What Does The Future Look Like For Mobile Game Development?
How did we get—here? It might have been difficult to predict the sudden popularity of smartphones and tablets five years ago. Today, however, they're snatching all of the headlines, generating buzz for the cool things they can do in increasingly convenient form factors. Can we expect these diminutive devices to displace our PCs any time soon? Most enthusiasts insist not, but it'd be hard to ignore the fantastic sales and consequent growth of smartphones and tablets.
Indeed, for a great many tasks, PCs still reign supreme. But recent embedded processor and graphics advancements are at least blurring the performance line that previously separated tablets and notebooks. Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 and Qualcomm’s fourth-generation Snapdragon are two mobile "super-processors" that emerged over the last year. And with Microsoft’s recent announcement that Windows 8 would support the ARM instruction set, the wheels of change are unquestionably in motion.
With change comes new surprises to look forward to. More muscular smartphone and tablet hardware is enabling software developers to write more demanding (and visually appealing) games. The results suggest that dedicated gaming handhelds could eventually be replaced by more general-purpose mobile devices—and challenge the market dominance of console games.
Some of the more recently-released mobile games are already starting to remind of us of visuals we remember from desktop PC gaming a decade ago, with titles like Riptide GP and Shadowgun both introducing cool effects that we hadn't previously seen from mobile devices. Nvidia recently "put console games on notice," explaining to us the tremendous amount of work that went into getting some of the current-gen titles to market. And it'd indeed appear that the mobile gaming industry is poised for explosive growth. Already, enthusiasts are connecting Xbox 360 controllers to their Transformer Primes, kicking off the move from dedicated console equipment to smartphones and tablets that can really game.
The success of gaming on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7 must overcome notable challenges, though. Operating system fragmentation, hardware feature set and compatibility issues, and non-upgradable device drivers cause software developers to feel as through they're aiming at an always-moving target. Can mobile gaming transcend the barriers in its way, competing more aggressively against consoles, and ultimately dominate the industry? We get the inside scoop from four leading mobile game developers, including Vector Unit (developers of Riptide GP and Shine Runner), Fishlabs (developers of the Galaxy of Fire series), Mediocre (developers of Sprinkle), and Madfinger (developers of Samurai and Shadowgun).