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Wooga founder: Touch is a bigger revolution for games than the mouse

The touch screen is going to create a bigger revolution in games than the computer mouse did — so says Jens Begemann, the chief executive of Berlin-based casual game maker Wooga.

That’s saying a lot since the mouse drove PC gaming for decades. Begemann made the assertion today in a speech at the opening of Casual Connect Europe, a casual game conference in Hamburg, Germany. Of course, since his company makes touch-screen games such as Diamond Dash, he is a little biased in their favor. Begemann said, “It’s ridiculous to try to add game controllers to a tablet, to make it more like an Xbox.”

Adding such controls to a touch-screen device ignores the innovations that are possible with the touch interface, and it represents an effort to bring tired game mechanisms over to a new platform. It’s like the old “light guns” created for Nintendo consoles for games such as “Duck Hunt.”

Such devices were limited and perfect for just one game, Begemann said.

Companies such as Nvidia, PowerA, and controller makers are creating controllers for Android gaming on tablets or smart TVs. But Begemann isn’t a fan of the smart TV because he thinks the games created for it will be very similar to those on consoles. On top of that, the TV manufacturers and controller makers would have to band together to come up with a common format in order to attract more game development. That’s not really happening, and it’s one of the reasons that Begemann is a big advocate of games on smartphones and tablets but not smart TVs.

“If every smart TV is a different platform, then you won’t see high-quality games on it,” Begemann told GamesBeat after his talk.

Every once in a while, a new platform comes along that draws innovation and game developers like a magnet.

Doom, launched by id Software in 1993, revolutionized mouse-based control with the first-person shooter genre. The mouse led to new genres of games like hidden-object games. It enabled titles like Minesweeper, Solitaire, and Bejeweled. Likewise, Begemann believes the touch screen will trigger new genres for today’s generation of players.

“The new options are either a new mechanism will be invented for first-person shooter games on the touch screen, or the genre will go away,” Begemann said.

Begemann said that Temple Run is a perfect example of designing for a smart device. If it had been ported from a console,  it likely would have been a landscape-mode sidescroller rather than a 3D-portrait-mode endless runner.

“The creators were able to rethink it from the ground up,” he said.

The advantages of touch screens include direct control. You make movements directly by tapping the world. It feels more personal. Also, gestures are easy to do with your finger. And multitouch lets you control multiple things at once.

Drawbacks include no ability to “mouse over” something. You can’t see through your fingers. You get no tactile feedback.

By the end of this year, there were be 1.4 billion smartphones and 217 million tablets in active use. By the end of next year, that will be 2 billion touch devices. About 40 million consoles sell each year.

“This will become the games platform of the future,” Begemann said.

People who are buying smartphones and tablets are using their PCs less. Within a few product generations, the PC will go away, he said.

“We have reached a peak, and it will decline for consumers,” Begemann said. “What can we do to be prepared? Build games for touch devices. We have to rethink game design. And reinvent existing genres for the touch device. If we do that, this era of touch will be the best era we ever have as a game industry.”

Disclosure: The conference organizers paid my way to attend the event as a speaker for it. Our coverage remains objective.


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