Could Mobile Phones Kill Consoles? Not A Chance

By William Usher 2011-12-09 14:27:35 discussion comments
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An article questioning the likelihood of mobile devices eventually overtaking home consoles has surfaced, again. This follows a trend that sees many mobile enthusiasts giving ample reasons why iOS or Android or some other new phone could potentially bury the Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo's console brands. The reality is, despite all the shouting and the fussing over mobile devices selling like crazy and a few games having hundreds of millions of players, the actual likelihood of phones replacing consoles is highly unlikely.

An article over at GameIndustry.biz by Will Luton first sets out to establish itself as guesswork...while UKIE's Andy Payne feels more surefire about home and portable consoles going the way of the dodo in place of mobile devices, Luton leaves the possibility open for change but still sides in favor of mobile devices, saying...
So let's imagine that an unlikely event will occur that takes the core business of console manufacturers away. Not by offering massively different content (I'll assume there is a continued appetite for big blockbuster cinematic games), but by offering a similar, more convenient or cheaper service to a wider group.

If we look next at what piece of consumer electronics is in enough hands and has the ability to cause such a paradigm shift, you may point a finger to mobile. There are more capable smartphones in the world than there are consoles and they're full of brilliant gaming content.

Luton goes on to exlpain how cohesive mobile tech with affordable services and perhaps cloud utilities could ultimately combine to make the standard, disc-eating, lumpy, noisy home console an obsolete afterthought. Of course, ISPs and bandwidth restrictions would certainly have to be lifted in most countries and territories in order for that to become a possibility, given that cloud servicing eats up bandwidth like crazy.

While Mr. Luton isn't throwing around figures saying "This will happen at this time!" he's basically surmizing what a lot of other corporate spokesmen for the mobile market have been repeatedly saying since Angry Birds became a sensational sales phenomenon. The problem however, is that everyone looks at the mobile market success in all the wrong ways.

For one thing, the popular titles that sell well on mobile devices such as Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies are casual, time-filler titles that sell for less than a handful of dollars, and aren't even competing for market value against titles such as inFamous or Assassin's Creed.

Next up, majority of the sales for Microsoft and Sony are from the core audiences with games like Gears of War, Uncharted, Forza and Gran Turismo. Nintendo lucked up with the Wii and managed to capture the casual crowd, which actually does factor in with the mobile market competition. But as we all know (and as a core gamer) there's no way an iPhone or other mobile device can deliver what you can get from playing on a home console or at your PC.

Even with OnLive's cloud app available for mobile phones there's still a discrepancy in the quality of the content, such as lag during intense multiplayer games, control response timing, and a number of other small intricacies that make up for core gaming, which just isn't available on mobile devices, yet. That's not to mention that most core gamers want to game for more than half-an-hour or so and mobile devices just don't have the battery life to support true core gaming.

Another factor is the software. While the mobile market is booming, none of the games contain the depth or quality of home console titles like GTA IV, Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire or Heavy Rain. And as it stands, there have been no announcements for big budget games like that on the horizon for mobile devices.

The reality, though, is that until mobile phones get exclusive big-budget, AAA games (which is highly unlikely) majority of core audiences who continue to help those games sell (and the consoles along with them) will stick with home consoles. It's also highly unlikely that within the next five years we'll be seeing games with $100 million dollar budgets on iPhones, the market continues to show and favor casual gaming as being the major selling point for video games on mobile devices, as indicated by USA Today's list of the top selling apps for the iPhone. As it stands, games like Infinity Blade, Real Racing, Zorro or Age of Monsters have yet to permeate mainstream status, and if core games like that aren't taking away audiences from home consoles and they certainly aren't penetrating the mainstream market then how on Earth can mobile phones overthrow consoles? They're literally two markets apart.

The only company that may need to worry about mobile devices eating into their home console sales is Nintendo, given that the Wii is very well saturated in the casual gaming market. But even then, Nintendo announced that for the Wii U they would be catering more towards the core gamer as they ready up for the next generation of home consoles.

We also have to look at the factor of high-end mobile games not being completely compatible with every phone out there. Even if you have a couple hundred million people with iPhones it doesn't mean they all have the latest iPhone 4s or the newest iPad, and subsequently it means you already have a limited market for who will be able to run high-end mobile games like Infinity Blade II or Desert Zombie, which run on the Unreal Engine. I also highly doubt core gamers would be willing to dump $400-$700 on a brand new phone for a high-end mobile game, especially when six months later that same phone will be considered a dinosaur.

While mobile phones are the next big thing and a few of the games on the mobile market have hit massive numbers, the numbers basically shows that it's casual gamers and casual gaming that the mobile market caters to. And until phones can deliver 60fps, 1080p output on an HDTV with lag-free multiplayer streaming via cloud, DX11 visuals, and offer a nice, intuitive control scheme for fast-paced hardcore gaming, without the need to upgrade or buy new hardware frequently, then it's highly unlikely that we'll be dumping consoles in favor of phones.
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