With smartphones growing more powerful and feature-packed with every passing year, the world of mobile gaming has exploded, offering the kinds of tense 3D action titles previously only found on home consoles and computers. Some industry experts, such as nVidia’s product PR manager, Igor Stanek, even foresee your humble mobile or tablet being the only gaming device you’ll own. After all, hook it up to your TV and you can play a massive range of games on the big screen, either with friends or on your lonesome.
The future of mobile gaming is an exciting mystery, but Activision is one company looking to expand your smartphone gaming experience well beyond Bejewelled. Its uber-popular Skylanders brand has hit iOS in the form of ‘Skylanders: Lost Islands’, ‘Skylanders: Cloud Patrol’ and ‘Skylanders: Battlegrounds’, three games which offer vastly different experiences. Lost Islands, for instance, is a free-to-play resource management game, while the action-packed Battlegrounds is an action RPG that sees you levelling up your Skylanders character while exploring the massive game world.
All three games are highly character-focused and feature rich gameplay, as Activision Mobile Vice President Greg Canessa explained to us. “They offer a deep experience not often found in many other mobile games. This is the kind of high production quality and immersive experience we’ll be looking to replicate going forwards.” Indeed, from a first look it’s clear that these mobile titles have been developed with just as much love and thought as the full console versions. In fact, Greg assured us that Skylanders: Battlegrounds uses the exact same engine as its PS3 and Xbox brothers.
But where Skylanders really stands out is its integration of real-world physical toys into the digital game, something that can also be found on the mobile versions. Codes that come with the console toys can be entered into your iPhone or iPad to enter those characters into the games, while Skylanders: Battlegrounds even has an optional ‘Portal of Power’, a Bluetooth pad that you can use to swap your Skylanders figures in and out of the game. You can buy the special boxed version of the game, which comes with the portal as well as an iOS code for the game, some starter figures and more.
Obviously carrying toys around on your travels might not be entirely feasible, but in Skylanders they are an optional way of expanding the gameplay, and will no doubt prove popular amongst kids this Christmas. It’ll be interesting to see if other developers take note and come out with their own versions – so far we’ve only seen toys that hold your phone and allow you to game in new ways, such as the Arcadie mini-arcade cabinet.
As for smartphones and tablets replacing home consoles, Greg isn’t convinced. “I think consoles will still continue to thrive,” he said, “as there’s some things they bring to the table that mobile games can’t. But we’re going to see more immersive experiences on tablets, and the two will happily co-exist.”
Many thanks to Greg Canessa for his time. The Skylanders games are available now on iPhone and iPad, with Android and other platforms being considered for ports.