Cell Phones Make it Hard to be a Gamer

Cell phones have come a long way from the days of the Motorola RAZR playing Breakout with the number keys. Over the past several years, due in large part to Apple’s iPhones and App Store, the world has seen it’s share of smartphones functioning not only as mobile phones, and mobile computers, but also as handheld gaming systems. Late last year, Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 7 with built in Xbox LIVE functionality. Earlier this month, Sony revealed the Ericsson Xperia Play (pictured above), the first in a new line of gaming-centric smartphones they plan on rolling out later this year. For gamers such as myself, this serves as a major headache more than anything.

Gaming has seen a lot of great releases over the past 10 years, with each of the “big three” (Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft) all having a lot of great exclusive games available for their respective systems. Normal people (i.e. recreational or casual gamers) may be content with owning a single system and accepting they won’t be able to play every game that comes out. But for the hardcore like myself, people who own or wish to own all available systems, both console and handheld, to play all the new titles that come out, the strain on our wallets is bad enough without having to worry about our cell phones trying to butt in on the action.

The problem with cell phone gaming is that no one phone and/or carrier will be able to experience it all. This wouldn’t be a problem if the games available for my smartphone weren’t any good. After all, a chosen platform lives or dies based on the software available. But there are a lot of really good games out there, and each phone OS will undoubtedly have its share of exclusive games just like their more conventional counterparts.

2007’s God of War: Betrayal was available for multiple carriers
and devices, even ones not developed by Sony.

Windows Phone 7 has Xbox LIVE integration, meaning a lot of games will tie into my LIVE account, allowing me to gain achievements and message my friends while on the go. With the new Xperia Play, and all future “PlayStation Certified” phones, I’ll be able to integrate my PlayStation Network account and play old PSOne Classics, and supposedly even ports of PlayStation 3 games. The iPhone, with its popularity and head start on other phones, will probably have the largest community, meaning it may be the phone of choice for multiplayer among friends.

Another setback is the price. While games, or “apps”, on these phones cost typically less than $10 each, the phones aren’t cheap, and neither are their respective monthly plans. If I currently own a phone that doesn’t allow me to play these games, I’ll need to spend upwards of $500 on one that does if I’m not currently eligible for an upgrade. And many of them require a data plan, adding an extra $20-$30 to my monthly bill. With Verizon now selling the iPhone, and reportedly also the Xperia Play when it is released, that makes it the only current US carrier to supply all three major smartphone operating systems (iOS, Windows Phone 7 and PlayStation Certified Android). So if I have to purchase phones on additional carriers, the costs get even higher. It’s just too much for a single gamer to manage.

Maybe I’m making too big of a deal out of this. Obviously these phone companies are going to do their best to try and sway me one direction or the other, and it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to try every game released. But I hate being left out of good gaming. I need to play as many of the great games out there as I can, and I imagine there are a lot of other people out there who feel the same way. Unfortunately for us, it doesn’t seem like we’ll be able to keep up with or passion for games without spending our life savings.

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