How to better combine home and mobile gaming

by Phil Owen

When we discuss ways in which mobile apps and games can interact with home gaming, we must realize that this is a relatively untapped idea. The Xbox SmartGlass app, which I discussed previously, is brand new, and was probably created in response to the Wii U. In general, though, our mobile and home worlds don't collide too often outside of our mobile security keys for massively multiplayer games.

But it does happen occasionally. Blizzard developed the Mobile Armory for World of Warcraft, which novelly allows you to participate in the gold auction house from your phone. This is an outstanding idea, and it seems strange that they have not developed a similar app for Diablo III.

Then you have the Mass Effect 3 Datapad for iOS, which allows players to play a mini-game that will affect their Galactic Readiness rating within the core game, thus influencing what kind of ending they can get at the conclusion of the story. Further, that app features a mobile codex of information on the game world, but it's incomplete. That version of the codex does not unlock entries as you unlock them within the game, meaning that the only knowledge you'll get from the app is that from before the events of the game.

And then you have the companion app for the upcoming console title Watch Dogs, which will provide you with a real-time map of the game world, providing you with information on events going on out of sight as you play. The app will also allow players to enter their friends' games and tweak the world as they play, such as by flipping a traffic light from green to red as they approach the intersection.

Closing the gap between console and app

There are more ways we can interact with home games while we aren't home. There are more ways for us to engage. Here are some ideas.

The mobile auction house for World of Warcraft is good, but what about a mobile cash shop? I don't know about you, but when I play Star Wars: The Old Republic, I usually try to make the most of my time within the game by actually playing it, and not by browsing for new lightsaber crystals. I'm sure that game's new cash shop is doing fine, but it would do even better if people could spend their free time away from home by shopping for items or opening random loot packs. Currently, you can only do these things within the game itself.

An extension of this would be resource management. Imagine if you were able to modify your Call of Duty or Battlefield loadouts on the go. Or if you were playing an MMO and you had spent the previous day questing and want to spend this evening in player-versus-player scenarios, you could change your character's gear and swap out modifications. Or if you bought a few clothing items from a cash shop and wanted to mix and max until you had a set you like. I know I rarely stick with the predetermined sets.

Saints Row: The Third, another home game, has a standalone application called the Initiation Station, which allows you to create a character from scratch for use in the game. These character designs are uploaded to the game's website, and you can download them when starting a new game or visiting a plastic surgeon within the game. If they can make a standalone program for this, why not a mobile app? Folks would mess around with something like that constantly. I know I would. Character creation in games is often a lengthy process, and it would be nice to be able to not have to sit in front of the computer or dominate the TV while doing this. An app would also allow you to take breaks during the process.

As I said above, a good mobile codex would open up new entries as you unlock them in the game, so by the end of the game you have a good, handy encyclopedia of information. But they could be more than that. There is an app for the PlayStation 3 that is more or less a Metal Gear Solid encyclopedia. The Metal Gear saga is quite complex, so I liked having this on hand when I played through Metal Gear Solid 4. Ingeniously, this encyclopedia also had all the information about that game, but it was all redacted until you had a completed game save file. That would be even better as a mobile app than something you have to view on your TV, and there are plenty of games with expansive and interesting worlds that could use such a tool.

Sony has an interesting deal with the PS Vita. They have made some games, like the Metal Gear collects and PlayStation All-Stars, available on both the PS3 and the Vita. When you purchase the console version you also get the Vita version, and your saved games transfer between the two platforms. If you have PlayStation Plus, even, your games store themselves in the cloud and are easily accessible on the fly on whichever version you want to play. Independent developers creating smaller games would do well to adopt a similar practice between PC and mobile. You can get Super Hexagon on both your iPhone and computer, so why not make it so buying one gets you both versions? I'm sure there is some infrastructure obstacles that would need to be overcome, but I don't doubt that enterprising developers could do that if they really wanted to. And I think that kind of feature would be very appealing to many gamers.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The mobile scene is still a veritable Wild West, and console game developers have yet to fully embrace it as a way to make serious cash. As they start to figure this stuff out, I have no doubt that we will see a lot of very interesting things. 2013 might be the year for that as SmartGlass adds more functions. At the very least, it give us something to hope for.

Download the Appolicious Android app