04/12/2022

Mobile Markets: A Smartphone Inc. Game [Review]

Almost 50% of the narrative pieces on this blog are flowing through the typing of a virtual keyboard, tapping the words on my smartphone’s screen. The other half is poured out of its bigger cousin: my laptop. My mom was not impressed with the technology nowadays, though. She always thinks that I spend my time a tad too much on my gadget. Little did she know, idea and inspiration come neither with warning nor notification. Writing them on a piece of paper may be an option, which debatably inconvenient — especially when I’m having my Eureka moment in my typical safe haven: the toilet.

Now, let’s start from our last checkpoint: the smartphone. The technology that we are taking for granted for far too long has been in circulation for more than 30 years. The history stretches from 1973 to the present time, from the first cellular phone as big as a brick to the now-smartphone era with its slim and slick design. This gadget which fits in our pocket has been an integral part of humanity ever since. Ivan Lashin captured this later part of the extensive saga in Smartphone Inc. Four years after funding on Kickstarter and fully shipping it to the backers, the same mastermind designed a reimplementation of this game — the Mobile Markets. It is therefore understandable, hopefully, that I would have a great deal of comparisons as the focal point in this writing.

Showcasing Mobile Markets in SPIEL Essen 2021, the Russian publishing house, Cosmodrome Games, successfully pulled many visitors to their booth — me included. Well, I may have my positive bias towards Mobile Markets, especially because its predecessor has been standing as my top ten games in my shelves.

Disclaimer: I am an avid euro gamer and a hardcore Legend of the Five Rings LCG player. I am not a fan of solo game/variant. This statement will give you an overview of what kind of bias I might have while writing.

THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN MOBILE MARKETS AND SMARTPHONE INC.

Ivan, still bringing the same spirits in his Mobile Markets, transferred the former thematic aspect verbatim from its successful predecessor. Deja-vu is inevitable, as we encounter many similarities in both of them. Nonetheless, this is neither a cheap copy nor a lazy remake of an already solid game. This new edition brings something fresh to our table along the equivalent value, if not more, when comparing with the previous release.

For starters, it’s obvious that we have the same theme and background story, and it still brings the secret action selection determined by the action boards. With the same implementation, it still never gets boring, as we have to optimize the secret placement of these two boards to push the capitalism spirit within us.

Not only we are building a startup, we are here to mould a profitable technology giant. Thus, despite the reimplementation, we won’t have to worry that we miss the core identity of Smartphone Inc. — in short, it’s still there: with the same main goal to generate and have the most money at the end of the game.

The secret planning through this pad-duo still makes the different for the rest of the next phases ahead. Deciding the resources for the whole round creates the suspension in the gameplay. Correctly predicting our opponents’ moves is still crucial, as it may let us raise both our fists up in the air. It may potentially push you into despair when they outplay us or, worse, when we are at fault by taking the wrong step.

The importance of pricing STILL EXISTS

Pricing still plays a salient role in regulating the players’ turn, an aspect I deem integral in winning the game – again, just like in Smartphone Inc… In the way, the price is also inversely proportional to the production quota, something that logically makes sense. Thematically speaking, this is a smart implementation that brings up the realistic value into the game, as the lower price tags become the most competitive and affordable – and thus, rewards that player with the privilege to penetrate the market earlier. This occurrence can sweep off the customers in this market sharing system, making your competitors’ smartphone left unsold. I feel a great deal of production management in this game, which simulate the real life market.

DISTINCTIVE FEATURES IN THE NEW GAME

At this point, we get the impression that they still deliver an influential and similar core idea mentioned above. Why did they decide to rework the game if it’s solid already, though? With the trend of converting an existing game into a more compact, card-oriented system, previously I have also tried Arkwright and its successor, Arkwright: The Card Game. It’s safe to say that Ivan’s designing crews also took the same path by converting Smartphone Inc. into Mobile Markets. However, this argument may also bring another follow-up question: was it just by virtue of tailing the latest trend?

A compression in size is inevitable as they convert the colossal box into a smaller packaging. The removal of certain components is also a compulsory pursue to fit only the most necessities in a more modest container.

The most obvious change is the non-existence of the previous big main board. A more modular sort has replaced that world atlas. Nevertheless, they still manage to take up so much space on the table when we set it up.

Despite the dimensional downsizing and some parts that cease to exist,  they are not only removing things to streamline the game. Instead, they also add something new along the way, which seamlessly performing with all aspects in Mobile Markets. No wonder the complexity rate on BGG is slightly higher for this game. Obviously, Ivan and co. did not only remake Smartphone Inc. to bow before the trend. They managed to pack a better game in a smaller box, too.

New marketing CAMPAIGN AND technology CARDS

While Mobile Markets still brings the core idea of dual-pads for the decision-making process, Ivan removed the possibility to acquire additional tiles called Improvements from the Smartphone Inc. game. These extra pads were previously crucial for the engine-building process by interacting directly with the default ones in the planning phase. Instead, the devs abolished this implementation and introduced the new way to upgrade the engine. In the current game, there are different cards obtained via Technology and Marketing phases, which bring advantage depending on their effects. Without getting dependent on the pads, these Technology cards and Marketing Campaign cards will trigger according to the appropriate phases mentioned.

Some members of our group prefer the new implementation, since the way to build the engine is rather more convoluted. On the other hand, I prefer the previous one because the additional pad is a more streamline approach. Plus, I think the predecessor’s approach in this matter is more accessible for broader audiences.

MORE OPEN MOBILE MARKETS

While Smartphone Inc. introduced the customers as the regional demand on the world atlas, Mobile Market makes gadget shopping more personal. Instead of fulfilling majority demand in some countries, our company makes some direct sales to the customers.

With that being said, the need for that big map is obsolete in this new version. The new setup utilizes multiple customer cards with different demands and requirements instead.

The big shift from area control approach (via the big atlas) to the card drafting is Mobile Markets’ noteworthy spotlight. Interestingly, we can sort of reserve these cards, turning them into our private customers. It is important to point out that this change reduces neither Smartphone Inc.’s competitiveness level nor the cut-throat feel.

On another note, the new mechanic even brings out the realistic view of how the modern market flows. With the always-changing customers to draft from round to round, all companies must observe and adapt their strategy to win some profits. Not only we have to gear up the end-product with the latest technologies, the Marketing step is also an eminent advantage to keep you on the top. With that being said, the pricing model for the product we sell is still the main focal point to win the game.

NETT PROFIT, A NEW POINT-OF-INTEREST IN MOBILE MARKETS

Another new depth offered in this game is the introduction of nett profit. Each smartphone has a base cost, the increment is dependent on the Feature add-ons integrated into the production. It is a nice addition in the game, making the game more meaningful and more strategic.

Players cannot just blindly rig new features on their new smartphone production, since it can drive the capital cost too high. Meanwhile, a phone without any feature equipped is not interesting either, and may not fulfil the requirements from the always-changing customers. The nett profit approach shapes Mobile Markets to be a better economy game, improving the realistic feel from the previous version.

VERDICT

Mobile Markets is intended to be a more compact version of Smartphone Inc., and in addition, they successfully built a new and meaty game. Some new approaches in the game create new depths which require more strategy. The release of this new version may have dropped the million-dollar-question: is Smartphone Inc. still relevant after this reimplementation? To put it simply, yes, since both games offer different ways that shape the whole experience. Granted, Mobile Markets brings something fresher into the table, and it has a more realistic depiction of the smartphone industry. Regardless, Smartphone Inc. can still be an option to have a good economy game on your list. If you like the previous Smartphone Inc., you will definitely like this one, too.

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