Can Gaming Consoles Compete With Mobile Gaming?

Remember the days when video game consoles were meant for playing video games? Me either, and I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment. After all, Microsoft has bragged about 40 percent of Xbox 360 usage being non-gaming activity. At the same time, the amount of time smartphone users spend playing games on their mobile devices has increased nearly 50 percent according to CNN. We’re not just seeing a shift, we’re seeing the entire mold being overturned. Can the consoles ever catch up to their mobile gaming counterparts?

The Problem With Console Gaming

It’s not really surprising that console gaming is heading down the tubes if you look at the numbers. The costs to create video games are astronomical, with game development costs rivaling major motion pictures. According to Cinema Blend, new video games cost an average of $10 to $20 million to produce, a figure that doesn’t include the marketing push necessary to launch a new title.

This affects gamers in two ways. First, gamers are required to pay $60 for new games, an exorbitant price tag in a down economy. If gamers go the used route, they may be forced to pay an additional fee to the publisher to unlock the game’s full functionality. The second, and more significant, way in which gamers are affected is by the choices they are given by publishers. With development costs at such extreme levels, publishers only want to put out proven hits. This leads to an endless stream of sequels and barely updated annual sports titles. Given their options, it’s natural that gamers would want to look elsewhere.

Why Mobile Gaming Works

While our elders may bemoan the ubiquity of cell phones, they’re here to stay, and they’re only getting more popular. People constantly play with their cell phones; Business Insider states that smartphone users spend two hours a day using apps. Part of the reason for this number is that mobile games are so much fun and addicting, there’s no reason to ever turn on a console.

There’s truly something for everyone when it comes to mobile gaming, from the most casual gamer to the most hardcore player imaginable. Better yet, these games are far more affordable and portable than the console games on the market. This is critical because it allows players the chance to sample a game before fully committing to buying the title. As much as we all hate ads on free games, they’re far easier to stomach than spending $60 on a dud of a game.

Lastly, mobile games give us the chance to get the most of our phones. A study by Recon Analytics states that American mobile phone users upgrade their devices every 22 months, and playing the newest games gives people the chance to show what their phones can do. It gives gamers the opportunity to say, “I’m proud of my new cell phone and I want to show off how well it plays this game.” In a world in which everyone has to have the latest devices like a BlackBerry Z10 or Samsung Galaxy, this is a vital element of the appeal of mobile gaming.

The Next Generation

2013 will see the release of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4. Predictably, the buildup has been less about gaming than it has been about technical specifications and the ability of each system to become the hub of the living room. Gaming became secondary with the previous cycle of consoles, which included the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and the ability to stream Netflix and other online content superseded the games themselves.

Meanwhile, smartphone games continue to become more advanced, more interactive and more involving. Games like “Angry Birds” and “Candy Crush” have tapped the zeitgeist of gamers more than the offerings of the major consoles, and this trend should continue into the future. The ease, convenience and affordability of smartphone gaming makes playing on mobile devices far more appealing than playing the console game for one more cycle.

However, don’t look for mobile gaming to completely overtake console gaming. There are some things that simply can’t be replicated on a smartphone. You can’t play Madden on a 52-inch screen with surround sound on a smartphone. You can’t play “Halo” or “Call of Duty” online on a smartphone. Even classic heroes like Mario and Link can’t be played anywhere but on a Nintendo-licensed console. For these reasons, console gaming is safe… but the major players are definitely on notice.