The gaming landscape is changing. A decade ago mobile platforms were seen by many as the home of basic minigames and lesser experiences, but in a few short years it’s become the biggest sector of the gaming industry – and it’s still growing.
Longtime console-game brands have noticed, and are starting to shift more of their output to mobile. The likes of EA, Ubisoft, and Activision are already enjoying huge success with smartphone titles based on Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, and they’ve all announced plans to expand their mobile offerings further over the coming years.
To learn more about the rise of mobile gaming we spoke to two of the developers from King, the company behind Crash Bandicoot: On the Run, which is the first Crash mobile game, and the latest console icon to make the jump to smartphones. They explained what it was like adapting Crash for mobile, and why console players might, despite their reservations, find something to love on their app store.
The same old Crash in a new way
When you think of free-to-play mobile versions of your favorite franchises, you expect a significantly reduced experience. Mario Kart Tour upset many fans with its lack of multiplayer at launch, and games like the soon-to-be-shut-down Kingdom Hearts: Unchained X traded RPG gameplay in 3D for simple 2D turned-based combat.
Stephen Jarret (Creative Lead) and Chui (Principal Designer) explained that out of the gate, Crash Bandicoot: On the Run was designed to feel like the games that people fell in love with on console in terms of the aesthetics. “We wanted to make the game’s visuals and sounds to feel like a Crash game,” said Jarret “We gave each location in Crash Bandicoot: On the Run unique music, bosses, mechanics and gameplay for this reason.”
There’s more to a game than how it looks, of course. Chui played a lot of Crash with her family growing up, and she wanted On the Run to recreate the emotions she felt. “I know many people used to play Crash together with their loved ones, so we’ve translated that ‘let’s play Crash together’ experience too,” she told us. “The Team feature lets you play together with friends, and this time you won’t have to fight for the controller!”
From our own experiences playing the game, what Jarret and Chui are saying rings true. Crash Bandicoot: On the Run feels like a genuine entry in the Crash series, and an important one at that. As Jarret explains: “Crash Bandicoot: On the Run sits at the center of the Crash Multiverse – it is the first Crash game that unites all the other Crash games.”
Occupying such a significant place in the series as a whole, it’s no surprise that this Crash mobile game has been released in 2021, the same year as the Bandicoot’s 25th birthday, and Jarret promised that more surprises and classic characters are set to appear throughout the rest of the year to celebrate this major anniversary.
This dedication to the mobile game shows that King and Activision aren’t just throwing Crash Bandicoot: On the Run out into the ether and hoping it prospers based on its name alone. It’s a game that’s been carefully designed by fans of Crash for fans of Crash, and it has so much to offer players of all stripes.
If you’re a casual player the story’s difficulty ramps up nicely, and Jarret believes its the most accessible game in the series yet, while if you long for a challenge, Chui pointed out that you can still show off your skills by completing challenging Time Trials – like the ones that appear in the classic games – or taking part in seasonal competitions to earn rewards with your team.
Why more characters are making the move to mobile
But why move console characters to mobile at all? If they’re successful, why not leave them on console? Well, mobile gaming is so big these days that you can’t ignore it. In 2020, mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets accounted for an estimated 50% (or $86.3 billion) of the global gaming market, while console gaming was just 30%. In 2010, mobile gaming only made up approximately 10% of the global market, so its growth has been remarkable.
This surge in popularity not only presents huge financial opportunities for studios and developers, it makes gaming more accessible than it ever has been. Few of us these days don’t have a smartphone, and we’re hungry for diversion and entertainment, be it at home or on the commute to work.
Chui says some of her friends don’t own another gaming device, yet they’ve already fallen in love with Crash by playing the smartphone game. The accessibility of mobile gaming opens up so many opportunities for classic characters to find new audiences, and we imagine more will follow in Crash’s footsteps – Jarret teased as much, saying “you might see another Activision IP appearing on mobile in the future…”
We’ll likely have to wait at least a little while before we find out what, and who, is next from Activision – we’re certainly hoping for Spyro the Dragon – but what we’ve seen from Crash Bandicoot: On the Run has us excited for what’s to come.
If you’re a committed console gamer who up until now has been skeptical about, or maybe even dismissive of, mobile and free-to-play games, it might be time then another try – you might be pleasantly surprised by what’s out there.
Crash Bandicoot: On the Run is out now on Google Play for Android and the App Store for iOS