2020 is a very big year for video games and gaming consoles. It’s been a dreadful year so far for a variety of different reasons, most of which are obvious, but as things get back to normal, fans of video gaming are looking forward to not one but two major releases by the end of the year. The next generation of consoles is here, and both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X will be popular requests on Christmas gift lists this holiday season. Nothing that’s going on in the world of mobile gaming right now will change that – but is this the last time that’s ever going to happen?
Your instinctive reaction might be that no mobile game could ever compete with a big, budget, big-name video game release. As sophisticated as mobile phone handsets have become over the past few years, they don’t have the power or the capacity of a console, and that statement is doubly true for the next-gen consoles. By now, we’ve all seen the exciting promotional videos for the new consoles and their games. They’re like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and they’ll sell in huge numbers. The games available on those consoles will almost certainly be more fun to play than any mobile game, but that isn’t necessarily the defining factor when it comes to the future. The reality of the gaming industry is that development companies exist to make money – and we arrived at the point of mobile games making more money than video games three years ago.
Availability and convenience have a lot to do with this. No matter how many units Sony or Microsoft sell of their shiny new machines, their sales figures will be a drop in the ocean compared to the number of active smartphones that exist in the world. At last count, that was more than two billion. Not every smartphone user in the world plays games on their device, but a significant number of them do, and that number is growing all the time. That factor alone led the Financial Times to conclude that mobile gaming has already ‘crushed’ console gaming and that the battle is already lost. We think that’s a little dramatic, but the statement isn’t groundless. Human beings are creatures of convenience, and it’s a lot more convenient to load up a game on a device that’s glued to your hand for most of your day than it is to pick up a controller and switch on another device in the corner of your room.
As console-making companies and the people who make games for those consoles are considering the state of the market at the moment, they’ll probably be looking at the closest-possible analog for this type of transition happening in the recent past. That’s the casino industry, which has been revolutionized by the creation of online slots websites. Companies who make casino games and online slots no longer need to operate physical premises in order to make money from them. The beauty of the online slots industry from an operator point of view is that you can put your games in the hands of anybody who has a smartphone and a connection to the internet and cut out most of your overheads. That’s led to the creation of UK online slots that have far lower ‘house edges’ than any physical casino can afford to offer, and a change in the way people play. Casinos aren’t necessarily going to the wall, but they’re having to think about their pricing and the way they market themselves to consumers. Similar changes may soon have to be made in the broader gaming industry, and the moment for that change to be made might come very quickly.
Before we can say that consoles will eventually become a thing of the past, we need to acknowledge a few truths about mobile gaming. Right now, the games aren’t as advanced. Nostalgia gaming occupies a huge part of the mobile gaming industry, with mobile versions of classics from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s all enjoying millions of downloads. Mobile games are simpler creations than their console equivalents. The latest mobile version of “Call of Duty” is an impressive game, but in terms of depth, it can’t hold a candle to the latest ‘full’ version of the game on consoles. That won’t be the case forever. It’s not so long ago that the best you could hope for from a mobile game was a reasonable conversion of “Super Mario” or “Street Fighter.” The degree of sophistication and complexity that comes with these games increases constantly, and it’s not hard to imagine that they’ll be on a par with console games within the next few years – especially if gaming companies follow the money and intensify their efforts to make bigger and better mobile games.
Another factor that goes in favor of mobile games is that they can do things that console games can’t. One of the biggest video games on any platform in the past five years was “Pokemon Go,” which became a viral sensation. History will record it as the first successful ‘augmented reality’ game, and it will be the first of many. The screen of your mobile phone can place video game characters into the real world around you in the way that your console can’t. “Pokemon Go” allowed people to take their video game habit outdoors and engage with it wherever they went. Virtual reality headsets are slowly gaining ground as console attachments, but no VR game has enjoyed even a fraction of the success of “Pokemon Go.” The augmented reality aspect is unique to mobiles, and it’s a strength that mobile gaming companies will lean on in the years to come.
We don’t want you to come away from this article believing that the money you might be about to spend on the latest Xbox or PlayStation is a wasted investment. Based on everything we’ve seen, we suspect that they’ll be great platforms with incredible games, and will provide you with years of entertainment. What we’re less sure about is whether there will ever be a PlayStation 6 or another next-gen Xbox in the future. It’s been seven years since the launch of the PS4. With another seven years of development in the mobile sector, there might be no reason to create a new breed of consoles when this coming generation reaches the end of its viable life.