While handheld systems continue to have a certain appeal for (primarily younger) gamers, smart phones have become the de facto gaming device for pretty much everyone.
Who could be surprised? More than 35% of Americans own an iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry phone now. That’s more than 100 million people with instant access to Angry Birds, Xenovia, and Boob Massage 5.
The obvious answer is advertising. As the tournaments name might suggest, the LG Cup can only be entered by people playing the mobile version of SF4 on LG’s newest phone, the Nitro HD. Is this phone any good? Is there a technical reason the game couldn’t be played on another device? Of course not. But how would LG get you to give a shit about their mediocre, low battery life device otherwise?
Are mobile phones capable competition-level gaming platforms?
The answer, dear reader, is no.
The reasons are many, but I’ll outline the biggest two for you.
1. Spectator sport – spectating = garbage. Think about the most exhilarating moments of competition play. Maybe you remember a particularly tense EVO finals match, or a superbly executed instance of Phoenix micro, or even your favorite Superbowl moment. What do they all have in common?
You were able to fucking watch them. There were cameras or live feeds capturing the tense events as they unfolded, letting you, the non-participant, enjoy the stunning gameplay. Mobile platforms, especially smart phones, don’t provide that… at least not yet. Do you want to attend an event where the last match amounts to looking at two guys jerking around their LG Nitro HDs on a stage? Or at shaky, over-the-shoulder camera footage of those guys?
Until server software or reliable, straightforward video exporting technology exists for these devices, nobody is going to want to watch people play competitive matches on them. Correction: even if they did want to watch, they wouldn’t be able to.
2. The honor code vs cheat codes. Competitive games have standards. Standard height pitching mounds. Standard controller allowances. Standard performance computers. But what happens when the entire competitive environment –the game, the controller, the system– is inside a cell phone?
Simply put, chaos happens. Can you confirm the other player isn’t cheating? Do you check his phone for rootkit changes that give him an advantage? Has his game client been modified? Is his phone set up to emit microwaves that kill his opponent? All of those things are well within the realm of possibility.
And while a typical Street Fighter IV tournament only requires a few system checks, button checks, and hardware checks, a mobile competition means every single competitor’s hardware and software must be checked. It’s time consuming, tedious, and stupid. Even if nobody ends up cheating, odds are someone’s smart phone is going to crash during the tournament anyway. Awesome.
I can’t stop you from entering the LG Cup Street Fighter IV HD Global Championship 2012. Nor can I stop LG from giving their contest such ridiculously long-winded names. But don’t expect to see mobile gaming reach the upper echelons of spectator gaming any time soon. Especially not on mid-tier cell phones.