EA Mobile’s E3 2015 iOS games made me sad

Sections: Conferences, E3, Features, iDevice Apps, iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod touch, Opinions and Editorials

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I’m going to make a quick analogy here. In the early ’80s, when music videos were still pretty new, they were also pretty interesting. Music producers largely stayed out of them, doing little more than assigning a director and telling the band when/where to show up. As such, pretty much anything could happen, for better or worse; when you’re not investing millions of dollars into a music video, you don’t stand to lose millions of dollars, so who cared?

But then came Duran Duran’s exotic trip to Sri Lanka and Michael Jackson’s goofy journey to Zombietown, and suddenly music videos were costing millions of dollars, and producers were now taking part in the decision making. Inevitably, all music videos started to look the same, lost their personality, and eventually grew so boring that the M in MTV came to stand less for “music” and more for “moronic.”

I’m not saying EA’s E3 2015 iOS lineup is moronic, but things are very much starting to look the same.

Minions Paradise

Just a couple years ago, EA Mobile wasn’t even allowed on the show floor. They had a meeting room booked at the JW Marriott, if I recall. It had a great food spread in order to attract people off the show floor, but I didn’t need the food. It was my job to find great iOS and Mac compatible games, and the EA Mobile Suite—through Chillingo, I guess—always had them. Wonderfully unique and inventive titles such as Icycle: On Thin Ice and The Act. Games with that seemed to perfectly capture the spirit of the iPad itself.

This year, EA Mobile is showing only three titles: Madden NFL, FIFA and Minions Paradise; a football game, a fútbol game, and a movie tie-in. Now, don’t get me wrong here. These all look like polished, well-constructed games, offering more of what fans of each franchise will want. Madden NFL continues to provide hard hitting football action in mobile gaming bursts, allowing you to meet challenges that help you build your dream team. Want to spend just a few minutes running drills or achieving goals? Fine. Want to build a team and take it to the Super Bowl? Fine.

FIFA is starting to roll in more features of its console counterpart, adding goal celebrations and the like. They’ve also dropped the year from the name, indicating a more fluid upgrade schedule. Although I’m not a fan of soccer, I won’t deny that the game is fun to play.

And honestly, Minions Paradise seemed the most entertaining of the bunch. I’m not likely to go see their movie this year, but I know who they are, what they do, and how they entertain, and the game taps directly into that. Trapped on a tropical island after their cruise liner sinks, they’re tasked with survival under the direction of Phil. There’s no task before them that can’t be met with the typical Minion enthusiasm and general incompetence. Fans of the Minions and lighthearted sims in general are going to love it.

But I wish there was more to love. I think it’s fantastic that big name publishers like EA are embracing mobile gaming at E3, but they need to do more than just shove mobile versions of big name games and franchises in our face. When you’ve got the PS4 version of Madden blaring on giant screens downstairs, no one will care about the tiny version playing upstairs.

Tomb Raider Relic RunAnd the same goes for you, Square Enix. You just released Chaos Rings III, for Pete’s sake. Chaos Rings III is a fantastic turn-based JRPG that is right in line with the majority of the games occupying your massive booth. So what mobile game do you show on the few iPads tucked away in the back? Lara Croft: Relic Run. An endless runner. Because if there’s one thing the E3 crowd loves, its casual games.

Again, the amount of iOS games on display at E3 2015 is encouraging. The types of games, however, are not. It’s possible this won’t change, not when E3 is dominated by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, and the companies catering to their whims. That’s what E3 is for, after all. I just hope that doesn’t carry across the mobile gaming landscape outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center. There are many wonderful, inventive, and often hardcore games out there waiting to be discovered, and I’d hate to seem them buried under a bunch of balls, be they foot or fút.

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