Unfortunately, the danger of smartphone gaming isn’t gone yet- while there is nothing conceptually wrong with smartphones as a game platform, functionally, they have been reduced to avenues for exploitative, cash grab scams that are characterized by a desperate race to the bottom by developers and publishers in a bid to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.
Smartphone gaming has already started to take a bite of dedicated handheld gaming, and a lot of the absolute worst practices in smartphone games, such as abusive microtransactions, and selling incomplete game content, have already begun to make their way over to console gaming. But on the whole, I think one thing we can be sure of is that there is no parity currently between mobile games and consoles- mobile games provide a distinctly different kind of experienced, catered to a different kind of market and demographic entirely, while console games are high end experiences. As long as that remains true, I think it is safe to conclude that the integrity of console gaming experiences will stand, right?
You’d think so, but apparently that may not always be the case. Taka Kawasaki, who works at Epic Games Japan licensing sales of the Unreal Engine, had an interview with Gamasutra recently, in which he discussed mobile gaming- as well as the terrifying prospect of a world in which the hardware of smartphones was on par with the hardware in consoles, giving developers a very good incentive to try and cross pollinate their smartphone and console games, leading to a decline of console gaming.
“People don’t care about a richer, bigger experience,” he said. “Some people care… My favourite analogy which I often use is: It’s like a camera. For ordinary people, the iPhone is good enough to shoot or take a picture. But some people, who really like photographs, they will dare to buy a huge, single-reflection lens. So the console game is something like that. People who dare to care are the only ones who buy. So I don’t think consoles will go away, or consoles will die. But rather the market size cannot be as huge as it used to be. It’s a very disappointing forecast for my generation. But the good news, or bright side, is since smartphone and tablet performance is getting much higher and higher, soon it will catch up with the 360’s performance. That will mean you can play something like Gears of War on your smartphone, connected to a huge television.”
According to Kawasaki, this is actually a good thing, though I’m hard pressed to see how, even after knowing his reasoning.
“Those will be very difficult days for the console market, or rather the console makers. But it will be good for gamers, I believe. It will mean more than 3 or 4 billion consoles in people’s pockets, worldwide. It must be exciting days.
“If we look at the entire game market, including smartphones and PC, it’s getting bigger and bigger. Very soon hardware performance of smartphones will catch up and go over PS3 or even PS4. When it happens, we can say there are over a billion pieces of hardware with high end games, all over the world, in people’s pockets. It is a super exciting vision for all game developers.”
Urgh. I just hope that he is wrong. Continued high sales of the PS4 show us that there is at least some demand for a dedicated console- ditto with 3DS and handhelds. Hopefully, a smaller pie, but with far better yields, is enough for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to continue making dedicated gaming devices.