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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