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Pocket Gamer 10th Anniversary

PG is 10: Alumni Revisited - Fraser MacInnes

Popular PG veteran remembers apostrophes, industry milestones, and ridiculous shirts
Product: Pocket Gamer 10th Anniversary | Publisher: Steel Media Ltd | Format: Android, DSi, GameBoy, iPhone, iPod, Mobile, PSP, Smartphone, iPad, 3DS, PS Vita
Pocket Gamer 10th Anniversary Android, thumbnail 1
As part of our 10th anniversary celebration we've asked ten former key members of the PG team to share their memories and thoughts (and their all-time top 10). Let's dive in…

Who are you?
I'm Fraser MacInnes. This is where I put in a glib description like 'awesomeness distiller' or 'monetisation savant', right? I'm neither of those things by the way.

When did you work in the Pocket Gamer empire, and what did you do?

I began way back in 2006 as one of a tiny number of Pocket Gamer blog writers, under the exacting tutelage of a Mr Owain Bennalack. It was basically a bull pen for unproven writers and I'm very grateful that among other things, it taught me how to use an apostrophe correctly.

From there I moved onto Pocket Gamer's main site under the editorship of Rob Hearn, where I did a mix of reviews, opinion pieces, feature articles, and event coverage. The first reviews I was ever trusted with were JAR Hentai puzzle games which made convincing my family that writing about mobile games was a 'proper job' all the more challenging.

Eventually, after the iPhone had thrown a school of piranhas into the carrier controlled stagnant pond of mobile gaming in 2008, I pitched the first PG video and audio podcasts. Over the next year or so, I spent much of my time trying to avoid camera reflections in my iPod touch. Halcyon days.

Finally, I worked on some of the design consulting services that PG was trading in towards the end of 2010 and it was from that position that I ended up leaping out of writing about games and into the business of making them.

What are you up to nowadays?
I'm a Senior Product Manager at Flaregames. Don't believe what anyone tells you about working in the games industry – it's mostly looking at spreadsheets.

But seriously, I'm currently working on Fieldrunners: Hardhat Heroes which is truly amazing, especially as I can remember the splash the original titles made during my Pocket Gamer tenure.

Do you have any fond/happy/mad/secret memories of your time on PG you'd like to share?
I have many fond memories for sure – lots of dryly comic comments from Mr Hearn in our group work Skype. Jon Jordan's ever changing hair and nail colour (and his gift of oddly charming polemic). Chris [James, Steel Media MD] being the unstoppable force of infectious enthusiasm for the team.

I worked remotely, mostly from Germany, so it was awesome to meet at trade events. I did my first GDC with Pocket Gamer and it was like someone had set off a possibility bomb in my head. It allowed me to truly appreciate the scale of the industry and the things I could do within it.

Then of course, there was the incident with Chris, the horse and the… Well, I’ve already said too much.

What key moments or developments stick out for you from the last 10 years of the mobile games industry?

The moment Apple announced it was going to allow native apps on the original iPhone in 2008 was the spark that lit the bonfire. Within the space of six months, it became very clear that we were living through what would later be defined as an era. We're still within the boundaries of that era.

There there were the first free-to-play games. I remember a mobile FPS that monetised guns and amo but I can't remember the name of the title or the studio. Anyway, after I saw that game, which had very high production values for the time, I thought it was very clear what was going to happen.

I also think that Nintendo finally caving to pressure to investigate mobile as a platform is quietly significant. In a couple of years, that will be the moment the music died for the whole idea of a gaming only handheld in the Game Boy tradition of that definition.

There were lots of smaller milestones too. I remember thinking when Rockstar did an iOS port of Chinatown Wars, followed by proper ports of some of its other GTA titles, "there's no going back now – mobile has hit the zenith of the legitimacy scale."

Which was your favourite mobile gaming platform(s) or hardware?
The one I've used the most has to be the iPad – it has completely cannibalised my iPhone gaming to the point that I seldom have any games on my phone anymore. It's not necessarily a good thing: the technology trajectory of iPads is frightening.

We are only a couple of years away from the average iPad being able to outclass home consoles in raw processing power. Aside from the broader industry ramifications that will have on other platforms, it also means that developers won't be working within hard creative constraints anymore. Great games are about trade offs and unlimited processing bandwidth doesn't force those trade offs.

Do you still play mobile games? What are you playing now and on what device?

Of course – I'd be worthy of being fired otherwise. Right now I'm still playing Rayman Adventures. I also can't stop playing Kingdom Rush (almost made it into my top ten). Then there's Badlands 2 which has had quite a bit of screen time but the game I'm playing most is Fieldrunners: Hardhat Heroes. It is honestly the most beautiful game of its kind I've ever played and I can't wait for people to get their hands on it.

Where do you see mobile games and the industry going in the next 10 years?
I think we will see continued consolidation on all fronts. The current studio/publisher consolidation will continue with many more large acquisitions over the next 36 months.

I also think that the current pace of the tablet's processing and graphics capabilities position it as something that could eventually be the box under your TV as well as the companion in your bag/rucksack.

I'm seeing some encouraging signs in the mobile space concerning gender inclusivity. We are lucky to have access to lots of data in this part of the industry so knowing that female gamers are a growing chunk of the market and that they enjoy a very diverse array of titles should help to democratize the types of characters, themes, and styles that we see gaining traction over the coming years.

Anything you'd like to add?
Pocket Gamer is a visionary publishing venture. That sounds sycophantic given the opportunities it has ultimately helped to unlock for me, but it's crazy to imagine that it was even possible to have a dedicated publication for handheld games before 2007.

It's also astonishing to see PG go from strength to strength during a period when dedicated media companies of this type have been going bust right and left – it's an even harder business than making games.

Pocket Gamer has shown incredible foresight, tenacity, and insight over the years – we're all very lucky to have it (especially its sister site PG.biz) and I sincerely hope that it continues to thrive.

Long live PG and Chris’s ridiculous shirts (where does he get them?).

What's all this, then?

The Pocket Gamer 10th anniversary is a month-long celebration of the last decade of mobile games running March 10th - April 10th and featuring a stream of retrospective articles and fun stuff, supported by our friends at Gram Games, Gamevil, JoyCity, Rovio, Nordeus, and Ninja Kiwi. Head over to the PG 10th anniversary homepage for more information.


Reviewer photo
Fraser MacInnes 26 March 2016
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