Activision Blizzard Is Warming Up to Mobile Games
Activision / Skylanders: Trap Team
In an interview early this year, a gaming industry insider wondered aloud: Where were Activision Blizzard’s mobile games? Unlike rival console juggernaut EA (which has published nearly 100 mobile titles), Activision had released only a handful over the years.
Even though mobile represented only 11 percent of EA’s revenue last year, it was a good question. And now we have an answer.
Following on the successful launch of Hearthstone, a digital trading card game starring characters from Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, the company said this week that it would release new mobile installments in two of its most popular franchises, Call of Duty and Skylanders. But what’s really interesting is that the two games are coming at the app stores in completely opposite ways.
On the one hand, there’s Skylanders: Trap Team, the fourth annual game in the series, which had been previously announced for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii and Wii U. Activision subsidiaries Vicarious Visions and Toys for Bob said on Tuesday that an identical version would launch simultaneously for the iPad, Android tablets and Kindle Fire.
“This is exactly equivalent to what we’re doing, game-wise, [on consoles],” Toys for Bob co-founder Paul Reiche said in an interview with Re/code.
The levels and characters are all the same, Vicarious Visions CEO Karthik Bala added, calling mobile Trap Team the “full console AAA experience.” Players will be able to choose between touch controls or a physical gamepad, which will be bundled with the Bluetooth “portal” that holds the game’s interactive toys. The app will be a free download, while the portal, controller and some starter toys will retail for $75, the same price as the console bundles.
The previous Skylanders mobile games — Skylanders: Battlegrounds, Skylanders: Cloud Patrol and Skylanders: Lost Islands — were generally well-received but watered-down version of the main games’ experience, so the sales of Trap Team’s “equivalent” versions on mobile versus consoles will be an important trend to watch this holiday season.
At the other extreme is Call of Duty, for which Activision is soft-launching a new mobile adaptation in New Zealand and Australia tomorrow. As TouchArcade pointed out, Call of Duty: Heroes sounds an awful lot like the current biggest mobile game in the world: Clash of Clans.
From the official beta announcement:
The latest Call of Duty mobile title lets you command an army of legendary heroes, elite soldiers, and an advanced arsenal of weaponry from the Call of Duty universe while building up and customizing a small outpost into an impenetrable base.
Friends can also better their odds by banding together to share and donate heroes and troops, while competing in challenges to reap in-game rewards.
In addition to scrapping many of the first-person shooter conventions, Call of Clans — er, I mean, Call of Duty: Heroes — will also be free-to-play. That’s a notable departure from the series’ previous mobile outings Call of Duty: Zombies, Call of Duty: Strike Team and Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies, which cost between $5 and $7, practically a fortune in the free-to-play-dominated mobile world.
Notice something there? Skylanders’ mobile game is hearkening to the console version, while Clash of Duty is learning from the current app store champion.
Not only are Skylanders: Trap Team and Call of Duty: Heroes taking different strategies, they’re actually trading strategies from their respective pasts.
And that makes a certain amount of sense: While hardcore graphics-obsessed Call of Duty players may not be willing to kick their console habits at the drop of a hat, Skylanders’ young players have grown up in a world of smartphones and tablets. To them (and parents looking to distract them on long road trips), having the game on tablets is a “no duh” next step, not a perceived step down.