One of the most challenging things in a mobile game is knowing when to call it quits. It might be after you've reached a new level, or if you know that you're soon going to be interrupted by something going on in the so-called "real" world. Or, if you're the developer of the mobile game in question, it might be all about what makes best sense for your business.
Earlier this month the mobile gaming community was taken aback by a decision from Electronic Arts (EA) to discontinue a dozen of its titles, pulling them from the app stores in one fell swoop. This included Flight Control and Real Racing, which, as Destructoid noted, are so well known as to be termed "classic" by fans of the genre.
A story on TouchArcade summed up the sentiment and pointed out what was disappointing to many mobile gamers:
"They didn't even get a proper send off, beyond silently announcing they're being removed on a obscure web page hidden deep inside of EA's support site on the same day they were removed. It seems really wrong that games like this can just be nuked from existence. It's hard to blame them for not wanting to potentially go through and update/tweak/test dozens of ancient titles to make sure they all work on the new OS and devices. There just needs to be some kind of legacy mode where these games are still playable, or at minimum, accessible to gamers who want to go to the effort of whatever setup they'd need to play them."
This might sound like a nice problem for indie mobile game developers to have, but it points to a real question about long-term thinking within this space. EA is one of the largest publishers in the market, presumably with at least some resources available to maintain its back catalogue of mobile games in some form. If a firm like that won't preserve some of its best-loved work, how likely are smaller developers to do so?
It could be argued that, even if the jettisoned games were no longer profitable, EA could have used the games' popularity to cross-promote newer titles. That, or the company could have worked harder to communicate the rationale behind the decision and tease out forthcoming mobile games that would serve to fill the void. EA has the social media and overall online audience that most indie mobile developers would kill for. Why not use it more strategically?
I agree that creating some kind of "legacy mode" for older mobile games would be useful and appropriate for the consumers that make it possible to turn app development into a sustainable business. Hopefully someone will take up that challenge and offer a tool for mobile game developers to use. Otherwise, bitter feelings may be the only legacy EA and publishers that make similar moves will leave behind. --Shane