I played Telltale’s The Walking Dead on my iPhone. Despite the connotations that typically surround mobile games, The Walking Dead is anything but a simplistic, time-wasting experience. Instead, the game functions as a sort of next-generation choose your own adventure, with the player’s decisions and relationships with in-game characters shaping the course of the story. Beyond this, actual gameplay is limited to occasional swipes to navigate and interact, and The Walking Dead ends up sharing more similarities with a movie than it does with anything else. It even progresses in a series of episodes in the spirit of The Walking Dead television program on AMC.
Is The Walking Dead a mobile game? Intially, I would have to say that no, it is not a purely “mobile game.” While I played it on a mobile device and had the ability to be physically mobile while I played, its length and price run counter to the short and sweet characteristics typical to most iPhone games (I recognize that countless hours can be poured into certain mobile games, but I am referring to how many of these games are designed to be played in short, incremental sessions in moments of boredom). At a length of 5 episodes and a 22 dollar price tag to purchase all the installments in a bundle, the The Walking Dead certainly resembles a full-fledged game experience that one would find on a PC or a console. This is due to the fact that the game was made for these platforms along with the iPhone version that I played.
On the other hand, I also have trouble defining The Walking Dead as a purely console or PC game. The fact remains that I did play it on a mobile device. While I occasionally played it in long stints, I also used it as a time killer just as I would utilize Angry Birds or Bloons Tower Defense, with some of my gaming sessions admittedly occurring during visits to the restroom. The mobile version of The Walking Dead also has an in-app purchase system for acquiring the different episodes, and I will profess that this turned me off from playing beyond the first episode. In-app purchases tend to push me away from continuing to play a game as I feel as though I am missing part of the experience due to a paywall. The reaction I had to The Walking Dead was similar to ones I have had to countless pay-to-win apps that I have downloaded and quickly deleted in the past.
So the question remains: is The Walking Dead a mobile game? I would have to conclude that in this case, there is not a real distinction to be made. In the same way that viewing a film on a phone may not be as “full” an experience, will lesser visuals and sound, the film can still be watched on the device regardless. The movie, at its core (title, dialogue, plot etc..), remains the same movie regardless of the screen it is watched on. I think this is an effective way of thinking of The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead treads the line between console and mobile categories, but in this case there does not seem to be any reason to make a distinction. Telltale interactive even designed The Walking Dead with an engine specifically designed for multi-platform compatibility, and I think it is safe to assume that to them, the game was never strictly meant for one platform over another. To the developers, multiple platforms ensured maximum players and profit.
While I understand this may not be the most revolutionary of conclusions to make about the game, the fact remains that The Walking Dead is neither a console nor a mobile game. It’s both.