on Switch?

Mobile gaming has gained quite an interesting reputation over the past few years. As smartphones and tablets have quickly become commonplace and arguably even necessary items in the average person’s life, many game development companies have flocked to them as new sources of revenue. This has led to mobile games continuously being the biggest profit generator in the whole gaming industry year after year. While I’m not a big fan of mobile games at all, I understand their mass appeal and have no issue with their popularity. What I do have a problem with is them shoved onto dedicated gaming platforms like the Switch.

Now, don’t think I’m trying to be all ‘elitist’ when I say that mobile devices are “not true gaming platforms”. There are some nice experiences on those devices, but they’re not built with the primary feature of playing games (minus the Razer Phone). Game consoles, on the other hand, are dedicated gaming machines—hence the name ‘game consoles’. With that being the case, there’s a very clear divide between mobile and console games.

Mobile games are generally built to be very simplistic and addictive. They’ve become popular due to their ease of access in terms of having simple mechanics, being on devices that have become common for most people to own, and also usually being free-to-play (the profit generation comes from the now infamous microtransactions).

All of these factors make-up the overall reason as to why so many studios have jumped on the mobile game development bandwagon: less effort for more return. Mobile games are a lot cheaper to make than AAA-releases, and profit generated from microtransactions far surpasses what is spent on development.  That’s all fine and dandy when these titles are kept on mobile platforms, but not when they’re brought over to traditional game systems.

Mobile devices are not built primarily for gaming, so ‘mobile games’ tend to be very simplistic with far less production value than console titles. The Switch is a console, so it doesn’t need mobile releases. 

Mobile developers had already begun to take an interest in the Switch since its launch last March. While there currently isn’t a huge amount of mobile titles on the system, the number has been growing ever so steadily. There are mobile titles on PS4 and Xbox One as well, but the Switch is in a particularly odd position when it comes to this situation. This is due to its hybrid functionality which allows it to function as both a home console and handheld system. In order to achieve the unique tablet-like design that the Switch has, Nintendo teamed up with Nvidia to build the system. This led to the Switch being outfitted with a custom Nvidia Tegra chip and an ARM processor. Both of these components are mobile technology, which has made things rather simple for mobile developers.

This is why titles like Beach Buggy Racing, and Voez have been able to be ported over to the Switch so quickly. Aside from them being simpler than traditional console games, they were brought over to a system that’s relatively close in design to that of mobile platforms, albeit a lot more powerful. The Switch’s handheld mode which makes use of its touchscreen has also made this process a whole lot simpler for mobile developers. Essentially, out of the three current home systems, the Switch is practically the ‘perfect’ match for these type of games. Ironically, that’s the problem.

As mentioned before, mobile titles tend to be a lot more cheap and simplistic than their console counterparts. They don’t have the same depth and production value. They’re meant to be fun time wasters for casual gamers, people who see games as more of a convenient distraction rather than a hobby or authentic entertainment experience. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but that’s why mobile games should stay on mobile platforms. Porting them over to consoles and even PC just doesn’t make sense. With the Switch’s portability, these games do fit more naturally rather than on a standard home console like the PS4, but then the question comes up: why play a mobile title on Switch instead of an actual smartphone or tablet? There’s really no good reason to do so, especially since the Switch has its own titles which are true console-quality.

Not all mobile ports are bad, but what’s the point of playing them on a console rather than an actual mobile device?

There have been many games that have a mobile version to compliment the console/PC versions. The mobile versions tend to be much more simplistic, if not entirely different. While no mobile version of a console title has come to the Switch yet, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. If more and more mobile titles are ported over to the system, there is potential that something like that could end up happening with studios who may not want to put the effort into bringing the ‘full console experience’ over to the Switch. That would be a very dangerous precedent to set.

Ever since the N64, Nintendo consoles have had a gradually harder time attracting third-party developers. The Switch seems to be the biggest turning point since then as many companies seem to be taking an interest in the system. As a result, the eShop shouldn’t be flooded with sub-par mobile releases. We don’t need another shovelware problem like what the Wii had.

Ultimately, it’s not completely terrible to have mobile games on the system, but what’s been brought over so far has been subpar at best. This just goes to show that these kinds of titles don’t belong on a console, even a hybrid like the Switch. People buy game consoles due to them being built with the primary feature of playing video games. As a result, each console deserves quality releases. Leave the mobile titles in the app stores where they fulfill their own primary objective: being cheap timewasters. Even with that said, it’s really up to Nintendo to decide how many of these games it’s going to allow on its platform, which is why I’m hoping we won’t see the same level of careless that was shown during the Wii era.

The worst-case scenario would be for developers to port the simplified ‘mobile editions’ of their games instead of the full console versions. That hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean some companies won’t be willing to try it.

A.K Rahming
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.