For the last few years I have been hearing musings that mobile gaming is going to overtake console gaming in terms of popularity. While mobile gaming offers the opportunity to game anywhere at any time, and new technology is allowing smaller and more powerful phones and tablets, I have a hard time believing it will ever provide the satisfying gaming that is available on consoles and systems.
The new NVIDIA Tegra 4 GPU shows what’s possible in the new era of mobile gaming, providing tremendous power in a small package. This could lead in the future, to a gaming platform that doubles as a smartphone. Simply install the game on the phone, plug the phone into the TV, and use a wireless Bluetooth controller. This already exists in some forms today, what is it’s lacking however, is refinement, and game quality. Although developers have made some quality titles for mobile platforms, they feel mostly like an attempt to make sure their presence is known, not to dominate the industry. We aren’t seeing massive titles being developed for mobile devices because, as of now, there just isn’t enough hardware power. Coupled with the fact that Bluetooth controllers are only supported by a limited amount of games, and that leaves you with using touchscreen controls.
Now a touchscreen is OK. For time killing, waiting at the doctor, short breaks, and lying in bed, touchscreen controls allow adequate control for most games. For some games however, namely shooters and driving titles, a touchscreen provides a frustrating, partially blocked, sloppy, and basically useless experience. Developers have realized this and more are supporting Bluetooth controllers simply because it is not realistic to be able to play effectively while moving my thumbs around on the same screen I am supposed to be watching while I play.
Games developed for console are also much more likely to provide everything necessary for a complete gaming experience. That’s a nice way of saying no freemium. While games such as Diablo 3 toyed around with the idea of micro-transactions within their games, it proved to be a major mistake, and destroyed the integrity of the game. Making your game playable, but not enjoyable, unless numerous subsequent payments are made, is at the very least, tacky. At worst, it is a downright rip-off. Want to race against someone and actually win? Five more dollars please. Want to explore those new levels? Five more dollars please. I am not opposed to paying a little more, but when it feels like major parts of these games are restricted unless I pay more money, it’s like my initial purchase is being held hostage.
Downloading games from Steam and other online sources is an easy, hassle-free way to purchase a game. It doesn’t however, in my experience, provide the same feeling as getting a hard copy of that game, an included map, an included book of art, an included tech tree chart. These little touches make the purchaser of the game feel like they bought a really high quality product, and that the developer really cares about the product they are selling, and cares what you think of it too.
The power of mobile gaming GPU’s is increasing, and mobile gaming is here to stay, but there are issues that need to be addressed before it can advance further. Bluetooth controllers have to be supported by all games, especially driving and shooter titles. Developers have to be more willing to give the gamer more for their money, and rely much less on freemium content to make their money. I would be more willing to pay a larger initial cost, and much less on follow-up, in-game, freemium content. How mobile games will ever provide the same feeling that physical, collectible, copies provide, may never be addressed. It will certainly be interesting to watch the situation evolve, and to see if any of these concerns about mobile gaming can be addressed. Until that point, expect to see console and PC gaming remain the choice of serious gamers everywhere.