Could The Future Of Gaming Really Be On Mobile?
It seems that in the gaming industry, ambition has to come with an excuse to push hardware to its very limits. This can be a great thing - think of the reception of Red Dead Redemption 2 as a game that looks as close to real-life as we've probably ever seen. However, it was all created in a way that squeezed every last watt of power that the last console generation had at its disposal.
But, there's a hell of an overreliance on pushing visual boundaries and dominating realism, to such a degree, that in some cases, developers simply fail to make compelling games. People will always flock to them, naturally, but they're not particularly favoured when it comes to the history of the medium.
But, we've seen in recent years that video games aren't just exclusive to consoles, even handheld ones. Mobile gaming has a massive market, and it's not just for mums playing Candy Crush (don't worry, King already has that corner of the industry positively locked down). In fact, competitive games are about to make the medium a second home, and it raises the question - is this where we should expect gaming to permanently reside?
Mobile Games Are More Popular Than You Think They Are
A lot of people, especially from the UK and US, bank heavily on console gaming being where all the money lies - but that's not entirely true. All it takes is a simple glance at the monstrous successes of PUBG Mobile - a game that constantly breaches records year after year - to dissect this presumption. The game had its biggest year ever in 2020, generating $2.6 billion, over 730 million downloads, and boasting a first quarter of 2021 that is set to break that record all over again.
The mobile gaming market has only expanded over the years, with not even a whopping lawsuit from Apple slowing it down. Fortnite on mobile proved that competitive gaming in players' pockets was not only viable, but impressive, and it laid the groundwork for mobile gaming to come.
Plus, with Xbox Game Pass' frankly revolutionary approach to cloud gaming, it's not just games designed for mobile that work anymore - incredible console titles can make the jump with little growing pains. Even those games that were once thought to require military-grade hardware to run are working on mobile devices with zero pushback.
So, who's to say that the future of gaming can't completely coalesce with the world of mobile gaming? Why do these two worlds have to be considered so differently?
Can The Future Of Gaming Exist In Our Pockets?
Genuine video game innovations tethered to hardware has become disconnected from hardware with the advent of cloud gaming, but there's still very little chance that big-name developers will abandon their posts on console in favour of a more portable experience. For better or worse, a lot of creators will turn their noses up at the opportunity to work on mobile, simply because it's perceived as a platform for casual players.
The competitive scene may have blossomed, but there's still a certain stigma about doing anything on your phone, just as there is with watching a film or reading a book - almost like it doesn't count. Plus, as cloud editions on mobile are simply unworkable for some games, it's no surprise that Apex Legends' mobile edition is so different from the base game, while Rocket League simply made a different game in SideSwipe.
There's also a certain level of effort that goes into creating for 4K monitors and a 120fps potential that is wasted when it comes to smaller devices that can't handle it. You could argue that you simply wouldn't get the same experience if you were able to play Horizon Forbidden West or Death Stranding: Director's Cut on mobile. There's so much atmosphere to soak up and things to see that are dampened by pocket platforms and their restrictive form factor.
It's certainly hard to innovate on mobile when it comes to visuals and general presentation, but that doesn't mean that narrative-led games couldn't succeed as a mobile-exclusive title. Plus, with the many successes of competitive games on mobile, there's proof that these titles aren't merely pick-up-and-play time-fillers for on the bus. There's real potential here - it'd just take a big change in industry attitudes to the medium for a full change to work.
Mobile Is An Untapped Frontier - And Will Stay That Way
Mobile might have a chokehold on PUBG fans, but for now, it doesn't look like any big developers are about to jump from console support. Having a new way to play games on the go conveniently in our pockets is a great thing, but it's not likely to overtake the big dogs any time soon. Even so - competitive gaming has its new lease of life on mobile, and once Fortnite makes its iOS comeback, there's still a chance that it could be even bigger than before.
Narrative games aren't likely to take agency to leap over, but shooters? Count them in. It's a whole new market that, technically, includes everyone with a smartphone - and could yet be an absolute goldmine. A new golden age for shooters could be sat dormant in our pockets, and we just don't know yet.