The state of Android gaming is strong as we stare down a new decade. Even if I wasn't the mobile gaming guru here at Android Central, I'd still probably be spending an excessive amount of my free time playing mobile games due to the sheer number of mobile games I've enjoyed just in the past year.
There's a lot to be excited about in 2020 so let's dive into the things I expect to blow me away this year.
The rise of game streaming services on smartphones
We've already been given a small taste of what game streaming services like Microsoft's xCloud, Google Stadia, and Valve's Steam Link bring to the table, but I'm expecting to a big shift coming in 2020 when these services start to really take off.
Of the three major streaming services we'll be watching in 2020, I think Stadia has the most to prove given the massive hype that surrounded its announcement and its lackluster launch in November. I'll be honest in saying I haven't dedicated much time at all to playing Stadia since it arrived because there just isn't much on the platform that interests me. I don't think I'm alone in debating whether to extend my Stadia Pro subscription when my complimentary three months expires in February, and Google really has their work cut out for them if they want to keep me on as a subscriber.
Meanwhile, I'm excited to revisit Steam Link again in 2020 to see how that service has evolved, and I'm also excited to see what xCloud looks like when it leaves beta.
Better mobile gaming accessories on the horizon
I had the privilege of reviewing a handful of mobile gaming accessories in 2019. One of my absolute favorites was the Razer Raiju, which is still the best Bluetooth controller you can buy for Android gaming — if you can afford it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was the Switch-like Beboncool Wireless Gaming Controller, an intriguing concept that I really wanted to like, but ultimately fell way short of my expectations and, frankly, never quite worked well enough to enjoy using. The design and price were right, but the execution was way off the mark.
That's largely why I'm extra excited for Razer's latest mobile gaming accessory that was announced earlier this month at CES 2020. The Razer Kishi is another Switch-like accessory that connects to Android phones via USB-C that adds physical controls to the side of your phone. On top of being a well-designed accessory from a reputable brand, the Kishi is also expected to work with xCloud and Stadia.
Not only will it avoid the input lag associated with Bluetooth, but it's perfectly portable and designed to work with the majority of smartphones — iPhones included. Suffice to say, I will be absolutely delighted if it lives up to the high expectations Razer has set for itself with the Raiju Mobile.
My eyeballs want more phones with higher display refresh rates
One of my favorite features on the Razer Phone 2 was the 120Hz refresh rate that made scrolling and gaming look buttery smooth. It's almost ruined the experience of using phones with the standard 60Hz refresh rate, because everything just looks and feels so sluggish by comparison.
That's why I'm quite happy about the rumors of Samsung including 120Hz displays on the S20 line in 2020, and the slow-moving trend towards higher refresh rates on flagship phones. In 2019, we enjoyed 90Hz refresh rates on the OnePlus 7 Pro and Google Pixel 4, but Samsung does have a way of ushering in new features that quickly become the "mainstream" standard like few other Android brands can manage to do.
Gaming on a phone with a higher refresh rate is genuinely superior and I'm glad that more people will be experiencing the luxuriousness of it all in 2020.
The expansion and growth of Google Play Pass
I'm sad to report that I have not yet had a chance to check out Google Play Pass for myself. That's because Google's subscription service for mobile apps and games has yet to expand to anywhere other than the US. I'm hoping that changes early into 2020, because I feel that the subscription model is ripe with potential for gamers and game developers alike.
In the same way that I expect Google to improve and expand the Stadia library, I'm equally hopeful that Google Play Pass will grow the list of premium games included as part of the subscription. As it currently stands, there are some absolute gems available on Google Play Pass — most of which I've already bought and enjoyed, but that's besides the point — but I'd love to see more developers brought into the fold and, eventually, see Google start to announce some titles as Play Pass exclusives to better compete with Apple Arcade.
But I'll be happy first with just the ability to check out the service up here in Canada. Get on it, Google!
More great titles being ported over — or developed concurrently — for Android
My biggest hope for 2020 and beyond is the further erosion of the idea that mobile gaming is a second-tier platform for game developers. I mean, there's no denying that absolutely used to be true when smartphones simply weren't advanced enough to handle big, graphic-intensive games, but we're well beyond that now.
Last year, we learned that Respawn Entertainment is planning to bring it's popular battle royale shooter Apex Legends to mobile devices which I'm excited for. These days, more and more indie developers are able to develop their games for PC, consoles, and mobile concurrently.
This is a trend that I am all for, mostly for greedy reasons because I prefer to play games on my phone and the mobile versions of the games are almost always available at half the cost of the PC or console versions, all while still delivering a similarly great experience. Some highlights that I played in 2019 include Tropico, Stardew Valley, and Bad North which I'd mentioned earlier.
The inclusion of any sort of cross-platform support for mobile is an added bonus, but I'm just pumped to see that mobile gaming is being taken seriously by developers big and small.
The future of pocket gaming is bright, my friends
These are the trends and stories that I believe will dominate the mobile gaming industry in 2020. Of course, there's still going to be a ton of crummy pay-to-win games with exploitive in-app purchases and loot box mechanics, but there's nothing anyone can do about that except avoid playing them all together.
Fortunately, there's no shortage of great games to play on Android, and I'll continue to do my part to highlight a great Android game you should play every week. It's a tough job but someone's got to do it.
My issue is it still takes a significant investment. Your phone has to be pretty high end to get a good experience in most cases, then you take on another investment for a quality controller, plus the streaming costs. For $199 you can get a Switch Lite and have a quality experience.
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