Have you ever been sitting in a meeting — or listening to a podcast, perhaps — where the merits of a game were being discussed and the topic of “Game of the Year” was raised?
Like our peers in film, music, and television, the games industry loves to partake in annual celebrations of talent and creativity, culminating in a singular product that stands above the competition as the year’s most outstanding achievement.
Unlike these other formats, however, the games industry produces experiences that can differ vastly from one platform to the next. The Academy Award for Best Picture is essentially the same product whether viewed in the theaters or on a mobile device, but the Game of the Year award is evaluated quite differently for mobile games than it is for PC and console titles.
The Game Awards, perhaps the industry’s most well-known annual awards gala, characterizes the Game of the Year award as “recognizing a game that delivers the absolute best experience across all creative and technical fields.” The Best Mobile Game award, on the other hand, is simply “for the best game playable on a mobile device.”
Of course, the “best experience” or “best game” doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about the success of the title as a product or business. The same is true of other forms of entertainment — otherwise, we might evaluate superhero movies and boy bands much differently. But movies and music do not come with the same expectations of generating consistent cash flow for multiple years post-launch in the way that mobile games are expected to operate as live services or “forever franchises.”
Further, the “best game playable on a mobile device” skips over much of the nuance around mobile games and their perceptions in the market. While mobile games have historically been viewed skeptically by Western audiences and among the English-speaking enthusiast press, in places like Asia and Latin America mobile is the dominant form of interactive entertainment.
Additionally, the lines between “mobile devices” and consoles are increasingly blurring. Hardware like the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch are…