Hello, fellow mobile gamers. I smashed my phone screen to pieces last month and lost all my progress in Lovelink! Don’t do that. Now I’m back at it with a much more controlled approach, which is to say I’m no longer matching with everybody under the sun to farm gems off of them, and am instead working slowly through the stories I like. Unfortunately, I left my romance with Cianán Ó Faoláin, a babe who is also a dullahan, on my old phone and haven’t gotten him on my new one to match with. If you spot him, please pass him my number. Thanks.

My Love Island Stories Are in Shambles

Lovelink data transfer issues aside, my other favorite mobile dating sim, Love Island: The Game and/or Love Villa is in shambles.

Fans of the game have been… we’ll say skeptical of Love Island‘s direction since the devs, Fusebox, launched the series’ second app (yeah, I don’t know). The first game, which we talked about in depth in a Postgame episode, was remarkably inclusive and featured nuanced and thoughtful discussions of issues like consent, mental health, and sexual identity. Since relaunching, that’s been less the case.

That could be due to issues that arose in 2021, when several employees voiced concerns that content in Matchmaker: Stories and Puzzles, an original IP game also by Fusebox, was biphobic and otherwise offensive. Several employees wrote and signed an open letter to human resources and executives at the company, and a number of them were later informed that their jobs were at risk. Shortly before the Independent’s report on the upheaval at Fusebox, Glassdoor reviews of the company began to tank. Reviews complained that management was ruining the working environment, which was otherwise comprised of great coworkers. As of this writing, the company’s review score is 2.2 out of 5.

The notice from Fusebox in Love Villa stating that seasons one-three would become unavailable due to the discontinuation of the third-party tool. The announcement states that Fusebox intends to remaster them, and that gems will be reset before the content is replaced on December 11, 2023.

The original version of the notification, stating that “it is our intention to remaster [the seasons] and bring them back.” This was replaced by a message stating that “the team will look into ways to possibly bring back these seasons in the future,” viewable here on Reddit.

Fast forward to 2022, when Love Island: The Game 2 (now just Love Island: The Game, to make things extra confusing) launched. Reception to the second iteration has been less positive than the first, with players on the game’s subreddits suggesting that a dip in the writing quality, reduced choices, and fewer likable romance options stem from the exodus—forced or voluntary—of employees in 2021. From my personal experience, Love Island: The Game is inferior to its predecessor, though I do appreciate that the “Ex in the Villa” season featured so many awful characters that it became a fun drama game for me, even if the romances were, uh, bad.

Anyway, in late November of this year, a warning appeared on Love Villa (previously Love Island: The Game) that seasons one through three would become unavailable to play as of December 11 due to a third-party tool being discontinued. According to the notice—which was changed sometime after the original announcement—Fusebox may remaster these seasons and bring them back. The update also cautioned users that the update would reset their gem balance, the in-game currency used to purchase items like new outfits, special dialog choices, and extra scenes.

Because gems can be purchased with real money, fans were extremely upset that they were being overwritten—especially because the update simply replaced seasons one through three with new content from Love Island: The Game, which can also be purchased with gems. This led to an unofficial boycott of new Love Island: The Game content among some fans, though the effort does not appear to have been widespread.

Fusebox did not respond to a request for comment on the seasons discontinuation or gem resetting by publication time.

More interestingly, the discontinuation of seasons one through three of the game formally known as Love Island: The Game has inspired a number of fans to delve into game development themselves to save and recreate the content they (and I) loved so much in seasons one through three. One person is recreating season two in text-based form, while another has created an entirely new game inspired by Love Island called Marriage Mansion.

Frankly, this whole situation stinks of some of the worst aspects of the games industry—corporate interests over developers, expendable employees, ephemeral content. But seeing people coming together or working independently to build their own games based on the things they love is heartwarming, in a way. Keep at it, Love Island fans!

In other news…

Since I spent some 700 words talking about Love Island, here’s the rest of the month’s mobile gaming news in bite-sized snippets.

Pornhub users are down bad for Chun-Li… but the Fortnite version? Sometimes I don’t actually need all of the news, but now that I have to know it, you do, too.

Former mayor of a Pennsylvania city Ida Reams has been sentenced to up to one year in prison after threatening and shooting at two Pokemon Go players. Reams, who has cancer, may serve all or part of her sentence at home.

Apparently, you can find, defeat, and steal the powers of Family Guy‘s Peter Griffin this month in Fortnite. There’s also a bunch of Eminem skins? And thanks to that article I learned Eminem has lyrics that go, “Bitch, I can make “orange” rhyme with “banana” (Yeah) / Ornana.” Sometimes I feel like Fortnite is what happens when pop culture has a dream.

ByteDance, parent company of TikTok and Marvel Snap publisher Nuverse, announced it will be withdrawing from the games industry. Marvel Snap developer Second Dinner stated this month that the game will continue to operate despite the parent company leaving the industry.

Apple revealed their top Apple Arcade games of this year, including Football Manager 2023 Touch, Angry Birds Reloaded, and Mini Motorways.

Pocket Gamer announced the winners of their fan-voted awards this month. The game of the year award went to Arena Breakout, while SpongeBob: Get Cooking, Skip-Bo Mobile, and Goddess of Victory: NIKKE also took home prizes. Separately, The Game Awards honored Honkai: Star Rail with their mobile game of the year award.

Little Nightmares, the hit platformer that looks too spooky for my weenie soul, is now available for mobileGoat Simulator 3 (there are three of them?!) is also now out for mobile. And Braid: Anniversary Edition, the time-travel puzzle platformer, is set to release on mobile in April 2024, and will include commentary from developer Jonathan Blow, if for some reason you’d want to listen to such a thing. A bunch more AAA games launched for mobile this month, though Death Stranding has been delayed.

Epic Games won its lawsuit against Google. The lawsuit suggested that the Play store app was an illegal monopoly, which the jury found to be true on all accounts. The ramifications of this trial could have far-reaching consequences in the mobile game industry, but we’ll have to wait until January to see what remedies will be put in place. Google also settled antitrust cases from all 50 US states out of court, resulting in having to pay a $700 million fee. Though Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney applauded the court ruling, the company stated after the antitrust settlement that there was “no true relief for consumers or developers.”

In depressing news, SuperScale, a mobile games growth strategist, has released a report that states that some 43% of mobile games don’t make it past the development stage, while 83% are shut down within three years after release. Further, 32% of mobile game developers laid off employees this year, and 25% of studios interviewed came close to shutting down entirely this year. Woof.