Among the many luxuries brought to us by the smartphone, one that continues to build momentum is within the realm of gaming, specifically mobile gaming. Once upon a time, our colorless mobile phones brought us such shaded-square gems as Snake and even Tetris which, while enjoyable, were nothing more than novelties to kill a few minutes here and there. Fast forward over a decade and today mobile devices are capable of delivering deeper, graphically richer games capable of grabbing our attention for hours at a time. It goes without saying that games such as Doodle Jump and Angry Birds are incredibly addicting, worthy of being played outside of just the five minutes you have to kill here and there. As the capabilities of our phones (and tablets) continue to develop at a rapid pace, will our mobile devices have the where-with-all to compete with handheld gaming devices like the Sony PlayStation Vita or Nintendo 3DS? Or what about our console systems? Are our XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 slated for the scrap heap? What is the future of gaming?
As something of an avid gamer and a smartphone hobbyist (yes, smartphones can become one’s hobby), I can say that barring some fantastically fantastic development, I don’t see mobile devices overtaking our consoles any time soon. Yes, our best phones have quad core processors, even the ability to send full definition 1080p to your television with the help of an HDMI cord, but it barely holds a candle to what our console systems are capable of today and remember, our console’s capabilities are developing as well. Granted the average lifespan of a console generation is about six years compared to only one year for a smartphone, it still doesn’t look like our iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy III is going to move in on the home console turf, at least anytime soon.
So let’s take a step back.
There’s another niche of gaming systems however, that might see their advantage, or at least their market share, robbed by mobile device gaming. Handheld gaming has been around since the late 1970’s, but many could argue that the big leap forward took place with the introduction of the original Nintendo Game Boy in 1989. With 8-bits of magic and a wide variety of games, the Game Boy took portable gaming out of the stone age and invited real gamers to start playing on the go. Much like what the Game Boy did to handheld gaming devices, the smartphone has done for the games we play on our mobile devices. Today there are tens of thousands of games available on our smartphones and, while the vast majority are a bit gimmicky, repetitive, and let’s be honest – just plain lame – there are more than a few games worthy of our time. So as the graphic and processing capabilities of our phones continue to increase, will they catch up to our handheld devices? And if so, when?
There’s no question that the games becoming available on our smartphones are increasingly captivating, some even offering deep story lines, impressive graphics, and worthy gameplay – but will that be enough? The answer is yes. While home consoles are safe for now, the sales numbers for handheld video game consoles are on the decline. The Nintendo DS has had its figures declining for some time , according to phonearena.com while its successor, the Nintendo 3DS missed its yearly sales figure by almost half a billion dollars and Sony’s PlayStation Vita isn’t fairing much better, either. This is all in stark contrast to absolutely booming figures for the mobile phone gaming industry, which features increasing developments, cheaper games, and doesn’t necessarily require the purchase of new hardware to run more advanced technical iterations.
That being the case, it’s possible that the days of handheld gaming may be numbered. For a blogger with many sweet, sweet memories playing the Nintendo Game Boy (and let’s be honest – just about every one of its successors), this development will undoubtedly leave an empty place in my heart, as well as the hearts of fellow gamers. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to forget that chapter and move on when we check out the absolutely fantastic strides smartphone gaming is sure to make within the near future.