Geoff Keighley deserves credit for crafting an award show from the remains of the frustratingly bad Spike Video Game Awards (which Keighley produced), but The Game Awards 2016 continues searching for an identity. Many awards are announced between new trailers for upcoming games and unnecessary musical performances. Few awards are handed to winners on stage, making the name of the program feel almost like false advertising.
Too much time could be spent nitpicking this show — many complaints being repeats from previous years — ending by suggesting that someone convince the International Game Developers Association to air the Game Developers Choice Awards instead. That’s evidently a classier affair, albeit one kept away from the spotlight presumably to avoid the hoopla that The Game Awards deal with.
We’ve moved beyond the point where mobile and dedicated handhelds should be joined under the same category. iOS/Android applications are typically simpler and sell for only a few dollars, while Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita games more closely resemble the type of experiences found on home consoles. In fact, a portion of Vita games are also available on PlayStation 3 and 4, including the recent World of Final Fantasy. Nintendo’s Switch feels partly like an acknowledgement that handhelds and home consoles are more similar than ever.
Mobile devices are absolutely capable of console-like experiences, but it’s more common to find simpler experiences that require only a fraction of focused attention. Although a traditional Pokémon game is undoubtedly possible on mobile, The Pokémon Company hasn’t gone that route, but instead allowed developer Niantic to create a much simpler game that changes or removes almost everything fans associate with Pokémon. Go doesn’t demand the same attention as a traditional Pokémon game. Just place your phone into a pocket until it alerts of a nearby wild creature, and it lacks the same depth from a traditional Pokémon game.
Pokémon Go is an arguably worse game than Sun and Moon, but the application expertly plays to the strengths of the mobile platform. 3DS can’t replicate that experience, nor should it. They’re distinctly different platforms that share the ability to be placed in a pocket and taken outside the house. Throwing the two under the same umbrella shows little consideration from The Game Awards.
To return to the show, Pokémon Go won the award, besting Monster Hunter Generations and Fire Emblem Fates. It’s the gaming equivalent of The Avengers: Age of Ultron winning over The Revenant and Ex Machina. Age of Ultron is the clear commercial success and a decent way to kill a few hours (there’s far worse films, even within the MCU), but it’s far from the best film released in 2015. Pokémon Go is a massive success for everyone involved, but 2016’s best mobile/handheld game? This sounds more like voting because that’s the only nominee played.
Despite my bitching, this probably won’t matter during The Game Awards 2017. I theorize that no Switch games will be included under this category, and despite 3DS support continuing into the new year, The Game Awards will drop “handheld” and devote the space entirely to mobile. So Nintendo solved this problem for Keighley.