Are turn-based mobile games a thing of the past?

Mobile games are as popular as ever, mainly because they are easy to play on a mobile device – plus, they can be played wherever the user may be at any given time.

There are many types of mobile games, but one type that has been hugely popular is the turn-based game. These will often be role-playing games (RPGs), and they are more in-depth than many of the casual games that are also popular on mobile devices.

But with mobile games becoming better and more complicated over time, is there still a place for turn-based games?


Measuring the ROI of mobile games

Mobile games, just like all games, rely on a good return on investment (ROI) in order to be considered “successful”. Developers and studios put a lot of money into marketing and advertising these games, so they want to ensure money will be generated from the game when it goes live.

There are many aspects that go into the calculation of ROI. These include whether the game will use ad-based revenue or in-app purchases, the average LTV (Life Time Value) for mobile games of this genre, and the numbers of users over time.

If turn-based mobile games are starting to drop off in terms of revenue, then there is a chance that developers and studios will set their sights on other games that are making more profit.


Strength of the franchises

You can find many high quality turn-based mobile games out there. Final Fantasy is one of the biggest, and is still played by millions of people on mobile devices. Other franchises such as Pokémon, Persona, and Yakuza have also earned strong followings among the most passionate and committed gamers.

One of the biggest issues that users have with turn-based mobile games is a lack of new ideas for the newer games. In the case of the larger franchises, some players have criticised the developers for frequently using the same characters or a similar story to previous versions.

This situation has caused some players to move away from these games and to seek alternatives, such as new turn-based games, or to move to PC versions instead. Although this might limit the time someone can spend playing compared to a mobile version, many players find PC versions to be more fulfilling than their smartphone-based equivalents.


Movement away from mobile devices

Considering the power of modern mobile devices, it is not surprising to see so many games make the jump to mobile versions. However, one of the reasons mobile games are so popular, could also be the reason why in-depth turn-based games may be on a downward trend.

By definition, mobile games are easy to play wherever the player is at a given time. They often don’t need to be set up each time someone plays; instead, the player can just jump in and get started. However, turn-based RPG games require a bit more thought and tactics to play. So, these games might not always be suitable to be played for short periods of time when the player is otherwise waiting for something (for example, when they’re waiting for their train at the railway station on a morning).

It may well be that this, together with the increasingly repetitive themes, is starting to turn off RPG gamers. If they need time to play the game, then they may just as well do this at home on a PC with better graphics and a larger screen. Could it be that the early novelty of playing these games on mobile devices is wearing off?


A change in game mechanics

 Some previous games, such as those of the Final Fantasy franchise, relied heavily on turn-based gameplay. However, the latest versions have seen a movement away from the traditional turn-based system to something more organic and challenging.

Still, for some die-hard fans, this has been a disappointing development. Moreover, some game developers have been blamed for making these games “too repetitive”, with the games not always feeling as addictive as they had been in the past.

Perhaps this is an issue with a lack of new ideas, or perhaps developers are trying to get the best ROI without having to spend a lot of money on developing the games further.

For those who had a particular affiliation to one franchise, any change could cause them to abandon the genre of mobile games altogether. This would then make it look like a genre-wide problem, when in reality, it might be essentially just one game or franchise at fault.


Conclusion: the popularity of turn-based mobile games may go up… as well as down

There is no doubt that mobile games in general are remaining hugely popular as time goes on. However, it may be that certain genres of games have ups and downs in how sought-after they are, just like the situation with PC and console games.

With new ideas from developers, we could see an increase in the popularity of turn-based games once again. For some players, however, turn-based games are still as popular as ever on mobile devices. So, it is important not to overly generalise the situation with turn-based mobile games, even if certain trends are still apparent.

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