I bought Fallout 4 over the weekend, and, like many others who own the game, I would rather be playing it than doing just about anything else. In fact, writing this post pains me a little because it’s time I’m not playing Fallout. But I digress. One of my favorite small features about the game is the fact that you can access your Pip-Boy (for the ones unfamiliar, it is the menu that shows your in-game inventory, world map, and mission list) from your smartphone by using the Fallout Pip-Boy app.
Your Phone is Your Best Gaming Accessory
If you ask most people, they would tell you mobile gaming is the future. More and more game developers are targeting this market, and it makes sense. According to Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans own a smartphone. That’s approximately 224 million people with a portable gaming console. As of the end of November 2015, only 30 million Playstation 4 consoles had been sold around the world. Of course it would be prudent to target the mobile audience. Let’s be honest. We love our smartphones. I love mine. You probably also love yours.
This leaves console developers with an interesting question. How do they harness people’s love for their smartphones and use that to maximize the gaming experience? The answer seems to be companion apps. Playstation has its own app which features what is called Second Screen. Depending on the game, Second Screen can provide anything from overhead maps to enemy intel. The issue that seems to plague Second Screen, however, is a lack of support. Not many games out there use this feature, which is a shame. The Madden NFL franchise does a fantastic job with it, providing play-by-play breakdown of the opposing team. Second Screen can tell you the frequency of what kind of plays a team runs, which direction they tend to go in, and how the team tends to play on a certain down. Essentially, the phone becomes an offensive or defensive coordinator. You still call which plays, but you can use the information provided to pick the best play possible.
There are also blockbuster games which have their own companion apps, essentially cutting the middle man that is Second Screen. I mentioned Fallout earlier. Destiny, one of the most successful PS4 game on the market, has a companion app. It is slightly more cosmetic than functional. With the Destiny app, you can access your characters’ inventory,
view in-game statistics see how much time you’ve wasted playing Destiny, and show off your character and achievements to your friends.
Tom Clancy’s The Division had a wonderful idea for an innovative companion app. In the upcoming open-world third-person shooter, a gamer could get on his smartphone or tablet and control a drone in the game with the rest of his party, dropping perks the team playing on the console could use. However, the developers realized this created a massive inequality in the game, and this idea was scrapped in June 2015.
One of the wonderful things about gaming in this age is all the innovation that is here and coming in the future. It will be very interesting to see what future games bring as far as their companion apps go. Multi-screen gaming brings a whole new world of options, and it is exciting to see all the things that can be done with it.