How Mobile Gaming will Ruin the Gaming Industry

by Matt Klassen on March 9, 2011

With casual mobile games like Angry Birds quickly replacing the magazine as a person’s default bathroom entertainment—to the point where urban parlance has officially given this act a name—our addiction to mobile gaming is all the assurance the gaming industry needs to dedicate significant R&D resources to this new frontier.

In fact, at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, mobile gaming held centre stage as game developers unveiled their plans for your smartphone.

Despite the fact that much of the attention was lavished on Nintendo’s new 3DS handheld, the first “glasses-free” mobile 3D gaming device, the conference gave us all significant insights into what 2011 has in store for mobile gaming, and with smartphones becoming increasingly powerful, some analysts think that by the end of the year smartphone games may rival their dedicated gaming console cousins.

But there’s a downside to all this, as game developers only have a finite amount of R&D funds to go around; meaning that if significant resources are being committed to mobile gaming, the larger hard core gaming projects (and platforms) will surely suffer.

For many not acquainted with the gaming world, it often comes as a surprise to hear about the financial resources it takes to produce a successful console or PC game. Aside from the computer specific jobs such as programming and animating, modern games require a cast for voices, an orchestra for mood setting music, blockbuster movie-like advertising, and a host of other additions that make producing games akin to producing feature films, sometimes at a similar cost.

But with consumer demand increasingly calling for advanced gaming on their smartphones, it looks like 2011 may be the year mobile gaming begins the slow, tortuous process of killing console gaming. That’s not to say that console gaming is going anywhere soon, but one might say the writing is on the wall.

As mobile gaming becomes increasingly popular, game developers will begin to pull money out of their larger projects, redistributing those funds to a multitude of lesser mobile project in an effort to capture some of the mobile gaming market share. This redistribution will eventually lead to a dip in the quality of console gaming, driving away the hardcore gamers to the newer mobile platform, re-establishing consoles as a niche gaming market.

Now don’t get me wrong, I doubt this process will happen quickly—and truth be told, my predictive powers aren’t what they used to be—but having seen this exact scenario play out between the PC and gaming consoles over the last decade, it strikes me as inevitable that mobile gaming will usurp console gaming as the popular platform…that is if smartphones can divorce themselves from casual titles like Angry Birds and offer gamers a deeper, more robust gaming experience.

While companies like Sony have already unveiled their gaming phones, look for the Xperia Play to be merely the frontrunner of an ever-increasing line of advanced gaming phones, which means that while this past Christmas your kids were no doubt begging for an Xbox gaming console, by next Christmas they’ll likely be begging for an Xmobile gaming phone or some such similar device.

Call me unimaginative though, but in my mind I still can’t fathom consumer interest in mobile gaming. Sure its addictively entertaining to whittle away the time smashing through blocks and killing pigs with some very angry birds, but I still can’t picture myself sitting on the bus—or in the bathroom for that matter—playing Killzone 3…not to mention playing a version of Killzone 3 that could even remotely rival the quality found on my console.

But maybe that’s just me.

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{ 1 comment }

Jordan Richardson March 9, 2011 at 5:58 am

The thing is that a lot of people aren’t looking for a “deeper, more robust gaming experience.” These mobile games (and the Facebook games) are popular for a reason: they involve simple, easy-to-understand controls and offer an experience that is fun without being convoluted.

Graphics may impress a certain segment of the population (namely males of a certain age demographic), but games like Angry Birds offer a more universal gaming experience. These games appeal to much larger groups and cross gender and age lines, which, in my view, is a pretty terrific thing.

Quite frankly, if I have a choice between sitting down and playing Angry Birds (which I’ve not played yet) or something like Call of Duty, I’m going with the Birds. Without question.

Compare the sales of games from the Nintendo/Mario franchise with sales of shooter or warfare games, for instance, and you’ll find more evidence that people are leaning towards more colourful, less violent gaming experiences. How else do you explain the overwhelming popularity and timelessness of Tetris?

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