The nominations for March’s BAFTA Games Awards were announced yesterday, and the portable category makes interesting reading. What was previously referred to as the Handheld award is now Mobile & Handheld, which neatly reflects the shift that seems to have occurred.
The 2012 nominations are striking: other than Super Mario 3D Land, it’s all mobile games – Dead Space iOS, Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint, Peggle, Quarrel and The Nightjar. Okay, Peggle is on DS too, but the only format it was released on in the last year was Android.
It’s to the BAFTA panel’s credit that they’ve not given more nods to the 3DS, simply because it was released in the last twelve months. They have – bravely, you could argue – recognised that, actually, 3D hasn’t in and of itself really added much to the portable gaming mix; that more interesting stuff has been happening for a fraction of the (software) price on mobile platforms.
The question is whether this year is the start of a trend, or a mere blip. Will we see more downloadable and indie games filtering through into the main categories?
This year there are nods for the likes of Bastion, Eufloria, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Monstermind and Minecraft, but mainly in the Debut Game category, with the odd one in Game Innovation and GAME Award of 2011. Most of the categories are dominated by the usual blockbuster releases.
As Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint’s now BAFTA-nominated Ste Pickford argued some time ago, part of the problem is the categories themselves. But the fact that it’s by no means only big name publishers’ mobile games that have been recognised this year, gives hope that BAFTA will continue to broaden their horizons.
That would be welcome for any number of reasons: rewarding indie developers, exposing regular gamers to new and unusual games, and maybe even pushing the majors to try a bit harder.