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Will Mobile Devices Overtake Gaming Consoles?

Tom's Hardware Interviews Four Android And iOS Game Developers
By

Tom's Hardware: Some people believe that mobile games for smartphones and tablets are competing directly with console games—and after visiting Nvidia’s booth at CES and Mobile World Congress, it's easy to understand why. As mobile game developers, do you feel that you are producing a new medium of entertainment that will capture market share from console games?

Fishlabs: We’re absolutely certain that mobile bears more potential for gaming than any other platform out there. Eight years ago, people called us delusional when we told them that Fishlabs was about to bring state-of-the-art 3D action games to the small displays of their cellphones, even at 128x128 resolution. Back then, mobile games had not even reached the level of a PlayStation in terms of graphics and game play. Today, however, the most ambitious mobile games have already closed in on the best titles for Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. In the past five years, the mobile industry has made progress for which the console developers needed 20 years and more.

These days, there are already more iPhones and iPads in circulation, which are used as gaming devices, than there are PlayStations and Xboxes on the market combined! And the most successful games on the App Store do easily generate tens of millions of downloads on launch weekend alone. According to Flurry, the combined install base of iOS and Android will add up to more than one billion activated devices by the end of 2012. Consider that more than 50% of the 40+ billion apps already downloaded from the App Store and Google Play are games. With that in mind, it's easy to see how omnipresent mobile games are in this day and age, and the development is still fully underway and an end is not in sight!

Madfinger: We do our best to prove that it is possible to develop a game for mobile phones and tablets that can compete with console games in areas that matter: visual effects and entertainment. On the other hand, as long as mobile games do not earn as much as console games, we will not be able to compete on par. Simply put, a game developer dedicated to mobile titles cannot compete with a company focused on console games in budget nor in profit. Development of top console games takes quite a few years and even bigger budgets, but there again they are much more profitable.

Mediocre: Mobile games are quickly approaching the quality of console titles, but still lacking for content. This might not be surprising, considering the typical price difference. We are mostly interested in the casual gaming genre—, which I would consider a new medium for entertainment since it appeals to people that didn't even know they could enjoy games, or people that used to play games but no longer feel they have the time. Challenges in game design and game mechanics are quite different from the traditional core gaming market.

Vertex Unit: I do not think mobile games are competing with console games. After all, you can buy 50 mobiles games for the price of a single console game. However, I do think that mobile devices are competing with dedicated gaming handhelds like the Vita and the 3DS. In fact, I think this year will be remembered as the death of those handhelds. It will take a few years before tablets can compete directly with consoles, but they are getting there.

I do think mobile games offer something different to consumers. The best mobile games offer experiences that are light and easy to get into (and out of) without making players feel like they have to spend hours glued in front of a TV screen. And the very best mobile games offer something deeper and more compelling for players who plumb their depths.

Tom's Hardware: Connecting an Xbox controller to an Asus Transformer Prime with its display output to a big-screen HDTV enables Xbox-like game play that makes me wonder if console replacement might be inevitable. Do you feel that mobile gaming might actually replace console gaming, or is mobile gaming a separate and distinct gaming paradigm?

Fishlabs: Mobile Gaming does not only become more and more popular by the hour, but also more and more elaborate and ambitious. Of course, it is hard to say whether mobile will be able to replace the traditional consoles once and for all, but there is no denying that it will get tougher and tougher for the PlayStations and Xboxes out there to keep pace with the incredibly fast development and extremely short innovation cycles of the mobile market. The PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 are both already more than five years old and they’re still the most advanced consoles on the market. In an even shorter period of time, mobile devices have evolved from the very first iPhone to the iPhone 4S, the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the new iPad!

With steadily growing hardware capabilities and a ceaseless stream of new features and possibilities, there is hardly a limit to the amazing things that mobile is capable of. Cross-platform gaming, multiplayer gaming, and online connectivity are no longer dreams of the future for today’s mobile gamers. And thanks to amazing features such as Apple AirPlay or big-screen HDTV support, you’re also no longer restricted to the comparatively small display of your smartphone or tablet.

In addition to those gadgets, one of the biggest advantages of mobile gaming is and will always be the fact, that mobile gamers are able to play their favorite titles whenever and wherever they want. In Galaxy on Fire 2, for example, users are free to chose whether they just want to play a few side missions on the bus to work or indulge in a deeper and more immersive part of the story once they have more time. Ultimately, they can even take their current game session to the Mac, connect their Xbox or Playstation controller to it and continue where they left off at an incredible 2560x1440 resolution. That is even beyond HDTV console gaming. You can clearly see, the “mobile” medium grants users more freedom than any other platform. The more technical and game play-related innovations it brings forth, the harder it will be for the traditional platforms and systems to convince their users not to trade in the controllers of their consoles for the touch screens of the latest-generation smartphones and tablets.

Madfinger: In my opinion, we are headed down that path. I enjoy the fact that I can use just one device—tablet or phone—for gaming on my way to work, at home, or while traveling. This is the future, but it does not necessarily mean that we are replacing consoles. Many hardcore players will stay devoted to consoles, as many players have remained devoted to PC gaming.

A few years ago, there were no tablets or smartphones, so it is hard to speculate how things will look in the next few years. We are living in an exciting era now, because manufacturers of mobiles, tablets, handhelds, and consoles have to come up with new ideas, instead of merely increasing performance, adding extra memory, or upping the pixel count.

Mediocre: I think there will always be a market for hardcore console gamers, but it will shrink drastically over the next few years. This is already happening. You will obviously never get the same level of performance on a mobile device as you can with a plugged-in console, but for most gamers, the performance of next-generation or even current-generation mobile devices is good enough. The advantages of being able to pick up the device and keep gaming on the bus will outweigh the drawbacks.

Vector Unit: Mobile games are changing the gaming market in a major way, not just on mobile devices, but across all platforms. I think even on consoles and PCs you’ll see fewer and fewer $60 boxed games (at least fewer successful ones), and more and more games coming out that are cheap or free to play, that offer more content for dedicated players through in-app purchasing and the like. I mean—that ship has already sailed!

We'll wrap up our interview on that note, and we extend special thanks to the developers at Fishlabs, Madfinger, Mediocre, and Vector Unit for answering our questions. We hope to speak again soon about the latest developments in the mobile gaming industry and look forward to their next exciting mobile game titles!

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Top Comments
  • 13 Hide
    c4v3man , April 27, 2012 5:45 PM
    tk1138EXACTLYthese mobile games are a joke...they are clearly made for the lowest common denominator of people (the stupid)

    Obviously this is a PC centric website, but a fair amount of "hardcore gamers" seem to miss the point completely. Honestly the term Hardcore Gamer seems to indicate you're not really a gamer at all.

    Games are there to entertain, and to have fun. If I can have fun playing World of Goo on my android phone while running errands with my wife, or play Machinarium on my Playbook while flying to my destination, then at is gaming at it's essence. Honestly the Wii was probably the best and worst thing to happen to gaming. Obviously it brought out alot of shovelware (that otherwise would have targeted another console) but it also showed the world that people don't need serious games, we need fun games. Not everyone wants to compete all the time, they just want something to pass the time, to tell a story.

    There's room in the market for all game types. Hell, I even backed Takedown since I do enjoy a "serious" game occasionally. But claiming that people will stop playing tablet games "once they see what a PC can do" is ignorant. I'm well aware of what a PC can do, and will continue to play games on all my devices, when convenient. I don't need great graphics to have fun, just remember that video games started out with a dot and 2 lines.
  • 13 Hide
    cumi2k4 , April 27, 2012 9:23 AM
    @ anonimus789
    True that HD version is the way, but developers should not charge additional fees for it. Imagine if PC game developers implement this...you pay for the 1024x768 pix version, then when you upgrade your resolution to 1680x1050 pix, do you have to buy the game again?
  • 12 Hide
    blazorthon , April 27, 2012 4:35 PM
    tk1138EXACTLYthese mobile games are a joke...they are clearly made for the lowest common denominator of people (the stupid)

    ram1009This is complete BS IMHO. I don't see how anybody can enjoy gaming on such a tiny screen not to mention the lack of processing power and absence of memory required by modern games. It's all wishful thinking by the marketeers. Just something new to sell unsuspecting novices who later find out what a desktop can do and buy what they should have bought in the first place.


    You two are exaggerating by way too much. Mobile gaming isn't for the stupid, not in the least. It's for people who want to game when they are mobile. Desktops are for a completely different market with different goals. Mobile gaming is not about matching PC gaming in quality, it's about cheap, affordable games that can be played when you are mobile. Of course they won't come close to desktop quality. Mobile games are not for the stupid, they are for the mobile. You two are just elitest pricks who don't recognize that your ways of life can't be sustained by everyone else and even if they could, not everyone wants to be like you. If I'm on a train for two hours a day to go between work in a city and my home in a cheaper suburb outside of the city, then wth am I supposed to do? PCs obviously aren't a viable choice here. However, I have my phone on me, so I can use it. Mobile gaming markets are pretty similar to the Game Boys and such, except the smart phones are both for gaming and many other uses.

    Sure, mobile gaming can also be done at the house and such for people who want to do it. It is FAR more affordable than PC or console gaming is, so many more people can do it who would have otherwise been left without any good games at all. Furthermore, games obviously don't need tons of memory if they are written well. For example, the PS3 only has 256MB of GDDR3 VRAM and only 256MB of XDR system RAM and most modern smart phones have at least that much memory, if not even more. Smart phones have more than enough memory for mobile gaming.

    Furthermore, smart phones are approaching the processing power of the PS3 and Xbox 360. Tablets have already matched them with the newest iPad (although I'd wait until a non-Apple tablet/smart phone had such power before buying something like this). Most people simply can't afford or can't justify spending hundreds to thousands of dollars to get high performance gaming systems and games for those systems, especially when they can get a far cheaper phone that is also needed for other things and get the games for less than $10 each (many are free). Sure, they aren't as high quality as some PC games, but it's not like most PC games we see today are nearly as good for the time as we have seen in the past. So many potentially good games have been dumbed down or were just made poorly.

    Sure, we still have some good games, but most of them simply aren't anymore. Sometimes, I'd rather just play an older game nowadays just because they were simply better games, despite not having as much eye candy. Seriously now... Most people need a phone for a variety of reasons (be they convenience or through necessities such as jobs requiring phones and other important reasons). Most people don't really need a computer for anything except internet access. Sure, some people, such as developers, IT, and others need them for their jobs, but most people don't really need them and can do a lot of what needed a PC on a cheap laptop or even on a good smart phone. So, phones are obviously pretty much universally needed by the majority. You can just get a free or a cheap game, or a bunch of them, for the prices of a single PC/console game. They don't even need to be as good... At least smart phone games don't have DRM problems and such that PC games (and possibly console games soon enough) have.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , April 27, 2012 9:03 AM
    Though I agree that paying more for an HD version of a game is not the right way moving forward, I do believe HD resolution for gaming is essential. In my opinion, a game with excellent high-resolution graphics will win over a similar game with a lower res graphics. Having that crisp, clean graphics, would say a lot about the quality of the game even before the consumer has a chance to play it. First impressions count.
  • 13 Hide
    cumi2k4 , April 27, 2012 9:23 AM
    @ anonimus789
    True that HD version is the way, but developers should not charge additional fees for it. Imagine if PC game developers implement this...you pay for the 1024x768 pix version, then when you upgrade your resolution to 1680x1050 pix, do you have to buy the game again?
  • -8 Hide
    Anonymous , April 27, 2012 9:38 AM
    Andrew Ku, your shameful promotion of Windows Phone was embarasing. The developers have nothing to do with it, and you kept bringing it up over and over again.
  • 1 Hide
    jaquith , April 27, 2012 1:01 PM
    Phone & Tablet Reviews - I'm of the opinion, at least (here), there's little point to voicing any constructive point of view. Each platform has their followers and the numbers based on sales are not representative of the folks that post their comments.

    Therefore, whichever platform you like I hope you can 'get' what you like. I do hope that all platforms can make it easier for the developers.
  • 12 Hide
    blazorthon , April 27, 2012 4:35 PM
    tk1138EXACTLYthese mobile games are a joke...they are clearly made for the lowest common denominator of people (the stupid)

    ram1009This is complete BS IMHO. I don't see how anybody can enjoy gaming on such a tiny screen not to mention the lack of processing power and absence of memory required by modern games. It's all wishful thinking by the marketeers. Just something new to sell unsuspecting novices who later find out what a desktop can do and buy what they should have bought in the first place.


    You two are exaggerating by way too much. Mobile gaming isn't for the stupid, not in the least. It's for people who want to game when they are mobile. Desktops are for a completely different market with different goals. Mobile gaming is not about matching PC gaming in quality, it's about cheap, affordable games that can be played when you are mobile. Of course they won't come close to desktop quality. Mobile games are not for the stupid, they are for the mobile. You two are just elitest pricks who don't recognize that your ways of life can't be sustained by everyone else and even if they could, not everyone wants to be like you. If I'm on a train for two hours a day to go between work in a city and my home in a cheaper suburb outside of the city, then wth am I supposed to do? PCs obviously aren't a viable choice here. However, I have my phone on me, so I can use it. Mobile gaming markets are pretty similar to the Game Boys and such, except the smart phones are both for gaming and many other uses.

    Sure, mobile gaming can also be done at the house and such for people who want to do it. It is FAR more affordable than PC or console gaming is, so many more people can do it who would have otherwise been left without any good games at all. Furthermore, games obviously don't need tons of memory if they are written well. For example, the PS3 only has 256MB of GDDR3 VRAM and only 256MB of XDR system RAM and most modern smart phones have at least that much memory, if not even more. Smart phones have more than enough memory for mobile gaming.

    Furthermore, smart phones are approaching the processing power of the PS3 and Xbox 360. Tablets have already matched them with the newest iPad (although I'd wait until a non-Apple tablet/smart phone had such power before buying something like this). Most people simply can't afford or can't justify spending hundreds to thousands of dollars to get high performance gaming systems and games for those systems, especially when they can get a far cheaper phone that is also needed for other things and get the games for less than $10 each (many are free). Sure, they aren't as high quality as some PC games, but it's not like most PC games we see today are nearly as good for the time as we have seen in the past. So many potentially good games have been dumbed down or were just made poorly.

    Sure, we still have some good games, but most of them simply aren't anymore. Sometimes, I'd rather just play an older game nowadays just because they were simply better games, despite not having as much eye candy. Seriously now... Most people need a phone for a variety of reasons (be they convenience or through necessities such as jobs requiring phones and other important reasons). Most people don't really need a computer for anything except internet access. Sure, some people, such as developers, IT, and others need them for their jobs, but most people don't really need them and can do a lot of what needed a PC on a cheap laptop or even on a good smart phone. So, phones are obviously pretty much universally needed by the majority. You can just get a free or a cheap game, or a bunch of them, for the prices of a single PC/console game. They don't even need to be as good... At least smart phone games don't have DRM problems and such that PC games (and possibly console games soon enough) have.
  • 13 Hide
    c4v3man , April 27, 2012 5:45 PM
    tk1138EXACTLYthese mobile games are a joke...they are clearly made for the lowest common denominator of people (the stupid)

    Obviously this is a PC centric website, but a fair amount of "hardcore gamers" seem to miss the point completely. Honestly the term Hardcore Gamer seems to indicate you're not really a gamer at all.

    Games are there to entertain, and to have fun. If I can have fun playing World of Goo on my android phone while running errands with my wife, or play Machinarium on my Playbook while flying to my destination, then at is gaming at it's essence. Honestly the Wii was probably the best and worst thing to happen to gaming. Obviously it brought out alot of shovelware (that otherwise would have targeted another console) but it also showed the world that people don't need serious games, we need fun games. Not everyone wants to compete all the time, they just want something to pass the time, to tell a story.

    There's room in the market for all game types. Hell, I even backed Takedown since I do enjoy a "serious" game occasionally. But claiming that people will stop playing tablet games "once they see what a PC can do" is ignorant. I'm well aware of what a PC can do, and will continue to play games on all my devices, when convenient. I don't need great graphics to have fun, just remember that video games started out with a dot and 2 lines.
  • 7 Hide
    ojas , April 27, 2012 6:38 PM
    Mihai CAndrew Ku, your shameful promotion of Windows Phone was embarasing. The developers have nothing to do with it, and you kept bringing it up over and over again.

    Though at least we know why they've nothing to do with it. I for one was unaware of the native code restriction. It's good to see they're willing to support Win 8 though.

    What was more interesting is the way they completely avoided talking about anything related to x86. Can't be sure why but i think they've not got much experience at all with the arch.
  • 10 Hide
    c4v3man , April 27, 2012 7:05 PM
    ram1009You can always tell when someone is out of logical, focused arguements. They start calling names. "Elitist prick"? What do I care how you spend your 2 hour commute? Next you'll be telling me it's OK to game and drive. Something tells me you're an itard.

    Why would an "itard" avoid buying the new iPad and wait for a non-apple tablet to have that kind of power? When did he indicate that he drives a car at all, let alone proposed that driving while being on a cell phone was acceptable?

    You called touchscreen gamers "unsuspecting novices", got called out on it, then called another user an "itard". You might want to read the first line of your post again aloud.
  • 4 Hide
    blazorthon , April 27, 2012 7:27 PM
    Quote:
    You can always tell when someone is out of logical, focused arguements. They start calling names. "Elitist prick"? What do I care how you spend your 2 hour commute? Next you'll be telling me it's OK to game and drive. Something tells me you're an itard.


    Yeah... That big post of mine full of logical arguments must mean that I'm out of logical arguments. Me using a hypothetical situation that is fairly common for many people must mean that I do it too, mustn't it? Me saying that a lot of people like to have something to do when they are on a train must mean that I support gaming while driving a car, mustn't it? Me specifically saying that I refuse to buy Apple hardware must make me an Apple fan, mustn't it? Looks like you're the one without any logical arguments. You just resorted to insulting me after I called you out on your ridiculous comment. It showed obvious signs of being an elitest prick, so that's what I said. My comment doesn't imply that I support Apple nor that I even support Apple's products at all, so your insult didn't even make much sense at all.
  • 2 Hide
    alphaalphaalpha1 , April 27, 2012 7:31 PM
    Quote:
    You can always tell when someone is out of logical, focused arguements. They start calling names. "Elitist prick"? What do I care how you spend your 2 hour commute? Next you'll be telling me it's OK to game and drive. Something tells me you're an itard.


    Quote:
    ...Tablets have already matched them with the newest iPad (although I'd wait until a non-Apple tablet/smart phone had such power before buying something like this). ...


    Something tells me that your gut instincts are wrong.
  • 6 Hide
    mcd023 , April 27, 2012 7:54 PM
    I enjoyed reading this. Thanks a bunch for the interview! As an amateur Windows Phone developer I appreciate being able to hear what other devs are saying (by amateur, I mean that I've only done silverlight and c#, not XNA (games) or C++, which I can't even read! haha). The questions that you asked were good and relevant and I'm glad that you did include windows phone as part of the question set; I may have a bias, though. Great article!
  • 1 Hide
    RADIO_ACTIVE , April 27, 2012 8:19 PM
    My 2 cents Mobile phone gaming (smartphones/tablets) will replace devices such as the DS and PSVita and so on. I don't think it will ever replace consoles or PC gaming. why do I need a separate mobile gaming system when I have a phone that can do it.
  • 3 Hide
    jwcalla , April 27, 2012 9:25 PM
    Thanks for the article, it was a very good read.
  • 2 Hide
    Pawessum16 , April 28, 2012 1:24 AM
    Mihai CAndrew Ku, your shameful promotion of Windows Phone was embarasing. The developers have nothing to do with it, and you kept bringing it up over and over again.

    I actually thought the Windows Phone thing was quite interesting. I was recently in a group that coded a game in XNA for our CS class. The class is mainly taught in C and C++, but our Prof let us use XNA and C# for this game project if we so choosed, and it was definitely one of the easiest programming projects we did all semester. We did it too without the majority of us ever seeing C# or coding a game, and it was cake! Plus, porting from the PC to Xbox to Windows Phone is only a matter of changing controls around. So, if you're already in the Microsoft gaming ecosystem, development is super easy. It's insightful to see that the error on Microsoft's part was in the fact that they didn't make porting from other platforms to their own so easy.
  • 0 Hide
    _Pez_ , April 28, 2012 1:46 AM
    I see in the future Smartphones and tablets games over consoles. console's future is getting dark :D 
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , April 28, 2012 2:27 AM
    _Pez_I see in the future Smartphones and tablets games over consoles. console's future is getting dark


    From the same generation, a console can always have several times the processing power of a smart phone or tablet. The iPad 3 is the first phone/tablet to match PS3/Xbox 360 performance and it came out almost a decade after they did. If a console were released with modern hardware right now, it could be FAR faster than any smart phone or tablet simply because it has an always on, high wattage (compared to the mobile devices mentioned) power supply and chips that can use that power to churn out performance far greater than the aforementioned mobile devices.

    Compare a low end desktop to the phones and tablets to get an idea of the difference. A console can often churn out the quality offered by a PC of about 50% to 100% greater cost when they come out, so lets compare, say, a $700 PC to the most recent tablets (how about the newest iPad?).

    The PC could have an i5, Radeon 7850, and 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3. It could play pretty much any game in at least 1080p with the settings more or less maxed out and with some good AA. A console made today could probably do the same for about $350 to $400.

    The tablet? stuck at less than half of the performance at the same (or a greater) cost. Smart phones would fair even worse than the tablet.

    The future of consoles may be getting dark, but for completely different reason than what are shown in this article and your comment. For example, the extreme DRM problems and the fact that people might not be willing to deal with another release cycle this long as well as they have dealt with this one (which isn't very well already).
  • 3 Hide
    slomo4sho , April 28, 2012 2:45 AM
    anonimus789Though I agree that paying more for an HD version of a game is not the right way moving forward, I do believe HD resolution for gaming is essential. In my opinion, a game with excellent high-resolution graphics will win over a similar game with a lower res graphics. Having that crisp, clean graphics, would say a lot about the quality of the game even before the consumer has a chance to play it. First impressions count.


    The gameplay has to be equally important. Having an aesthetically pleasing game that lacks quality gameplay is just a flashy distraction.
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