Are Game Consoles Going to Be Surpassed by Mobile Phones?

LockerGnome.net community member Joseph (josephLtech) asks:

Are game consoles going to be surpassed by mobile phones?

Lately we have seen some pretty impressive technology in the mobile phone and tablet market. The latest iPad (what Apple calls “iPad with Retina display”) has components that seem nearly capable of meeting some of today’s console requirements.

I am not entirely sure about the Android market, but I know for a fact they have some beefy hardware in them as well. So as the question states, are phones and tablets going to surpass consoles? Is the future of gaming going to be a tablet no bigger than an iPad?

Great question, Joseph. Thanks for participating in LockerGnome.net’s community-powered questions and answers.

A game being played on a mobile deviceGame consoles typically introduce cutting-edge technologies that are not yet available to mobile phones and other mobile devices. This is particularly true at the beginning of a console’s life cycle, which differs exceptionally from that of a mobile device’s. For example, consoles featuring the latest cutting-edge graphics and game play require graphics cards and processors that demand cooling methods dependent on a form factor larger than mobile form factors. So as long as consoles depend on components requiring technologies of which mobile devices aren’t capable, they will remain in a separate category from mobile devices (and therefore, not even compete with mobile phones).

That said, there’s certainly the possibility that the limitations imposed on the current generation of mobile form factors will be overcome due to advances in technology. Should that occur — and it will — then certainly the mobile device could become a platform that surpasses the console. The question is: will the mobile device gaming experience also be able to match the user experience currently offered by consoles?

Consoles have typically offered an experience similar to tablets in the way that they are used more casually than traditional PCs. Many tablets offer the ability to port video out to a larger display, even further warranting a comparison to the console gaming experience. Yet tablets, at least in their current incarnation, require users to input and engage with the action displayed on their screens in an entirely different way than consoles games.

Nintendo seems to be recognizing the shift in the casual gamer’s expectations, incorporating tablet technology into its next-generation Wii U console system’s controller. Gamers will now be able to use their controllers to enhance their experience and interact with certain games in a tablet-like way. The Madden NFL game series, for example, offers the user the ability to browse the playbook as it is displayed directly on the Wii U tablet controller. Unfortunately, Nintendo’s version of Madden NFL seems to suffer from the limitations of its hardware. (The most-advertised feature of the latest Madden NFL game, its physics feature, has been omitted from the Wii U version.) In this respect, it would seem that Nintendo’s focus on serving a more casual gamer seems to undermine its own strategy. Perhaps Nintendo aims to move entirely to a tablet-like gaming system; only time will tell.

Though many Wii U consumers will come to prefer the new controller over past input devices, there will in all likelihood remain a large enough contingent of those who prefer more traditional (or “classic”) controllers to keep peripheral manufacturers in business. My expectation is that consoles will remain in a separate category than mobile devices, for the most part, even drawing a few casual tablet gamers into an appreciation for the different user experience that a console platform offers. One day, perhaps within the next console life cycle, mobile technology will probably reach the point where there is virtually no obvious reason to be attached to a console rather than a mobile device. After all, it’s not as fun (or fiscally wise) to throw your tablet at the TV when the game’s not going your way, is it? (Can anyone say Super Meat Boy? Even the wildly popular indie game’s developers seem to be reserving the idea of porting the game to a touch interface as fodder for the April Fool’s Day joke bin.)

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.