Interview: Why XCOM: Enemy Unknown is such a 'good fit' for mobile

After playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown on iPad, we decided that it was "made for mobile." Perhaps unsurprisingly, turn-based strategy works incredibly well on the touch screen. We chatted with Jake Solomon, lead designer of XCOM: Enemy Unknown about the upcoming iOS version, and what it means for the future of 2K.

Shacknews: What was the motivation behind porting XCOM to iOS? Is the iOS version primarily for XCOM fans or do you hope to expand the market to new players?

Solomon: There were a few reasons. The first is that we feel like turn-based strategy games are a natural fit for mobile devices because you can always pause the game and pick it right back up where you left off.  In addition, the turn-based play allows you the time to be reminded of what you were doing and make decisions on next steps. Secondly, and this is the part that amazes me, technically and design wise it turned out to be for a good fit for the iOS. Playing a game that came out for console and PC last year on your phone? That still blows my mind, seriously.

Shacknews: How did you go about deciding on the controls for iOS? I heard that 2K China was responsible for the port, but were there any challenges in porting to iOS that you were aware of?

Solomon: 2K China did the conversion, but the base game code is what we developed here at Firaxis. They made some changes to the interface to take advantage of the touch controls, but it's very intuitive and based on the PC interface. I think players shouldn't have any problems picking it up. The port went well when you consider the leap to mobile. Like I said, it still amazes me that this thing exists!

Shacknews: How much will XCOM iOS cost? How do you balance the price to be competitive with other games on the App Store, while not diluting the perceived value of the console/PC release?

Solomon: It'll be a premium priced app, with what we believe will provide a ton of value. The game's been well-received and it's hugely replayable, and now you've got the option to take it on the road with you. I mean, don't drive and play XCOM, but you're not confined to your living room or office to play it now.

Shacknews: I was told that XCOM iOS is a premium app, but had you previously considered integrating any free-to-play aspects?

Solomon: In this case, the design of XCOM is pretty tightly constructed, and I don't think making changes to the game to support a different business model would have made sense.

Shacknews: What's your view on iOS in general? Will it become home to more late-arriving ports of other console games? Or is XCOM a one-off? How about simultaneous console-PC-iOS releases in the future?

Solomon: Mobile is very cool, and XCOM is one of the first current-generation games that's got an iOS version following so shortly on the release of the initial game, so it's very cool to be part of that trend. As for the rest of it, that's a business decision that involves more than the game design, and I couldn't predict how it could go. I couldn't predict we'd be doing a full mobile version of the game anyway, so my track record as a prophet isn't so good.

Shacknews: Are there potential for ports on other Unreal platforms, like Vita and Wii U? Are there any plans to create a version for Android?

Solomon: We wouldn't want to ignore potential platforms, but right now iOS seems like the right next step, and so we want to do our best to make the best version we can for mobile.