A precursor, if you will: I’m a huge fan of portable gaming. Whether by necessity or convenience, having the ability to game on the go has slowly taken over – for me at least – mainline TV console gaming. It started to happen at some point last year, probably at the launch of the iPhone 4 (or thereabouts) and although touchscreen buttons and tilt control have been widely derided here and elsewhere, iOS has meant that – because I’ve always got my phone with me – I’ve always got games. Lots of them.
So whilst people will happily slate Angry Birds, I’ll stand by it – it, and other games of the ilk (Cut the Rope, Tiny Wings) offer up quick fire gaming with no need to dig out disks or cartridges and, with the advent of Game Center, flawless, seemless multiplayer. Inviting friends for a quick blast of Flight Control might not be terribly hip, but when I’m not ploughing through the latest PS3 game for review, a quick five minutes guiding Lemming-like aeroplanes around Australian suits me just fine, thankyouverymuch.[drop]Enter, then, the 3DS. A natural extension of my desire for on the move gaming, a solid portable backed up with the sorts of games only Nintendo fire out with any regular air of quality.
Although the manufacturer’s PR department would argue otherwise, the 3DS won’t live or die on its ability for GLASSES FREE 3D, or at least, it shouldn’t: the games speak for themselves, the updated fan favourites from Nintendo like Pilotwings and Nintendogs might be just that – updates – but they’re generally brilliant.
But, and here’s the rub, not every game available at the 3DS launch is published by Nintendo. Indeed, most aren’t, and whilst it’s an encouraging array of third party games that form the bulk of the current shelf space – Ubisoft, SEGA, Activision, Konami – some of these games we’ve seen before. On the iPhone.
Let’s take three: Asphalt 3D and Rayman 3D from Ubisoft, and SEGA’s Super Monkey Ball. The latter’s a brand new game, sure, but it’s arguably a lesser game than the recent iPhone Super Monkey Ball 2 – less levels, less minigames; and Asphalt 3D might not be a terrible game (despite common internet opinion) but it’s little more than a ‘best of’ taking levels and cars from the likes of Asphalt 6 on iOS. And Rayman 3D’s a port of Rayman 2, which, yes, is almost exactly the same as the one on the iPhone. Seeing a pattern?[drop2]This isn’t necessarily about the quality of these games, though – it’s about the price. Even if you take the hugely discounted price of a game like Asphalt (which was £25 in GAME last weekend) it’s already massively more expensive than its iPhone version, which is just £2.99 at the time of writing this blog. Rayman 2 was free at one point last year, and Super Monkey Ball 2 shouldn’t cost you more than 59p. Which means that, whilst you might well be enjoying these games on the 3DS, are you really getting good value for money?
Sure, on the 3DS you’re getting real buttons, 3D, and it’s obvious that the two markets are completely different in terms of publisher costs, physical media prices and marketing, but for a consumer, the only thing that would matter to most is the bottom line. And it’s this that meant my review of Super Monkey Ball 3D was marred by the knowledge that the game simply costs too much – not for what you’re getting (although that is true enough) but for what you could get on another platform, £25 would get you a heck of a lot on the App Store, probably most of the top 25.
So who’s at fault? Not Nintendo – games have been this price for ages. Apple? They don’t set prices. Really, the responsibility lies with us, the consumer. We’ve shown that we’ll buy many more copies of a game at 59p than we will at £1.19, and as Apple take the same percentage regardless of the price it makes sense for publishers that these bargain bucket prices are attractive enough to be completely impulse buys – some, like EA even bang out their top tier games like Battlefield Bad Company 2 at 59p on day one.
Luckily, you can’t get Pilotwings on the iPhone.