When video games first made their way into popular culture they were a long way from the photorealistic graphics and open-worlds we know today. They were basic and simple, though still incredibly fun to play.
As gamers played Pong, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man, few could have predicted how advanced the medium would become in just a few decades. Even fewer could have foreseen that it would one day be possible to enjoy games on the go, as at the time, home computers were burdened by the use of giant floppy discs and tape cassettes.
Fast forward to the late 2000s as smartphones began making their way onto the market, the prospect of console-quality games running on these devices was still laughable. Smartphone games were fairly basic with the likes of Flappy Bird, Mafia Wars, and Farmville setting the standard.
Today though, things are different. First-person shooters, racing games, battle royales, and other games you’d expect to find on a computer or console are also available on mobile devices.
With this in mind, is ditching the Xbox or PlayStation and playing solely on a smartphone really a viable option?
Comparing the Experience
In years gone by, the experience offered by mobile games wasn’t the same as that of a console. This was because the hardware in a smartphone wasn’t capable of running larger games, however, in recent years, this has changed.
For many games today, the experience on mobile devices is almost identical to that on a console or computer. Players of popular classics like blackjack can still access the same choice of variants on a smartphone as they can on a computer, including the live dealer options which have proven to be a hit in recent years. The same is true for other titles, including Minecraft and Among Us, which, because the mobile and desktop versions are the same, also allow cross-platform play.
How close the experience is, depends on the type of game. For card games, puzzles, and simulator games, the gulf between the two form factors is going to be significantly smaller than the latest first-person-shooters or popular titles like Grand Theft Auto. This is simply down to the size of the game.
The latest generation of consoles have made a big step forward in graphics. They support 4K resolutions and have introduced new lighting effects thanks to ray-tracing technology. Current games are not yet capable of pushing these machines to their limits, so we’re likely to see steady improvements over the next few years.
They’re not being challenged by smartphones or tablets, which lack the graphics processing power of consoles and gaming PCs.
That said, mobile gaming has made much bigger leaps forward than other formats in recent years, meaning the same games, in a scaled-down form, can now be run on a smartphone. This includes titles like Fortnite, Hearthstone, and PUBG.
Apple’s recent release of its M1 processor is the first time the company has used an ARM chipset in its laptop and desktop computers. This means the company is closer than ever to using the same components in mobile and desktop devices.
If this were to happen, computers and smartphones would be able to run the same software and the same games with almost no difference between them.
Until then, streaming may be a way to make smartphones a viable alternative to other gaming machines. Services like Google Stadia are still in their infancy but have already proven that it’s possible to play AAA games on underpowered hardware like smartphones and standard laptops.
It’s even possible to connect a controller and hook your smartphone up to your TV so you can play games just like you would on a console.
A Viable Alternative?
Until smartphones can run on the same hardware as a desktop computer or a console, there will always be a gap between the experience offered by the formats. That said, mobile gaming is a great way to enjoy popular titles and provides a good balance between portability and quality.