The Inevitable PC-Mobile Merger


Let’s take a journey into the future, past World War III and AI that makes decisions without understanding humanity, past famine and Big Brother-style governments, to what really matters: the Steam Storefront. What will the Steam of the future look like? While I can’t outline all of the details—since I am a product of my time—I can make one prediction, one I’m willing to bet Monopoly money on: the Steam library will be brimming with mobile games, and nobody will notice.

There’s a pervading notion that mobile titles are subpar. They’re the gum wedged between the grooves of your shoe as you went out to collect the mail, an insult to the “superior pleasures of the PC master race.” I’ve met people who spend a good bit of their daily dose of energy elucidating the finer points of their dislike: “mobile games are garbage,” “I hate mobile,” “it’s [mobile] ruining gaming.”

I get where they’re coming from.

Mobile games like Clash of Clans use asynchronous multiplayer that feels devoid of meaningful interactions, whereas Candy Crush pours player's money down a funnel—right into its mouth. Others rely on rehashed mechanics: card games, city-builders, connect-3’s, runners, hero collectors, and a few MMORPGs with cash shops fueling street-fights.

But these aren’t mobile games anymore. They’re just games. Because they’re showing up on PC.

Titles that were once exclusive to mobile have creeped onto PC without apology. Just the other day World of Tanks Blitz decided it was good enough blast my frontpage. And I guess it is. In the last 24 hours it peaked at 6,326 players; that may not seem like a big number to some readers but compared to the overall Steam library it’s standing high above the majority of games.

For a good reason. Some mobile games are good—at least good enough for PC players to not care where a game came from. The top Steam review no longer reads, “mobile port, garbage.” Instead, it’s a fat thumbs-up with an explanation best summarized as “yeah, I had fun.” They had fun. Let that smell hang in the air for a second, let it balloon in your nostrils; they had fun playing a mobile port on Steam.

Mobile games are no longer lepers the average gamer steps over on his way to a AAA title (Gumble 13:37-46). They’re as clean and sought after as any other game. It’s only a lingering disdain that continues to fuel the total dismissal of any title created for mobile.

Don’t misunderstand. Plenty of mobile games perform horribly, and deserve to. They are truly terrible, and insult my idea of what makes a good game: copypasta’d cash grabs designed to get in and get out like a spy—or young lovers. But the market is stabilizing. It’s not as easy to make a mobile game and be successful anymore. You have to stand out. And that’s driving a meeting place between mobile and PC.

We can see that meeting place by looking at the future of mobile games.

G-Star 2016 is coming up, at the time of this writing, and a few mobile titles have shown off their gameplay. I want to bring up one that deserves recognition: Project 100. From the trailer, it is a mind-boggingly–high-quality Unity game that made my jaw say “did you see that?” to my chest cavity. It looks great. Looks aren’t everything, of course. But looks get you in the door, get you to press the download button. And I, a staunch PC gamer, feel more and more drawn to play games on mobile because they’re starting to look like PC games.

Mobile devices are no longer limited by the same hardware limitations as they were in the past. And thanks to Unreal Engine 4 and Unity, developers are beginning to create high-quality titles you expect to find on other systems. Soon enough, high-end mobile devices will be on par with the average PC. By the time Cyberpunk 2077 releases maybe you’ll play it on mobile, PC, and console—and it'll look great no matter what.

I find it exciting to see the mobile market beginning to mature. It’s like seeing a child I never wanted grow into one I can learn to love.

Keep in mind, mobile gaming is barely in its adolescence and it will be some time before true high-quality titles show up. But the moment is inevitable.

Maybe one day, far into the future, won’t even bother having a “Mobile” games category, because mobile will just be another way to play the same games you can play anywhere else. Or you won’t even have a PC. You’ll plug in a portable device to a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse when you get home and use it just like you use a computer now. Only the old-timers, the one’s still caught up in nostalgia for youth like a guy polishing his 1955 Corvette will tinker with outdated Desktop PCs.

That’s just a thought. A thought that may come true. But even if mobile becomes the average gamers go-to way to play, I’ll still be accessing the Steam storefront from my PC.

From Mega Man II to Ape Escape, I've been playing games for as long as I can remember. I've spent months killing porings in Ragnarok Online and more recently lived a second life in Eve Online. I usually play as gUMBY, gUMBLEoni, or gUMBLes in-game.