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The New Gaming War – What does Mobile have over Consoles?

The New Gaming War – What does Mobile have over Consoles?

Nov 22, 2013

It seems there is a new war to be waged; and it’s not between Sony and Microsoft. Now, the mobile phone is taking on our precious consoles. But can they succeed? I take a look at what the mobile platform has over it’s rival, and why it could begin to revolutionize the industry; but also weigh up the aspects where they simply cannot challenge our traditional consoles.

It used to be that mobile phones had tiny screens. But not anymore. With upwards of 4 inches, that’s pretty adequate for playing on the train or sofa, and is much bigger than previous handheld systems like the Game Boy or PSP. On top of this, many phones or devices can be plugged into the TV – which pretty much replicates the effect of playing a console.

The one colossal advantage smartphones have is the huge userbase. Their adoption over the past few years has been unprecedented. Aside from the size, it is also a much more varied set of gamers, rather than the more hardcore console gamers. There are many casual gamers out there, alongside those who enjoy social aspects, and everyone who is a hardcore gamer probably also has a smartphone. Plus there’s untapped audiences such as your Mum which, probably love a good game of Tetris or Bejeweled, even if they do have “better things to do” and moaned at you during your youth for “wasting your time on those damn video games”. No hard feelings there, honestly.


Another hit for King.com

Another hit for King.com


But it’s not just games – there’s entertainment apps too. Therefore any form of game on mobiles do not specifically have to be confined to the traditional video game specifications, and can experiment. This has already brought freemium to fruition, alongside new forms of puzzle games, and ones combining gameplay with socialising.

The original iPhone came out in 2007. That was only six years ago. It is now impossible to imagine a world without apps, smartphones, and tablets. They have become a part of society, and a part of everyday life. From instant messaging, social sharing, to GPS, the smartphone does everything we could need on a daily basis. And gaming is no exception.


Things have come a long way since the first Android G1 in 2008

Things have come a long way since the first Android G1 in 2008


This huge userbase means that monetization and earning big bucks is simpler than ever. You only need to create a relatively simple game with addictive gameplay and featrues, and you could have a success story. But this is something many people have thought. Despite there, there are many mind bogglingly fun games out there, that can be downloaded for free on your phone or tablet. That is not something to miss out on. Consoles though? It’s your pick of full £40 RRP titles, and fairly limited smaller titles. It’s a difficult decision.

Of course, consoles aren’t overly saturated with games. With apps, there are so many average to poor games out there, it can be hard to filter out the bad from the good. With consoles, there are much fewer titles, and alongside reviews and publicity, it makes choosing much more simple. Due to the hugely polished aspects of AAA games, there are only a select few out there, making the decision a simple process.  AAA titles also only really appeal to those who are dedicated, as otherwise half the game goes unplayed. Perhaps a few levels on Temple Run suits your lifestyle, rather than delving deep into exploring the islands of Far Cry 3. Or perhaps you just get bored and can’t be bothered to finish them. So why pay all that money?

The beauty of the mobile device, is that there are so many mobile variants. There are smartphones, tablets, gamepads, and everything inbetween. They can suit any need. For consoles; there are 3 big options. But micro-consoles are challenging this idea. But are based upon mobile operating systems. Hmm.



Nexus 5, 7, 10 – Your choice


Smartphones are multipurpose. If I’m on the tube, back in the early 2000s I would carry my Game Boy and phone. Nowadays, I only need one smaller device. Consoles are really only for one purpose (even if Microsoft would say differently), but Smart TV’s and Media Hubs can do all the other entertainment that consoles can also do. If you buy a console, the likelihood is you want it for games. Not a lot else.

Of course, smartphones and mobile devices are also portable. They are not restricted to the living room. You can use them in any room around the house, but also outside of it! The only limiting factor, is the battery. Which in it’s current state, does not last long when playing games. This also means they can make use of GPS and tracking, which is another set of information which can prove useful in an app, for whatever purpose.

Of course with these different inputs that the smartphone has, including accelerometer, GPS, and touchscreen, are any of them as good as the gamepad? Console inputs definitely have the higher ground here; yet both Google and Apple are developing controllers for their respective platforms, so this could be speaking too soon. I could see myself playing on a tablet propped up with a controller. Maybe I could plug it into my TV. It would be a little console, basically.


Logitech Powershell - iPhone Controller

Logitech Powershell – iPhone Controller


But what stops mobile devices becoming consoles? Power. Mobile devices will simply never be as powerful. The only way they will ever be as powerful is if they wipe out console demand at all, and become the most powerful device available because there are simply no alternatives. Consoles are not restricted by size, weight, or usability. They can take whatever form they want, as long as they deliver stunning graphics and games. Storage is another issue, as mobile storage is severely limited, and would not be able to house even one next-gen title.

When it comes to simplistic games, both platforms have reached a plateau. Besides from AAA titles, both the mobile and console are able to deliver the same bite-size games in high definition. Look at recent indie games such as Limbo, or Fez. These are both as at home on consoles as on tablets. So why purchase a console if you can play great, innovative titles from respected developers on a device you already own?

When you consider the new consoles offer slightly shinier graphics, what’s there to upgrade for? Mobile devices keep on innovating and evolving, getting bigger and better, with apps following suit. Consoles haven’t made this leap in some time now.

What it boils down to, is that mobile gaming is often “good enough” for many consuemrs out there. Everyone loves a good video game, give or take. But many people don’t have time to play them, when there are weekly episodes of X Factor or Breaking Bad to catch up on. So why bother spending £400 on a console when you have a wealth of titles at your fingertips in your pocket? They’re good enough for those purposes. And now, many titles show they have the same caliber as console games.


 Adam Barsby is a writer for Gaming IQ, alongside running Social Media. If you are partial to stalking, you can follow him on Twitter @barsby3, or read his articles here. 


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  • Nanofuture

    Power isn’t the issue: the market is. The mobile market is dominated by cheap and free-to-play games. You can’t put a $40 AAA title on iOS or Android and expect it to sell well like you can on a console. Combine that with the fact that touchscreen only input is still the standard and will likely continue to be the standard for the foreseeable future (Apple is not going to make a pack-in controller), and you see that they’re basically different markets. They have an overlap, but they really aren’t competitors.

    • Adam Barsby

      There’s an overlap, that’s for sure. But consoles are losing out on audiences who see their smartphone or tablet as a “good enough” platform for all their gaming needs. With major franchises and movie tie-ins coming to iOS and Android, casual gamers may not see the necessity in console gaming in the future. They are essentially competing for the consumers’ valuable time, as even the most hardcore of gamer may get distracted by the addictive nature of mobile gaming.

      • Nanofuture

        The question becomes: how many of those people are there, and how relevant are they? It’s not good to lose some casual consumers who only buy 2-3 games per cycle, but it’s not exactly devastating either.

        Take a look at 3DS for instance. In theory it should have more overlap with mobile than home consoles do, yet 3DS game sales have been increasing, not decreasing. Mobile devices are already more powerful than 3DS, yet people still seem perfectly willing to spend $40 on 3DS games.