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Will smartphones eventually replace PC and console gaming?

The rate of adoption of mobile gaming is constantly increasing due to a number of factors (affordability, ease of access etc.) and the question of whether smartphones will eventually replace consoles is one of the more commonly asked questions

While the amount of money being spent on “traditional” gaming has fallen, that category outsells its mobile equivalent by almost five to one. But, the gap is closing and by the end of 2012, profits from mobile app purchases is expected to rise to more than 70 per cent. Figures from video games analyst, IHS, suggest spending on consoles has fallen 20 per cent in the last two years but this looks set to receive a boost following the launch of the Nintendo Wii U.

The tablet-like console is the first “traditional” gaming device to be launched in the last five years and it is hoped its design will open up new gaming possibilities in the future.

Will the increasing number of smartphones and tablet devices hitting the shelves prove to be, as a whole, a powerful alternative to “traditional” gaming methods? We look at both sides of the argument.

Yes, they could…

Smartphones are capable of all manner of things these days, with gaming functionalities becoming even more prominent, evolving rapidly from the days of Snake, which first came pre-loaded on Nokia handsets back in 1998.

The biggest appeal of mobile gaming is that you can play games while you’re on the go. Last year, Sony introduced the Xperia Play, the first PlayStation certified Android smartphone, optimized with additional gaming controls on a slide-out pad. This was one of the first significant steps in bringing mobile gaming to the fore but sadly one that ended abruptly.

Most recently, users have been introduced to Xbox SmartGlass, which launched alongside Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. It lets users sync their Xbox 360 console with a PC, phone or tablet, turning hand-held devices into a controller which can be used to select what content is displayed, input text, navigate across the user interface and even activate gesture commands all on a larger, second screen.

Mobile games are quickly becoming more advanced with improved graphics and on this trajectory, there will be a point where most users find themselves always using their mobile for gaming, whether it is on the go or connected to another device for a dual-screen experience at home. Gaming apps are also generally cheaper, easier to code (lowering barriers to game development) and with games, such as Angry Birds, optimised for use on a touchscreen device.

No they couldn't

Just as mobiles are going through a rapid evolution, games consoles are too. They’ve been around for decades and because mobile gaming has rocketed, it gives the illusion that there’s no growth in the traditional gaming market, which is not the case. Mobile gaming is still relatively new so a rapid growth is not only expected but also proportionally larger, it doesn’t mean consoles and PCs are dying out though.

When you compare the three platforms, smartphones still have a long way to go to achieve the same levels of processing power of a gaming console. Until then however, the user experience will never be as immersive on a smartphone although one could argue that a smartphone can be connected to a television set with or without wires and use wireless controllers (like the Sony Xperia S tablet).

That said one, advantage that mobile gaming has on consoles and computer gaming is its wider availability to new users and providing greater exposure for the game developer community (and therefore increase the possibility of a sale).

Consoles boast higher-quality graphics thanks to the fact that hundreds of games have been optimized for them, something which enhance gameplay, enabling them to remain competitive. For those who already indulge in gaming on consoles and desktop, it is unlikely any amount of mobile action would change their perceptions. Consoles are made solely for gaming unlike smartphones which have to support other features and functionalities.


Gaming today offers something for everyone and opinion will always be split because in the end, it all comes down to personal preference and the type of gaming experience that suits the user. We don’t believe traditional gaming methods are going anywhere anytime soon although the appeal of gaming on the go with a hand-held device looks set to soar.

What we do know is that it’ll certainly be very exciting to see how smartphones and consoles evolve over the next few years. There is a third way though and it is one where a fraction (albeit a small one) of casual gamers on smartphones and mobile devices decide to invest in a proper gaming console or computer.

Sarah Hazelwood is a contributor from Dialaphone. Check out the latest deals from the online mobile retailer on ITProPortal.