Gaming hardware is there for Android, but the content just isn’t; I wish companies like Nintendo cared about Android.
The Nintendo Switch is freaking awesome. Pretty much anyone you ask will agree if they aren’t too busy playing Animal Crossing or Zelda. It’s portable but can connect to a television, has wireless controllers that mostly don’t suck, and every big name developer is tripping over its own feet trying to get games ported to the platform. Yes, it has Skyrim.
But under the small screen is the same type of hardware you would find inside a high-end Android device. In fact, if NVIDIA had chosen to remake the Shield Tablet, it probably would use the exact same hardware as the Switch. There is nothing magic inside, just an ARM CPU with a bunch of GPU cores built by NVIDIA just like the Shield TV.
The hardware in your expensive phone has the muscle to do it.
The difference, of course, is the software. The Switch has a basic but fairly complex OS running on it (or you can install Android on it if you like) that really only exists to load games. My phone also has a complex operating system and can load games. NVIDIA has even ported over some great titles like Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, and Half Life 2 for its Android devices and they all run well. They even run well on very old hardware like the NVIDIA Shield Portable we saw released years ago.
I have little doubt that phones using current hardware from Qualcomm and have a way to manage heat (read: “gaming phone”) can play Animal Crossing. Or Breath of the Wild. And yes, Skyrim, too. The only missing piece is the game publisher.
Nintendo, Blizzard, Bethesda, and all the rest of the game publishing industry do not care about Android.
Nintendo, Blizzard, Bethesda, and all the rest of the game publishing industry do not care about Android. Companies aren’t afraid to go all-in for Stadia — which is a new service that may never become popular — yet the idea of remixing an older game for Android or even making a new game like Animal Crossing for 2 billion Android users is not a good idea. Square Enix did it with some Final Fantasy titles and everybody loves them for it and even Stardew Valley has made its way over.
The interest is there and the proof of concept — games from NVIDIA, Square Enix, and more are in Google’s Play Store and just work — shows that it can be done. That means there is really only one reason it is not happening: money. Tomb Raider, for example, is a game that runs really darned well on the Shield TV. However, there are only 28 reviews on Google Play so a little bit of reasoning says that very few people wanted to shell out the $15 for it.
Stardew Valley paints the same picture on a bigger scale. Tomb Raider is only available for a single device series from a single manufacturer. Stardew Valley is there for at least a billion users of Android phones, tablets, and Chromebooks. It has about 45,000 reviews. Not everyone who bought the game will review it, but even if the number is only 10% of the buyers it means most people didn’t want the game enough to spend the $8 on it.
I’m hoping this situation will change and game publishers will notice how great games on portable smartphone-grade hardware can capture our attention. The Switch is amazing, but being able to play some of the same games on our phones would be even better.
AAA Games for your phone
Stadia: Premiere Edition
$130 at Google Store
Better than nothing
This bundle includes everything you need to get started with Stadia. If we can’t download the games, at least we can stream some of them, right?