Home » Opinions » Xbox 720 or PS4? It doesn’t matter - mobile will win out

Xbox 720 or PS4? It doesn’t matter - mobile will win out

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recycled consoles

It is almost time for the next generation of gaming. At some point between now and Christmas, Sony and Microsoft will unleash their new games consoles on the world. The PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are coming to shake up our ideas of what a console can do and usher in a new era of gaming.

Are We Already Next-gen?

Or perhaps not. The next generation of gaming actually started in November last year with the launch of the Wii U and has so far failed to set much of the world alight. That may be an unfair comparison, you may think. After all, While the Wii U was nominally part of the 'next generation' it is underpowered compared to the PS4 and (almost certainly) the new Xbox, both of which will be the REAL next-gen games machines.

The Wii U is a next generation console in terms of its predecessor, however and it does offer a number of innovative features that mark it out as a step forward. The PS4 (and what we know of the Xbox) by contrast is more like an souped-up version of the PS3. It adds a few cool ideas and impressive hardware but really, it is just a somewhat faster and better version of what has come before.

The current generation of consoles has been with us for around eight years. Eight years is a long time in consumer electronics but all three main consoles are still going relatively strong and new games are being published for them even as I type. The Nintendo Wii may have slipped in gamer's affections to a degree but the PS3 and Xbox 360 are still selling and both are still host to cutting edge games. They are still relevant to gamers.

The next-gen of consoles is going to be relevant for a much shorter time, however. The reason for this is to do with the console life cycle and that of rival devices in the mobile and tablet sectors.

Xbox, Xbox Burning Bright

The console life cycle is pretty well defined now. A console is launched with a handful of games. Some of these have been developed in close collaboration with the console manufacturer and are designed to show off the new features of the console. Typically, most of these games will be a bit underwhelming with perhaps one or two standouts.

As developers learn their way around the new console they are able to squeeze more performance from it than they were capable of using the initial programming documentation and libraries. This process usually continues until the console's End Of Life. Compare the games released at the Xbox 360 and PS3 at launch with those on sale now and you can see how much more developers have been able to coerce from the hardware.

The Mobile Effect

During that past eight years however, something else has come along that has shifted perceptions of how quickly a product can mature and be replaced - mobile. The launch of the original iPhone in 2007 ushered in a new era for smartphone technology. Smartphones existed before the iPhone, but Apple's baby was so advanced in some respects compared to even the best that Nokia or RIM had to offer that it was difficult to even class it as the same kind of device.

We aren’t just talking about phones here, of course. In consumers eyes, the iPad went quickly from an easily-mocked 'giant iPhone' to a warmly-embraced addition to many homes, spawning hundreds of imitators and carving out an entirely new niche.

angry birds

Compared to the console world, mobile development is nimble and rapid. People expect to be able to replace their handsets after their contract expires. Every eighteen months to two years we are used to being able to retire our badly scratched mobile and replace it with something not just shiny and new but markedly better. Manufacturers have been adding features and capabilities to new phones at an astonishing rate.

Nobody could have predicted how quickly we went from "Oh, look, a fancy new kind of phone" to "Oh, look, an entirely new category of personal computing device" (ok, maybe Steve Jobs did, but I don't think it is unreasonable to say that even he found the rapid change a surprise) but what is just as surprising is the effect that this change has had on gaming.

The Nintendo Wii launched with a new kind of motion sensing controller, an idea that found its way into the PS3's Sixaxis gamepad and greatly influenced the Xbox Kinect and PlayStation Move. Motion control has led to some innovative games but none of the aforementioned controllers has had as great an effect on the way we play as has multi-touch on mobile and tablets.

More than that, the App Store model has given rise to an army of small developers who would find it difficult or downright impossible to find their footing in the console world, where the huge expense of developing and publishing a game is prohibitive for most indies.

Mobiles and tablets are also - obviously - extremely portable. Lack of storage has led manufacturers and developers to embrace the cloud and the fact that almost all of these devices have either 3G/4G, Wi-Fi - or both - means that both internet access and easy cloud storage can just happen.angry birds

These elements combined - a constant churn of new devices, a legion of developers, zero-effort internet and touch - make tablets and smartphones incredibly versatile games machines. The next generation of consoles has learned from mobile and all lean heavily on the cloud with wireless or ethernet built in as well as an increasing nod towards social media. But all are entering the market with expensive boxes that gamers will be reluctant to replace quickly.

Phones may be expensive, but the way we approach replacing them is completely different to the way we view buying consoles.

Console Conundrum

One of the reasons that consoles remain fixed throughout their life cycle is price - at least at first, these can be expensive toys - but it is also so that developers don’t have to hit a moving target. Console games are expensive to develop and publish and trying to factor in multiple versions of the Xbox or whatever would be impractical. By contrast, mobile games are currently much cheaper to develop - due in part to the App Store-style model - and there are so many devices out there that losing backwards compatibility isn’t such a big issue. In any case, most people upgrade after a couple of years and the problem goes away.

People will always want to sit in a room together to play games and it would be silly to think that gamers will only ever want to squint at a screen in the palm of their hand. It would be equally silly, though, to expect that Apple, Google, Samsung and the rest won't simply make it easier to play their kind of games on a big screen. For example - Google’s announcement last week of Google Play Games lends itself really well to cross-platform gaming. Not just on multiple phones or tablets but PCs, browsers and even lightweight consoles like the Ouya.

The next generation consoles may be extremely powerful by today’s standards and we will undoubtedly see some great games appearing on all three (or ‘both’ if you want to be mean to Nintendo.) However, next year's phone and tablet launches are going to be more powerful again and by the time the 'next generation' lumbers towards its own End Of Life the pace of change will mean that their handheld rivals will have left them in the dust.

Next, read the Xbox One vs PS4

Go to comments

Walerio 100% Original

May 20, 2013, 11:29 am

Never!!!!!!!!!!!!

maccaman

May 20, 2013, 11:53 am

What a terribly biased article. Mobile gaming's got nothing on console/PC. PAH-LEASE.

Tinus van den Heever

May 20, 2013, 12:30 pm

Never.
You can watch movies on your mobile...is television and satellite tv dead?
Do people still go to the cinema?
There is a certain consumer experience not satisfied by picking up a smart-phone and launching a quick game.
Mobile games are considered mostly small time killers and almost no effect on hard-core and fan gaming experiences.
Console games are more and more becoming an intense graphical and story-based experience worlds away from any portable experience. You are more likely to play a console game from 2 or 3 years ago than ever play a mobile game you finished a month or year(s) ago.

Consoles for the gaming win!!

Mick

May 20, 2013, 12:33 pm

When a phone can transmit its screen to a big screen TV making the phone both console and controller will be a good day. The phone can act as a touch screen controller with changing buttons to suit the current state of play. Send the game screen to the big TV and you can sit back and enjoy. Until that happens consoles will always have a big market.

Tinus van den Heever

May 20, 2013, 12:41 pm

The problem with touch screen buttons and streaming to screen (which is already possible with smart tvs) is that you cannot feel the buttons and thus you are unsure as to what you are pressing. Looking at the controls could cost you your gaming life or cause you to lose. Thus I don't even see this feature gaining much support. Perhaps if a mobile is used as a type of "Wii-remote" it could be have some appeal, although this could also (as seen with the Wii) cause a drop in graphics as well as controll in hard-core games.

Point is, that in no near future do I see the mobile platform stealing the console market

David Cottle

May 20, 2013, 1:00 pm

Absolute complete load of tosh do you really think developers want to spend tens of millions of pounds only to find there games being played on a. Tiny 7 or maybe 15 inch screen and seriously if you do watch films or play games on an iPhone or tablet you really are missing the point Ben hur Prometheus mass effect battlefield 4'on a bloody phone complete joke

Pg

May 20, 2013, 1:08 pm

Part of the issue here is that the step up between generations doesn't have the huge impact it used to. Improvements are getting harder to see, they don't have the same impact when looking at screenshots.

So when phone tech has ps1/ps2 quality games, it's harder to see the difference between the two and some people will query why would you buy a console when you have that level of quality on your phone.

While Google appear to be addressing it, multiplayer gaming is one big attraction of consoles. For me, having a physical controller makes a big difference. The feedback from a controller makes a huge difference plus I don't want to be shaking my screen around in a game when trying to do certain inputs. And accuracy is always important, or nothing more annoying that knownig that the type of input is inferior to what you are used to and that it's costing you your competitiveness. Mouse and keyboard for fps strategy games, anologue stick for driving. And then there are the customer contollers that you can get for racing, flying and what not.

While graphical quality will undoubtedly increase in the next gen, it'll be the number of objects that will be on screen at once which I think will have a big impact. It's no longer just about the graphics, but a destructable environment, petals falling from a tree, a living city which you can view from a distance and yet see all the traffic and people moving in it (no pop up), the world seemingly more real yet hard to capture exactly why. These are harder qualities to compare than just graphical prowess.

Rather than say that moble gaming will kill consoles, as console gaming has yet to kill of PC gaming (how long have people been saying that!), how about we see mobile gaming as complementary. Although such a headline won't get as many viewing figures.

Gordon Kelly

May 20, 2013, 1:11 pm

Nvidia's Shield seems an obvious contender to test the water here.

Ish Shiv

May 20, 2013, 1:38 pm

There is always someone thick enough to promote this benign knee-jerk reactionary opinion every-time mobile gaming is mentioned. The type of games being popularized on these devices are casual games designed for people who don't traditionally play them who are called gamers when all they play is angry birds. In no universe will the hardcore market swap their massively more powerful consoles or PC's, infinitely more accurate controllers and AAA titles for a fiddly little mobile device, fruit ninja and a touch screen. This is no threat to the next gen do your research and play some real games you moronic analyst.

Jason Andrew Hahn

May 20, 2013, 2:24 pm

Horrible article, stay away from stocks..... I laugh when I see future Generation consoles success predictions based on and compared to that of the WII-U's,.. Hilarious

Pfeest

May 20, 2013, 2:26 pm

Mobile gaming is a completely different ballgame. The games simply cannot compare to the experience one gets playing on a console. The medium will always be limited. Limited by screensize, limited by control scheme, limited by memory and processing power. Comparing the two is downright bunk. The only thing mobile gaming has going for it is portability.

tombo42

May 20, 2013, 3:26 pm

Cause angry birds can replace skyrim.

RealFrowns

May 20, 2013, 4:18 pm

Just because there are games on both mobile devices and consoles doesn't mean they compete for a consumer's usage. People play mobile games when it's convenient and they want to kill some time. People play consoles (or PC games for that matter) when they really want to play a game. It would take an incredible shift in mobile device CPU/GPU power and control capabilities before anyone who actually likes gaming would give up their console for a tablet or cell phone. Seriously, of the millions of people who buy games like CoD, Halo, Battlefield, or any other blockbuster game, how many would give those games up to play angry birds or temple run? Mobile games will not replace console games any time soon. All mobile will do is coexist with and supplement console gaming. People don't seem to grasp that these two types of platforms are not mutually exclusive. People can spend money on both, play both, and even enjoy both.

Mathew Anderson

May 20, 2013, 9:08 pm

You must be kidding.

Văn Minh Nguyễn

May 21, 2013, 10:59 am

Microsoft envisioned of advanced handheld mobile devices before Apple, Pocket-P.C.'s and Palmtops date back to the 1980's, stop praising Steve Jobs, ¿did your fat-beard Wozniak write this article for you?

Matthew Bunton

May 21, 2013, 1:10 pm

What a strange article. Mobile gaming is a joke, pay to win, in App purchases etc. I cannot understand why anyone even bothers with it.

The 3DS would be a better choice for mobile gaming. Consoles will be around for a long time yet and the PC will get even stronger over the coming years.

Pg

May 21, 2013, 1:23 pm

I've always thought the future for screens will include the ability to change their structure allowing them to "create" buttons by raising parts of the screen - a different take on "flexible" screens. So imagine a dialler/kayboard on a touchscreen being able to raise each key allowing you to touch type.

Maybe it's me, but I feel touch is such an important sense, or at least a very useful sense, while interfacing with any electronic device. Unless you are able to look at the output and input screen(s) at the same time (phone), or we can learn an exact spacial awareness allowing us to touch type without seeing where we are touching, I don't think touch screens are the way forward for all devices.

Hopefully manufacturers will understand this and put a complimentary input for each device and not try to shoehorn touch onto every device.

bumboclot

May 21, 2013, 7:09 pm

This article is idiotic. Tablets are for TIME WASTING, consoles are for GAMING! There is no similarity between those two.

Mark Colit

May 21, 2013, 9:45 pm

More of the same, with better graphics. Gawd. No wonder software companies are laying off staff. Next gen = end of the road.

likeabizabe

May 22, 2013, 12:11 am

Trusted reviews MY ASS!!! Not only is this article biased, but then inaccurate. Besides, Angry Birds franchise is too mainstream and overrated. Why are idiots like the person who made this very article trying to predict the future? They probably don't even realize the fact that Mobile gaming may be very popular, but not too much at all compared to console and PC games. If ANYTHING, the Consoles would probably win, or PC. Either way, Mobile is NOT going to overcome the gaming industry.

Gaz B

May 25, 2013, 12:41 pm

I think this article is just writing things based on trends, not knowing why the trends are actually there!

It's clear that there's a massive change in how the internet is now being used and how games are being played, but it all comes down to which device is the best for a situation.

Phones are always with you and "always on" (no boot up time) and so great for quick access to the internet, but average for games. Screens aren't big enough and the touch interactions are limited.

Tablets increase the screen size, but it still needs to be held in your hands and is not great for long term use. As a result, both phones and tablets will always be limited in the type of games that can be played on them. As someone else mentioned - time waster games!

Consoles are there for when you want a real gaming experience - the big screen, better controls, in depth game play, increased skill, interaction with others, etc. Phones and tablets will NEVER replace them, just as a PC will never be replaced by Consoles, Phones or tablets.

They all have their place and, eventually, "market share" will level out to fit the advantages of each system.

Solid Snake

May 26, 2013, 11:19 am

LOL wtf mobile gaming being compared to console/PC gaming? who ever wrote this is a tool. He should be fired for his stupidity.

David ID

May 29, 2013, 12:49 pm

Tablet's are terrible for serious gaming. Always will be.

No matter how powerful they get, having tactile feedback controls replaced with dumbed down touch controls leaves gaming feeling like a passive experience. Two thumbs sliding around on a sheet of glass is no replacement for actual thumb-sticks, triggers, buttons and haptic feedback.

Martin Gillespie

June 3, 2013, 7:07 pm

i hate gameing on my phone or tablet , there ok for the odd passtime, i get very exited by the mention of the PS4, dont , didnt by s4, i phony thing, you cant beat surround sound and a 60 inch screen. even looking at a vita

Nate Pig

June 5, 2013, 1:41 pm

Terribly written article!!! The PS4 is much more than just a souped up version of PS3. Its architecture has been completely redesigned to make it much easier to work with. Some reading before writing would have been a good idea.

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