Will mobiles replace consoles?
History has shown us that in the games business nothing is sacred. Gamers are a growing demographic with little loyalty to platform, and they will pay for and play with the most immediate and satisfying experience available. I predict that when mobile devices become widely and easily wirelessly connected to the game controller and the TV, it will start to replace the console. I even think that mobile-as-a-console will be common usage within ten years.
Mobile hits to date, perhaps with the exception of Infinity Blade, have a short-form anatomy, where play occurs over tens – if not hundreds or thousands – of sessions lasting from two-to-10 minutes each (a median session time for our game My Star is currently 2.1 minutes).
Small screen devices augment with a player’s routine; they do not disrupt it for preplanned play sessions involving complex game mechanics and character development.
The mobile player wants something immediate at the bus stop and when they return home, they have other medium-sized screen entertainment that vies for heftier chunks of attention; including the console. When mobile can deliver what a console can as well as or better than it can, users will begin to dump the dedicated device in favour of the multitasker. It’s happened
with the home phone, calculator, diary and now, in the case of tablets, the laptop and home PC.
That ‘when’ caveat is a pretty mammoth one: The power increases in mobile have been blistering year-on-year and are now approaching our current console generation. Firemint’s Real Racing 2 running on iPad 2 via HDMI today is pretty much there visually, but still a way off a top-end PC.
Yet cloud gaming is set to make client power irrelevant within the decade. I see now that the biggest shift is a small technological one (standardised wireless TV and controller connections) and a larger developer and consumer cultural one.