Is console gaming dead?

Will Mobile Gaming Commit Console Gaming to the Tech Graveyard?

You don’t have to look far to find articles claiming that the rise of mobile gaming will eventually kill the console video games market. Ever the contrarian, I have to say, I could not disagree more. I’ve always enjoyed video games across a number of platforms, most frequently on Sony’s PlayStation series, collecting all four generations of console over the last 15 years or so and although I still use the PS4 weekly at the ripe old age of 26, the time I spend gaming is far less than when I was in my teens.

Mobile gaming has undeniably been undergoing huge growth since the rise of the smartphone, but where has the notion of this growth spurt meaning mobile will inevitably push similar sectors out of the market. One EA developer seems to think that this is the case as demonstrated with their ‘here lies console gaming’ gag on the Simpsons Tapped Out mobile game (image borrowed from Kotaku). Personally I can’t see this being the case; my argument for why mobile gaming will continue to grow but will never replace the console as the leading gaming technology can be summarised in two main points.

Firstly, mobile gaming has opened up gaming to an audience that didn’t previously have access to games. This is because mobile phones did not support game development meaning gamers relied on separate handheld gaming units such as a Nintendo Gameboy. For the average Joe, this wasn’t a viable proposition, possibly because of the stigma attached to it (games are for kids) or the cost was unjustifiable. Smartphones have nullified the stigma/cost accessibility issue completely as illustrated by the many suited professionals you can see playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga on a daily commute in London. Would they be the target customers for Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo consoles? No, they likely wouldn’t be. This accessibility has opened the market to this audience, an audience that was never buying and playing games on consoles, and therefore this audience’s spend on this mobile gaming is not to the detriment of the console games sector.

Secondly, technology shrinks. Thanks to the increasing computing power associated with games systems on mobile its now possible to play games that are of similar quality in terms of depth and graphics that you would see on an early console. However the depth and quality of games on consoles are significantly further ahead. Mobile wins every time for convenience but there is no comparison when it comes to the computing and graphics capability. If predictions are to come true that console gaming will die due to the rise of mobile then firstly mobile gaming has 15 years of technological advancement to catch up on and fit into mobile devices to equal the standard that console gaming has reached. All of that is before we have even spoke about the delivery of gaming, playing on a 50 inch TV with an ergonomic controller, voice chat, live network features and online competition is hard to replicate through mobile.

As technology continues to evolve, the capability of both smartphones and games consoles will continue to increase and there is no reason to believe that rate of increase will not be evenly matched, mobile will not make up 15 years of development overnight and both the mobile and console gaming of the future is likely to begin incorporating the exciting new technological advancements in gaming that are virtual and augmented reality, 3D and cloud gaming.

What I am surprised with is the lack of cross platform integration in video games, particularly how console game developers have (so far at least) missed a trick by integrating gaming between mobile and console that allow gamers the benefit of using their console for the full game and micro games that contribute to the larger game via mobile that can be used whilst away from the console. PlayStation have tried to do this somewhat with the PS Vita system but it is not a mobile device, its an expensive handheld gaming unit like the Gameboy, and this is arguably a market that some would argue is unlikely to compete for much longer if mobile technology continues to improve.

I think what settles the argument is the numbers for both consoles and games. Game development budgets are now comparable to films, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V reportedly cost £170 million to develop and sold 11.2 million copies within 24 hours of release. The global revenue for the first 3 days of the game being on sale is thought to be around $1 billion.

If games consoles are dying, someone better inform the general public to stop spending quite so much money on them.

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