Even just one year ago, if you’d told me that we’d be playing console games on our smartphones and tablets, I wouldn’t have believed you. Or, if I had, I would have assumed it to be some sort of streaming service.
But, here we are, playing Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on devices small enough to fit into our pockets, whilst consoles like Nintendo’s wildly popular portable Switch console become the fastest selling console in US history.
It’s a fundamental shift for a business which has always been home-hardware first, with manufacturers putting their best efforts into home consoles and considering mobile hardware second. I mean, Microsoft has never released a portable console, leaving Nintendo to absolutely dominate the space for decades with only a little competition from Sony.
But what got us to a point of gaming going mobile at an increasingly rapid rate? Well, there are two major forces:
Dramatically increased mobile chipset power
Moore’s law notes that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit design doubles around every two years. So, every couple of years, we witness a massive increase in capability alongside a reduction in power draw. It’s meant that, since the launch of the first smartphones, which were relatively slow in loading even the most basic of apps, we now have smart devices with chipsets which far outstrip the everyday use cases of your smart device.
In fact, the only developers really making use of all this excess power are mobile game developers, who are putting these ultra-powerful mobile chips to good use. It’s enabled the latest class of ‘console-quality’ gaming on mobile, a somewhat confusing team which basically means console-style gaming, with a focus on 3D world design and deep mechanics.
Need an example of the advancement of mobile chipsets? The lightly customised NVIDIA Tegra X1 in the Nintendo Switch boasts a teraflop of graphical performance, more than 3x more power than the Xbox 360 had in the last generation, all in a device that’s small enough to slip into any bag and with a power draw low enough to offer 6 to 8 hours battery life. Wow, right? But that power would be useless if it weren’t for…
Trailblazing early mobile games
Almost as soon as portable touchscreen devices became available, developers set to work making gaming experiences on them. Those early games were somewhat rough as developers contended with the realities of controlling games without physical buttons and with low-powered chipsets, but they proved compelling.
Early efforts like Doodle Jump (2010) revolutionised portable gaming, making use of accelerometer controls to control the main character. Shortly thereafter, mobile casinos launched smartphone-friendly slots, looking to bring casino gaming to smartphones. It was a move that they’ve never looked back from, with companies like slotsonlinecanada.com regularly reviewing mobile slots games and new slots launching on an almost-daily basis.
Slowly, as time went on, the types of gaming experiences we could enjoy on our smartphones grew, moving from relatively simple 2D platformers to endless runners, isometric games like Hitman Go and ‘escape the room’ style puzzle games.
Those games taught us that gaming on a smartphone or tablet could be more than a mere distraction, but an engrossing gaming experience instead. It’s led to today, where gaming on our smart devices is rapidly catching up to console gaming. Where will it go next? We won’t have to wait long to find out!