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Mobile Gaming Is Having A Moment—and Backbone Wants To Unite It

Other perks to being a Backbone+ subscriber include game capture, recording, and editing tools for folks who like to share content on social media. There are promotions, like free months of Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass, in-game content for titles like Diablo Immortal, and 30 percent off new Backbone products and accessories.

Unfortunately, this convenience comes at a cost. Yet another subscription is a hard sell nowadays. As nice as it is to have a single portal, shelling out for Backbone+ may not be worthwhile for everyone. If the one-stop shop interface for all your games is included as part of the free app, it would be easy to recommend, but $50 a year is too much to pay for folks who don’t care about the other functionality or promotions.

That old expectation that mobile games should be free is persistent. Most folks are yet to be sold on alternative models to in-app purchases and advertising, like Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass. The latest rumors suggest Apple Arcade’s future is in doubt. That is a shame because, in my experience as a subscriber to both, they are a great way to discover titles worth playing. Discoverability remains a big problem for mobile games.

Breaking Down BarriersKhaira kicked off Backbone because of the gaming sessions he had with friends. In a house full of consoles and gaming PCs, smartphones were the common denominator where they could all play Fortnite together after work. With the console wars raging and all the non-gaming giants trying to break in, what happens next is tough to predict. But the shift towards a subscription model and the platform agnosticism in mobile feels increasingly inevitable.

When the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, recently addressed the console exclusivity issue, where certain games are only available on one console, he said, “It’s not about games in service of a device, but rather the devices people want to play on should be in service of making the games as big and popular as they possibly could be.”

Whether you want to play games on your Xbox, PlayStation, gaming PC, or smartphone, it looks like that choice is opening up. The new Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile game promises to connect up to 120 players across console, PC, and mobile platforms. Activision says more than 50 million players pre-downloaded the game, and Backbone is offering perks and in-game items for subscribers (plus releasing a Prestige Edition controller to commemorate the launch).

Beyond crossplay, which enables people to play games together on different devices, we are starting to see more cross-progression, carrying your video game progress from one platform to another. Making games available anywhere makes them more accessible, allowing us all to play more. That has to be a good thing.

Photograph: Backbone