Hate the Player, Hate the Game
To get some player perspectives on the subject of portable multiplayer, we did a survey with a group of random gamers to find out what they thought about co-op on mobile devices. Their responses were practically identical. To paraphrase: "Sure, I'd try a co-op game on my phone, but it would probably suck. Also, you look really handsome in those shoes."
Mobile games have a reputation for being crummy imitations of "real" games on PC and console. They're distractions that keep your hands busy. Mobile gamers aren't even seen as gamers, they're just average people who have phones in their pockets who want to stare at a screen for a few minutes while they're in line at Starbucks. Mobile game mechanics take all of four seconds to learn, and no real thought is required to win, just repetition. That's not exactly fertile ground for multiplayer experiences. Even if it were, it seems people are more embarrassed about the mobile games they play than any console or PC games they're into. Why would you ever want to share the shame with a friend?
This is a convenient stereotype for what mobile games represent, but it isn't exactly an accurate picture of the mobile gaming world. At least, not what it's trying to be. Bigger, better, more "serious" games are trickling onto mobile devices to provide more than just button mashing screen tapping mechanics, and sometimes they carry co-op modes with them.
The Devs are There
We pestered a few developers who have released mobile games with multiplayer modes, hoping to uncover the conspiracy behind the anti-cooperative movement. One of those developers was Henry Smith, creator of Spaceteam.
Spaceteam is a unique member of the mobile co-op world. It allows up to eight local players to join together to run a simulated spaceship, calling all of the shots on their individual devices that display custom panels based on their role in the crew. The fun part is Spaceteam doesn't even have a single player mode, it's designed for groups. Since smartphones are in just about everyone's pockets, there's very little barrier for entry. Just whip out your device and start playing.
We asked Henry if he felt there's player demand for co-op games in the mobile world:
I think a lot of people just don't know what they're missing. The biggest games in the world like World of Warcraft and League of Legends have strong cooperative aspects [and] if we had more mobile games that captured that feeling of working together (but on a smaller scale) then co-op games could become a lot more popular.
What's the one-word response we're looking for? Pretty sure it's "testify".