It wasn’t that many years ago that a failed Facebook game developer bravely nailed its colours to the then nascent mast of tablet gaming.
“We believe tablets are the ultimate games platform,” Greg Harper, Supercell’s US GM told PocketGamer.biz in April 2012.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with smartphones,” he added.
“Our games will support smartphones as well, but our primary focus will be to create the optimal experience on a tablet.”
Of course, the rest is history.
Later that year Supercell released the tablet-oriented Clash of Clans and Hay Day; games that almost four years later helped the company generate $2.3 billion in 2015.
It may not have been trumping its ‘tablet-first’ strategy in 2014, when Supercell’s third game Boom Beach was released.
But just like its first two games, Boom Beach was designed to be played in landscape mode.
In that sense, it was still a game for gamers who played with two hands on a bigger screen. They were seen as the target market for mobile gaming.
That view is now ancient history.
For, continuing our train of thought, Clash Royale is radically different from Supercell’s previous games.
It’s designed to be played on a phone in portrait (or upright) mode.
Similarly, the user experience is designed for one handed play.
There’s nothing complex going on. There’s no need for pinch-zooming or expansive screen real estate. Everything sits nicely under your thumb.
Glu Mobile’s biggest hit, 2014’s Kim Kardashian: Hollywood wasn’t a game for core gamers, but it was designed to be played in landscape mode.
2016’s sister act Kendall & Kylie – effectively the same game with different Kardashians – uses the portrait mode.
It’s designed to be played on your phone.
And, in a neat counter example, one of the reason Katy Perry Pop – another game in Glu’ celebrity series – was a flop was its orientation – you got it, landscape mode.
How we roll
Some might argue that the trend has something to do with the growing size of mobile phones themselves.
Certainly, phone screen size has increased considerably since 2012, especially for iPhone users. But that’s not the fundamental reason.
The tablet experiment kickstarted by Apple’s iPad in 2010 has now stalled. Quarterly sales have been on the decline for a year, and that’s even taking into account the arrival of the phone-sized iPad minis.