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Giant Bomb Presents

Giant Bomb Presents: A Sobering Conversation About Mobile Gaming

While making The Room, Fireproof learned how toxic the mobile world has become. Porting the game to PC gave it a chance to look back on that journey, and it's not pretty.

Giant Bomb Presents is giantbomb.com's home for interviews, previews, and more.

Aug. 16 2014

Posted by: Patrick

59 Comments

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hassun

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Edited By hassun

I'm ready to be disappointed and dejected!

EDIT:

Hey this didn't make me sad at all. It was actually a much more optimistic and informative interview than I thought.

No one wants to be the Nirvana rip-off band. Wouldn't you rather be Nirvana?

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soodd

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Played the first chapter with my brother on his phone and the rest on pc last week and they are both excellent, hope they do the same thing with The Room 2 or I'll have to wait til I get a better phone...

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spraynardtatum

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Edited By spraynardtatum

Hey Patrick. You are awesome.

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johnguydude

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I'm developing a pay-upfront mobile game independently right now so I am really appreciative of this perspective

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Memu

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I wish there was follow up Q on what he means when he says "we couldn't afford to make a PC game, we could only afford to make a mobile game." I don't buy it.

Oh, and wasn't the transcript of this conversation already posted? I wish the description said that. Or link this audio to that article in some way.

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monkeystick

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I've gotten to the point where I'd rather just pay for a full game on mobile than mess with the cash shop stuff on the free games.

Listening now, thanks.

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Fuwano

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Really enjoyed this interview! I think Patrick sometimes uses overly grandiose headlines (whilst avoiding clickbait) but this one is right on. Thanks to Patrick and the dev for such an interesting and frank conversation.

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Immunity

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@memu: I kind of agree, but I think what he was alluding to the fact that PC games tend to be bigger, longer games overall than your typical mobile game. People are much more accepting of a 2-hour mobile game than a 2-hour PC game. Some clarification by what he meant would have been nice though.

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Oldirtybearon

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Going to listen to this, but I just have one question;

is "toxic" the most absolutely overused descriptor in gaming right now? Like, holy shit.

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BigD145

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Edited By BigD145

Thank you for saying everything here. This is one of the best interviews on the site. There are so many PC games that could be made mobile with the simple addition of a keyboard interface and not even any other touchscreen. I would rebuy them to have them on the bus and waiting to get a haircut, etc. Make some deep and lengthy games on mobile. I hate wandering through garbage to find gems.

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chilipeppersman

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the room is a great series, the only real games Ive really gotten sucked into on my iPad.

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Cuuniyevo

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Going to listen to this, but I just have one question;

is "toxic" the most absolutely overused descriptor in gaming right now? Like, holy shit.

For your consideration: Epic; Fluid; Dynamic; Engaging; Emergent; Exclusive; Explosive.

…that being said, I get what you're saying, and agree. The problem is that almost all of the synonyms for toxic are even more abrasive and/or insulting to whatever they're describing. Most developers don't want to use such words in public and risk alienating customers.

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Vorpal

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I liked Barry's point that "free to play" isn't mobile gaming's problem so much as the over-reliance on metrics/creating games 100% according to market data and player habits. It definitely doesn't seem like a new problem (e.g. arcade rip-offs or the avalanche of shovelware on NES) but it does feel exacerbated because of how costly and time-consuming development cycles have become.

Maybe the difference is that the free to play model gives mobile shovelware a longer shelf-life, so these crappy games end up sticking to the walls way longer than they should.

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Ganthet2814

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Edited By Ganthet2814

Wow! Good interview Patrick. I hope they have success in the future.

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SaturdayNightSpecials

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Free to play hasn't really come to PC yet?

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Meepasaurus

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Edited By Meepasaurus

Thanks for putting up the audio version!

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Tychoid

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Edited By Tychoid

Pretty slick audio player skeuomorphism. You know I like the skeuomorphism. Watching those tape gears spin makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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bradleyg

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Getting pretty into F2P games lately, one thing I notice is the difficulty fluctuations almost feel manipulated to precisely try and encourage certain spending behaviors. Like someone is literally sitting watching you play making the game harder and easier according to where in the payment cycle you are.

It's also interesting in the incentive to keep people playing is extremely high, where as a game like the Room or the Room 2 I never even finished, as far as the developer is concerned the transaction is complete as soon as the sale is done. Some will finish but there is no incentive at all to keep people playing it.

I kind of prefer the game that is hand tailored to keep me happy at all times, as opposed to a game like the Room where is take it or leave it, it is what it is, a static linear experience.

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Anwar

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jimipeppr

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Neat conversation. I actually just switched from WP to Android yesterday, so I'll definitely check The Room out.

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Redhorn

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The Room is a really good game, I liked it a lot. I'll never pay for another one by these guys.

I can't believe the sneering pretense I just sat through. It was choking. I don't know what's good for me? "They don't respect your time-" Excuse me? "They don't know better-" Excuse me? Goodness, Patrick. I'm pretty sure I have fun playing all kinds of games, whether or not they're worthy of anyone else's respect for "the craft" or not.

I've been playing games for 25 years. I taught myself how to read so I could read video game manuals to myself as a child. I enjoy games such as Mega Man, the Metal Gear Solid series (evens and odds), Warframe, Bastion, Brothers, Clash of Clans (and Dungeon Keeper), Journey, Risk of Rain, Dota 1 & 2, League of Legends, Crimsonland, and the entire Warcraft franchise going back to Orcs & Humans, to name a small few. I don't identify as a gamer because when I think of "a gamer" I think of people that feel a self-importance in having "sobering conversations" about the "how toxic the mobile world has become." On behalf of sub-gamers everywhere, I apologize for disrespecting the Art.

I like whipping out my phone while I'm in a waiting room or whatever and tapping on some resources and starting another upgrade timer. I'm not a lemming, I know exactly what is going on, just like anyone else who has taken any psychology- not that you need to, in this case. Yes, they're trying to take my money. So is everyone who's selling anything. Some ways of making money are obviously more predatory than others- but have you never had fun at a casino? If you want to criticize institutions that nickel-and-dime the poor then I'm all for that, but It's not like these guys are selling payday loans or meth or something, Christ.

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villainy

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Wow this was a really great interview. Thanks Patrick!

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CairnsyTheBeard

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Fantastic interview, thanks, a very passionate dude!

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PXAbstraction

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Very good interview and I think it hits a lot of what's strangling creativity in the mobile space right now. Mark my words, the current metrics-driven, vulture capitalist led mobile sector is going to crash just like when VCs overinfluenced dot-coms. Look at Zynga and King from this past week, it's already starting. People can talk (in some ways rightly) all they want about unsustainable business practices from the AAA side of the business but all of those companies have and will outlive the likes of Zynga, King, Glu etc.

One thing I would argue with the gentleman from Fireproof about is how he says people won't buy the shit music or shit movies or shit TV shows but have no problem buying shit games. Look at a lot of chart topping music, movies and TV shows right now. Justin Bieber, Transformers and reality TV to pull just one example from each. A lot of people will buy the designed-by-committee pap if it's the path of least resistance.

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revel

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Really really good interview. Kinda goes in circles a little bit but I think it is needed to really send it home. The topic is a bit close to home for me and freaks me out.

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eccentrix

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For how much he drinks, Patrick sure does love him some sobering conversations.

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RedPandaGamer

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This was great. I still haven't played The Room, but hearing this guy talk made me really want to give it a go. Thanks a lot Patrick!

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Tribski

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Nice job! Just a small problem- I wouldn't be surprised if free to play originated on PC, with Korean MMOs loong time ago (I might be wrong on that), whatever the case, I'm pretty sure it already is on PC.

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BisonHero

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Edited By BisonHero

@tribski said:

Nice job! Just a small problem- I wouldn't be surprised if free to play originated on PC, with Korean MMOs loong time ago (I might be wrong on that), whatever the case, I'm pretty sure it already is on PC.

No, you're definitely right, I was playing weird free Korean PC games where you could buy cosmetic bullshit with real money like, ages and ages ago. Probably sometime around 2003-2005? I know I played a ton of Gunbound around that time, and that game was definitely F2P.

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BobDobbsJR

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Good Interview, just a couple of thoughts though.

1. Patrick said The Room games were successful, but Barry didn't say that himself (I don't think). It would have been nice to hear if he thought his games had been successful on Android/IOS, financially or otherwise.

2. I would have liked to hear about Barry's experience being in a couple of Humble Bundles. The Room had been out a while before being bundled, but The Room Two had only been out a few months. This makes me wonder if the 'success' of these games was mostly due to being bundled.

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webdrivertorso

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Edited By webdrivertorso

There's now a giant and ever-accelerating market for games that appeal to people who've never picked up a video game in their life, a market which has grown steadily through the ubiquity of smartphone apps and the microtransaction/free-to-play system. I think everyone in the industry is now facing the reality of this new market, wherein you have a vast expanse of consumers with very limited knowledge over the thing they are purchasing. Given the prevalence of the casual-gaming market, it becomes much, much easier for developers to cater towards those with far less critical judgment over video games than ever before.

Though some gamers might decry the entirety of this new market for myriad reasons (not limited to several arguments by purists who uphold a sacred definition of what constitutes a 'video game'), I would say the opening-up of video games isn't where things go wrong- if anything we should embrace the fact that video games have gotten mainstream (we've sold out long ago!). To me, the issue arises when the allocation of resources shift in the wake of the new market, which seems to be what's happening now.

I think Meade hit it right over the head- it's about greed. Publishers/platforms/VCs/shareholders of video games may increasingly opt for qualities in games that are mass-marketable: safe, simple, unchallenging, apolitical, addictive, easy to get into. They may value these qualities over those that pose any degree of financial uncertainty: risky, complex, challenging, political, non-addictive, rewarding over the long term.

Let's not confuse things here. There's nothing wrong with games that are purely made for the sake of entertainment. On some level most of us can get behind the subjectivity of experience; one person's Flappy Bird is another's Divinity: Original Sin. But I believe that a lack of consumer knowledge, and a lack of care on developers' end, and the support by those who claim entirely to this notion of subjectivity-of-experience despite what is essentially a shift of capital/resources from the things that make games interesting (risky/complex/challenging/political/non-addictive/long term) to the things that make games a form of pure enjoyment (safe/simple/unchallenging/apolitical/addictive/easy to get into), are all potential warning signs for the future climate of video games.

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tebbit

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@redhorn:

I really appreciated your description of your video game history - I could feel myself growing slowly more indignant as the interview went on, even though I really like and respect the developer and the games they've made. It all became a little hyperbolic, so it was nice to see another person saying exactly what I was about to type! Best of luck to you.

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deactivated-5d1d502761653

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@hassun:

Pretty much sums up my expectations before and assessment after hearing it. Also guys like that dude are the cancer of mobile gaming/free to play: Ubisoft analyst Teut Weidemann

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HarrySound

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The only decent free to play is Tribes ascend.

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Si_Macdonald

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Really really enjoyed this, love what Patrick Brings to GB.

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CrazedBlueMoon

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Edited By CrazedBlueMoon

This was a very informative interview about some of the business mentality behind the mobile some of these mobile games. Judging by how passionate Barry spoke about the issue I could tell this guy is speaking from experience (and frustration). Also, I think I heard him grab a cold one from the fridge, so I just have this image of him sitting down, opening the beer and saying, "Patrick, let me tell you a tale about some of the bullshit that is the mobile game business."

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mr_creeper

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This guy was something else...

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fram

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Outstanding interview. I'd read the transcript of this when it was posted previously, but the conviction in his voice kept me listening to the whole thing. Dude is great.

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Redhorn

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NeedsMoreRobots

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Edited By NeedsMoreRobots

Fantastic content, thank you for a tremendously enjoyable interview.

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avantegardener

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Edited By avantegardener

Great interview, both Room games were terrific. As a fellow Irishman, I found Barrys frank and open 'potty' mouth quite refreshing.

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ProfessorEss

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Edited By ProfessorEss

@redhorn: @tebbit: I'm with you guys. I felt more disrespected by this interview than any F2P game could ever make me feel.

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EmuPrime

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@crazedbluemoon: It absolutely sounded like he grabbed a beer when Patrick mentioned Dota2, which I think is a sentiment nearly all of us share.

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AssInAss

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EA, Ubisoft are indeed pathetic losers :P

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Edited By AssInAss

@redhorn said:

The Room is a really good game, I liked it a lot. I'll never pay for another one by these guys.

I can't believe the sneering pretense I just sat through. It was choking. I don't know what's good for me? "They don't respect your time-" Excuse me? "They don't know better-" Excuse me? Goodness, Patrick. I'm pretty sure I have fun playing all kinds of games, whether or not they're worthy of anyone else's respect for "the craft" or not.

I've been playing games for 25 years. I taught myself how to read so I could read video game manuals to myself as a child. I enjoy games such as Mega Man, the Metal Gear Solid series (evens and odds), Warframe, Bastion, Brothers, Clash of Clans (and Dungeon Keeper), Journey, Risk of Rain, Dota 1 & 2, League of Legends, Crimsonland, and the entire Warcraft franchise going back to Orcs & Humans, to name a small few. I don't identify as a gamer because when I think of "a gamer" I think of people that feel a self-importance in having "sobering conversations" about the "how toxic the mobile world has become." On behalf of sub-gamers everywhere, I apologize for disrespecting the Art.

I like whipping out my phone while I'm in a waiting room or whatever and tapping on some resources and starting another upgrade timer. I'm not a lemming, I know exactly what is going on, just like anyone else who has taken any psychology- not that you need to, in this case. Yes, they're trying to take my money. So is everyone who's selling anything. Some ways of making money are obviously more predatory than others- but have you never had fun at a casino? If you want to criticize institutions that nickel-and-dime the poor then I'm all for that, but It's not like these guys are selling payday loans or meth or something, Christ.

You didn't mention any F2P game that you love asides from Clash of Clans, and whether that is as great as other of the games you mentioned. That's kind of what the conversation is about, the devaluing of your time spent in a good game towards filling bars which is what publishers or executives care about rather than an enjoyable memorable experience. That's why more of these clones come about because they're chasing the money.

Plenty of "toxic" talk about the mobile game market have compared it to casinos as a negative thing. There is a whole of psychological trickery to how the casinos work, bunch of audiovisual stimulation for what amounts to dice rolls so you don't feel bad about throwing your money. Are you enjoying casinos because of how good the game is? Yes, games are a service that take your money, because you're paying for the hard work a developer has done much like any form of art. Who is attacking you, though? This isn't even about gamers or "sub-gamers" whatever that is, this is about F2P schemes and clones that jump on bandwagons of popular games.

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n0nametaz

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Great discussion!

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matt_f606

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Great interview! Thanks.

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Sydlanel

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Edited By Sydlanel

@redhorn said:

The Room is a really good game, I liked it a lot. I'll never pay for another one by these guys.

I can't believe the sneering pretense I just sat through. It was choking. I don't know what's good for me? "They don't respect your time-" Excuse me? "They don't know better-" Excuse me? Goodness, Patrick. I'm pretty sure I have fun playing all kinds of games, whether or not they're worthy of anyone else's respect for "the craft" or not.

I've been playing games for 25 years. I taught myself how to read so I could read video game manuals to myself as a child. I enjoy games such as Mega Man, the Metal Gear Solid series (evens and odds), Warframe, Bastion, Brothers, Clash of Clans (and Dungeon Keeper), Journey, Risk of Rain, Dota 1 & 2, League of Legends, Crimsonland, and the entire Warcraft franchise going back to Orcs & Humans, to name a small few. I don't identify as a gamer because when I think of "a gamer" I think of people that feel a self-importance in having "sobering conversations" about the "how toxic the mobile world has become." On behalf of sub-gamers everywhere, I apologize for disrespecting the Art.

I like whipping out my phone while I'm in a waiting room or whatever and tapping on some resources and starting another upgrade timer. I'm not a lemming, I know exactly what is going on, just like anyone else who has taken any psychology- not that you need to, in this case. Yes, they're trying to take my money. So is everyone who's selling anything. Some ways of making money are obviously more predatory than others- but have you never had fun at a casino? If you want to criticize institutions that nickel-and-dime the poor then I'm all for that, but It's not like these guys are selling payday loans or meth or something, Christ.

Hmm I think that you are misunderstanding a bit. I definitely see what you are saying but I don't think they are speaking in absolutes about everyone. They do say that there is a big amount of people that simply don't have so much exposition as "us" in the sense that in general most people here are pretty well informed about the industry as a whole. They do speak in broad terms, but I don't think they are criticizing them specifically.

It is true that Mobile Dev in particular is infinitely imitative and iterative, mainly because of the shorter development cycles and the huge market. As a Dev myself, I can tell you that in our studio, we sadly did fall into trying to pander to a nebulous "mobile audience", and the machine is really scary, I've met so many talented developers wasting away making clones of clones hoping it will eventually drip to their plate..
hopelessly grasping for the check that doesn't come so that they can make the game they want next time.

It's not necessarily that "clash of clans" is a bad game (they didn't really say that), what they are saying is that trying to chase that illusion of getting a cut of that. I play a lot of mobile, and every kind of game really, but I've never stopped playing a game for being insulted by the monetisation before I tried some mobile games. They are intentionally stripping good design practices to make the player go through hoops and have to pay if they want to play the game how it should really be.

All they are really saying is that as developers we should trust in our audience's ability to find something good, we should have the confidence to show more variety to audiences that are not often exposed to that. And I don't really see the problem with that.