With the latest mobile devices introducing better ways for developers to make great games, the gap between dedicated game handhelds and mobile devices has closed. Mobile devices are now more powerful than game handhelds; the era of the dedicated handheld is over.
Now You’re Playing With Power
There was a time not long ago when mobile gaming was ruled by the Gameboy, but times have changed. Although companies like Nintendo continue to make better, smaller, and stronger handhelds, mobile devices have supplanted them for on-the-go-gaming – last year alone, smartphone sales topped 967 million while gaming handhelds sold only approximately 21 million.
Of course, simple games like Angry Birds and Cut The Rope could never compare to the highly-polished, sophisticated, and graphically-intensive games that make the dedicated handhelds stand out. Or so it was thought.
Alas, rapid improvement of mobile hardware has brought these devices in line with, and in many cases past, recent consoles. The release of iOS’ new “Metal” APIs, which allows developers to implement sophisticated graphics more efficiently, only furthers that lead. Mobile devices like the iPhone 6 and the iPad are now not just more powerful than handhelds but have even begun to rival the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
So What? Graphics Aren’t Everything!
It’s true, graphics aren’t everything. But advancements like Metal are about more than just better graphics. These kinds of advancements make developing visually impressive games easier, freeing up developers to think up new and exciting ways to use those graphics in pursuit of compelling new gameplay experiences. And those experiences drive consumer adoption, which only fuels more developer adoption.
What does that mean for the industry at large? In short, more and more companies will be investing in mobile instead of dedicated game handhelds. This is made more interesting by the fact that both the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita are seeing less exclusive content as time goes on. The release of Skylanders: Trap Team is a perfect example. The game had no dedicated handheld release which was equivalent to the console versions – except on the iPad and Android tablets.
In fact, virtually all of the biggest traditional game publishers have begun migrating onto iOS and Android in recent years, from EA and Activision in the West to Konami, Capcom, Square-Enix, and Sega in the east. Even platform holders like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have begun to pivot towards mobile slowly.
Why? Because gamers are going where they can get the latest, greatest, and most impressive games to play on the go. And today, thanks to things like Metal, they’re heading to smartphones.