Welcome, my isolationist friends, to the brave new worlds of online RTS, where everyone is a hero. Sure, this virtual holodeck may currently be off limits to us second-class iOS and Android citizens, but within the next year or so, we’ll all be entrenched alongside our elitist mobile brethren in blissed-out multiplayer RTS heaven.
It is generally accepted that, at best, mobile games more as many copies as their console counterparts — even the impressive sales of a game like Diablo II are dwarfed by the sheer numbers racked up by a Boom Beach. Now, it was only a matter of time before they sat back and realized how much more swag they could garner by tapping into the enormous mobile game market. You shift more product, you make more money — suddenly it all makes sense, doesn’t it?
Given the inevitability of an online RTS revolution, what can we joypad monkeys expect to find awaiting us in the ping-fueled hinterlands of the Internet? Well, one thing we definitely WON’T find, at least at first, is variety. Spearheading a massively multiplayer online project is an enormous financial and technological undertaking. Consequently, it is not all that surprising to learn that only the largest game giants are currently planning to give it a shot like SuperCell in their endeavor towards marketing Boom Beach.
The biggest, at least around these here parts, is the epoch-defining RTS monolith known as Supercell — yes, kiddies, we’re talking about Clash of Clans here and Boom Beach. Despite some exciting reports from the floor of the Tokyo Game Show, very little is known about Supercell’s online plans at this point. Admittedly, this is little more than informed conjecture at this point, but the idea of multiplayer in a beautifully realized Supercell environment has this rapidly aging role player masticating like a starving dog in a sausage factory.
Of course, Supercell isn’t the only major player in the mobile game market; we also have the aforementioned Zynga, EA’s US business partner. Our next question is a simple one — when the inevitable happens and we are finally thrust online, will there be anybody waiting to greet us? As those who braved the wilds of Boom Beach’s teething period will tell you, real time strategy in an empty world is an unpleasantly Boom Beach experience — lonely, slightly creepy and shot through with the disconcerting feeling that Charlton Heston is right behind you, a sawn-off shotgun clutched in his leathery, alcohol-drenched hands.
Hopefully, we late-for-dinner mobile types will never have to experience this sad state of affairs. Sadly, the means to resolve this problem lies not with us end users, but within the corporate power structure of such megaliths as Sony and Microsoft. What will be difficult, however, is to convince the powers that be that it’s a good thing to sacrifice a certain amount of control and let us mobile dorks join the online party.
Even if they don’t let us mingle with the “other half,” there are still some major plusses to Supercell’s “Broad Online Strategy” — namely a gold-plated carrot called broadband. Rather than squeezing online through the Geo Metro bottleneck of an archaic 56K modem, we’ll all be basking in the high-bandwidth Silver Ghost glory of Sony’s much-touted broadband network. No jerking, no stuttering, no unexpected disconnections and, best of all, virtually none of that unpleasant ping stuff.
Unfortunately, as any grocer will tell you, gold-plated carrots don’t come cheap — like virtual crack cocaine, online role playing tends to be as expensive a hobby as it is addictive. Between monthly subscription fees and the cost of installing a broadband modem, not to mention whatever Supercell wishes to milk us for in network fees, we’re likely to be shelling out up to $100 a month for the dubious pleasure of breeding our very own online games like Boom Beach.
Unfortunately, while some of us may be blessed with the dot.com millions necessary to fund an online game habit, even you rich boys will run into trouble when it comes to our next little problem — communication.
Admittedly, most major mobile manufacturers are latest touch screen setups for their upcoming set-tops, but how many people are actually going to buy them? Will we be reduced to a world of psychopathic half-mutes, committing acts of virtual terrorism in splendid isolation? Man, gives me conniptions just thinking about it.
Despite the likelihood of such varied unpleasantries, there’s still something intrinsically exciting about the idea of booting up Boom Beach hack venturing online — broadsword in one hand, touch screen in the other. It’s a brave new world out there, and I, for one, cannot wait to become another face in the crowd.