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A few things Mark Wallace

Tag: iPhone

Fitting Mobile Games Onto a Board

Temple Run Danger Chase: fun?
This is cross-posted from the Quora blog I recently started as an experiment. Why am I cross-posting this here? Who knows…

I love the idea of board games based on video games. But I’m not sure whether I like that idea better, or the idea of board games based on mobile gaming apps — like the Temple Run Danger Chase game, a review of which I stumbled across the other day.

The idea of tying board games to licensed IP in this way is very appealing. It doesn’t absolve the game of its burden of fun (the Temple Run game sounds like it may or may not have accomplished that), but it does give the games a leg up in a market in which few original titles see any appreciable sales. I know that games for properties like the Walking Dead and others have done very well for themselves, probably much better than if they’d just been pushed out into the market as games qua games.

This, of course, is the same avenue that a lot of electronic game publishers go down, not always with good results. Licensed video games run the gamut from fantastic (some of the Star Wars games) to abysmal (too many titles to list). But then, so do adaptations of books into movies. The license doesn’t make the product any better, it just makes it draw more attention, from a more qualified audience. And in the low-margin world of board games, that’s important.

The reason I like the idea of games made from apps is that the interaction footprint of an app is generally so small that you can extract a nice tight core mechanic from it for use in a game. What’s an interaction footprint? It’s something I just made up; like it? It’s a term that’s meant to characterize the number of possible interactions you can have with an app, or with anything, I suppose. Temple Run has an exceedingly small interaction footprint: you can swipe up, you can swipe down, you can swipe right, or you can swipe left, and two of those do essentially the same thing. In fact, the interaction footprint of Temple Run is so small that it sounds like the designers of the board game saw the need to add some.

Mobile games, especially those playable on a phone, are often forced by constraints of form factor to boil their experience down to a few key interactions. That’s not the only way to design a good board game, but it can be helpful, especially in a game for the mass market. Board games have other constraints, of course, in that feedback happens much more slowly than in electronic apps, and so more variety may need to be built in. But my top-of-head thought is that there must be a ton of mobile games out there with small enough interaction footprints that they would translate well into analog games. I’ll be right back, after I hunt up a few.

UPDATE: Forgot to include the news that board games for DOTA2 and Team Fortress 2 are on their way. Cool!

Didn’t Actually Exponentiate

Nicholas Lovell’s GamesBrief has an Interesting look at iPad / iPhone sales figure for Great Little War Game, which is actually a very good (but I would not say great) little strategy game. Co-founder Paul Johnson notes that a 5-star review from Touch Arcade, the biggest iOS games site on the Web, produced a nice spike but “didn’t actually exponentiate.” I’m not actually surprised to hear this, not because of the nature of games review sites, but because of the nature of the game. Because GLWG doesn’t actually include a multiplayer mode (other than in-the-room-with-friends “pass and play”), it’s hard to see how a spike in uptake would turn itself into viral adoption. Of course, Angry Birds was in the same boat, but that’s a different beast, aimed at a different (and much broader) audience, and with a different (and again, much more broadly welcoming) price point. So this GamesBrief post ends up being a look at the pop you can get from high-profile reviews and front-page category listings in the app store. These things turn out to be only an intro into the top of the sales cycle; what you do at that point is up to you, and it seems that the nature of the game is what determines the outcome more than anything else. In this case, I’d say GLWG might have a better time pursuing other marketing channels. Given the profile of the audience, a turn-based strategy game is never going to take off like wildfire in the app store. But I’d suggest there are channels where it might capture a more appropriate set of eyeballs, eyeballs that are ready to cough up more cash (so to speak) than most casual / arcade games are asking these days.

Nude Skin Patch for… the World?

Mashable reports on an augmented reality iPhone app that lets you see the world as if no one in it were wearing any clothes. Catch the video from the “clever marketer” who created the app.

Of course, it isn’t real. But what’s interesting about it to me is that it’s the real-world version of a gamers’ mod that’s existed for years. Both World of Warcraft and The Sims (as well as other games) have seen their versions of the “nude skin patch,” alternately delighting players and disgusting critics, both in the press and on the internets. It’s a very durable kind of pre-teen humor, but it’s also an example of how technology is making the world more and more like a video game. Nude skin iPhone apps aside, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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