Recently, a compatriot at this site penned an article having to do with the myth that mobile gaming will someday shove consoles out of the marketplace. While the points he made were quite valid, I found myself disagreeing with his stance. I will now respectfully state my beliefs on the subject of whether or not mobile gaming will overtake consoles. Spoiler alert: yep.
Consoles hold a special place in gamers’ hearts. We have grown up with these bastions of imagination and competition sitting beneath our televisions, always there when we desire to escape reality for a few hours. However, there is now a machine that is far more powerful than most of our childhood consoles, and practically everyone has it sitting in their pocket right now. It’s the almighty smartphone, a device that can handle far more than most ever imagined. And, most importantly for this article, there are many, many games available for smartphones, whether iOS or Android.
Now, saying that it is possible for a smartphone or tablet to do what a console is capable of at the moment is a complete lie. A machine with little other purpose than to play games is miles ahead of the multi-use smartphone. But consoles are moving away from being single purpose machines, though, and mobile gaming is getting better and better. With the release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown for mobile devices, it has been shown that a major console success can make the jump into the mobile gaming space with little loss. I can hear you now: “XCOM, while being a beautifully crafted and damn near perfect game, doesn’t have the major graphics sequences that a Gears of War, etc., game has!” (Also, I’m hearing an Irish accent. Am I right?) Well, that answer is quite simple, and can be answered in two parts. First, you shouldn’t care about hyper-realistic graphics anymore. Stylized graphics are far more interesting and fun. Second, just give it time. Remember the first cell phone games? The greatest graphics that you could hope to see were in Snake, and they just consisted of dots and lines. So in about 15 years, we went from this:
And remember what it looked like 15 years before Snake? No, you don’t, because there were no games on cell phones, and cell phones were the size of a cinder block. Changes come faster in technology the better technology gets, according to Moore’s Law, which you can read more about here. So with technology getting better and better, there’s no reason to believe that smartphone games will be the strange outlier that ceases to grow. Eventually, in the not too distant future, the differences between console and mobile games will be infinitesimal.
So, it seems that the difference between the two will disappear, thus creating a platform that, amongst many other things, can handle anything from Words With Friends to God of War. I feel that there will be a subset of phones that are better suited to gaming, something that may have joysticks or something similar. It just makes more sense. Consumers will already have these devices, so why should they buy a separate machine to play a game that they can already play on what they have?
Another factor that can’t be discounted is the accessibility for developers to create on the mobile platform. GTA V cost an estimated $265,000,000 to make, a completely mind boggling amount. Is it likely that the higher-ups would let the developers create a new IP with this budget, rather than making them stick to same old formula that they already know is successful? No, it’s not; that’s why we see so many sequels and reboots these days. The budgets are growing, and the money guys want to do everything they can to guarantee a decent return on their investment. New IPs are untested, and because of that, are a much greater risk. The actual average budget for a multi-platform game is $18-$28 million; compare that to anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands to develop a mobile game, and you can see the appeal. By spending so little, it’s much easier and quicker to turn a profit. Along with that, it’s possible to take a risk with something creative and new.
So, we come to this; mobile gaming is getting far prettier, more creative, and more in-depth, while console gaming is becoming just slightly prettier, very stagnant, and extremely predictable. Something has to give. There will be another gaming crash soon, and when that happens, mobile games are going to see a massive surge in talent from former console developers. Let’s face it: as much as we may not want it to be true, the life of the console is limited, facing a two-pronged attack from smartphones and PCs. Those wonderful little boxes that we hold so close to our hearts are going the way of the buffalo in the near future, regardless of the sales figures of the new generation. For myself, I don’t think I’ll buy either a PS4 or a One; I’m just going to hang on to my old consoles and get a good gaming PC. The only games that are interesting me in the near future are Dark Souls 2 for the PS3 and 360, and The Witcher 3 for the new generation and PC. Those are sequels I can get excited about. Almost everything else on consoles are just safe bets, even the new IP Watch Dogs. You put enough hype behind anything, you can practically guarantee its success.
All this is just my view, as likely to be flawed as anyone else’s. But there is a major change coming soon in the industry, and there’s no denying that. Mobile gaming is getting ready to move out of its mother’s house and start partying, while console gaming is resting on its laurels, watching hour long dramas and trying to remember to take its Metamucil. The torch will be passed soon, and it’s going to be an extremely interesting time for gamers.