No gamer, pundit or casual observer can deny that mobile platforms have become serious contenders in the realm of interactive entertainment. My own children have driven that point home for me, with my three-year-old able to deftly manipulate touchscreen devices as if he were born with one in hand. This is a stark contrast to my own childhood, when only a single weekly encounter with my assigned Apple IIe in the computer lab, glowing a dim monochrome green, meant I would have the chance to chase down Carmen Sandiego one more time.

Today, I’m typing on an Apple iMac and, when I’m not working, I’m using it to play games both natively and via Bootcamp. In my house, as in so many others, PC gaming is alive and well. Once pronounced on its deathbed, the platform continues to play host to innovative titles that simply can’t be found elsewhere. No, consoles were not the death of PC gaming, though it can be argued that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are responsible for throttling it back due to aging hardware specs. In much the same way, I find myself incredulous that the advent of mobile technology will sound the death knell for dedicated gaming hardware.

There has been much made of the sudden decline in Xbox 360 sales. Reading too much into this seems folly. The console is at the end of its life cycle, which means that more people are holding off on purchasing until more details are available on the next generation of hardware. Additionally, Microsoft posted huge numbers during the holiday season thanks to smart marketing and bundling. It’s unreasonable to expect those numbers to stay where they were.

Certainly, it’s logical to attribute some of the downshift in sales to the introduction of the new iPad, which stands out as a leader in the mobile gaming sphere. The iOS platform is home to clever indie titles, gorgeous original creations from major developers and, now in increasing numbers, high profile classic games retooled for touch screens. One need only look at the release of inXile’s The Bard’s Tale (now complete with the original Bard’s Tale trilogy), Sega’s new Total War Battles: Shogun RTS and the upcoming Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition to confirm the versatility of the platform.

Ah, but this is a piece about how mobile isn’t going to kill consoles.

The knee jerk reaction from anyone offended by the concept of mobile gaming is the “giant TV” defense. By this I mean, the adamant desire to keep gaming on a gorgeous 55 inch OLED, active 3D system hooked up to an ear-thumping surround sound or that top-of-the-line gaming headset you just dropped over $200 on. I get it. Heck, I understand it. No… I embrace it.

Unfortunately, I’m not always in front of that kind of screen. Sometimes, I want to sit on the couch while my wife watches her home improvement shows or lay in bed with my iPad in hand. There is room in my life for both kinds of experiences. My biggest problem is that, right now, they don’t intersect at all. Furthermore, I can’t even get games to sync progress across Apple devices on the same account (with the exception of server-based competitive games like Hero Academy). The move toward cloud-based profile management (and regardless of what you think of the new Xbox 360 Dashboard, the seamless profile transfer from system to system without a USB drive is significant) is going to be the savior for consoles and a strategic advancement for mobile.

If Sony can manage to make it work between the PlayStation 3 and Vita with their latest MLB The Show title and, if it comes to fruition, Warrior’s Lair neé Ruin, why can’t the experience be broadened? Microsoft and Sony already allow publishers to layer their own interfaces on top of games from inside the title. EA requires an Origin account for many of their games, and Ubisoft encourages players to create a Uplay account. EA has even managed to incorporate iOS experiences into Mass Effect 3. All we need now is for relevant data to be uploaded to a cloud for continuation on a mobile device.

It seems that the prevailing perception is that we’re entering a period that will see a marketing war between mobile and home consoles. Rather, with effective collaboration and planning, both segments can experience greater growth than either could hope to accomplish alone. Incorporation of enjoyable and significant mobile elements, even if not the full game experience, will drive those resistant to playing on touch screens to consider purchase of a relevant device. In-game unlockables for connecting devices could drive sales of both versions. Additionally, publishers that embrace mobile options will have an advantage in a number of ways.

The additional marketing presence in the App Stores, will alert mobile users of a broader opportunity awaiting on a home console. In a competitive software marketplace, if left with the choice between two similar titles, gamers will likely opt for the one that they can get more play out of, especially if that means being able to continue their experience away from that gorgeous television set (or PC… or Mac…). Will this type of integration require additional investment from developers and publishers? Absolutely. However, the opportunity to convert customers from one platform to the other, capitalize on double purchases and incentivize with unlockable items will create a richer experience that gamers with busy lives will be eager to rally behind.

Video didn’t kill the radio star. PC gaming is alive, well and experiencing a resurgence. Your consoles aren’t going anywhere (especially as Microsoft and Sony convert them into broader entertainment machines). Sure, change is scary, but with some smart planning from console manufacturers and publishers as we enter the next generation, everyone can benefit. As long as we keep in mind that it’s the games, and not an individual’s preferred platform, that matters, we might just be ok.

Before the next platform war inevitably starts (this time with even more combatants), I beg of you, “Can’t we all just get along?”

 

Michael Futter is the Managing Editor of @RipTen. You can follow him on Twitter @mmmfutter.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Why do analysts think so short sighted? Why can’t we just have both? It’s like they want everyone to fail except Apple. lol

  2. Only $ONY Saints think ‘exclusivity’ a big deal.. because :

    a. They didn’t get ‘exclusive’ attention mentally when much younger.

    b. They can be easily mad/insulted if someone or media criticizes their only god $ONY, just like lil’ girls.

    c. They always want to see other platforms to FAIL or at least to follow what $ONY has done (eg.physical buttons, bluray, CELL, etc.)

    d. They assume that more ‘exclusive’ means ‘better’ gaming experience. $ONY has to work harder to bring exclusive games for the PS3 because of lack of support from most game developers. It turns out those exclusive games to be underwhelming in terms of sales and even metascores. Multiplats are more profitable for developers/publishers, but $ONY Saints hate the fact and twist it being inferior.

    e. They feel insecure for Playstation being last place this generation, what they need is more hypes and $ONY luckily deliver it to calm them down. The golden era of Playstation is going down, but they just can’t stand it and blame it to other platforms.

  3. I mostly agree. The only major concern I still have about greater platform cross-pollination is the possible conflict between so many unique types of user interfaces. In order to enjoy a seamless transition between PCs, consoles, and touch-based handhelds, new games will need to be very carefully designed with each system interface’s strengths and weaknesses in mind. One of the benefits of platform exclusivity is that the game is built from the ground up with a particular control scheme and user interface in mind. Sometimes that advantage gets lost during poorly thought out ports, and the game suffers. It’s not so much a problem when moving between a PC and a console given the ubiquity of gamepad support and the comparable technical capabilities (although certain types of games like FPSs and RTSs don’t always make the transition gracefully). But given how radically different touch screen gaming is from the traditional user interfaces we’ve grown accustomed to I wonder how well the player experience will carry over on titles that haven’t fully considered the implications of the touch input method. Will certain aspects of the main game have to be left out to accommodate the limitations of each platform? Or will developers try to shoehorn the entire experience into each platform’s port to the detriment of a well-polished, cohesive experience? Maybe streaming services like OnLive and greater bluetooth control support can help mitigate the dissonance between transitioning between each platform? Interesting stuff nonetheless.

  4. Most casuals feel old-gen when carrying a bulky gaming device (like PSP, Vita, even 3DS) with physical buttons.. so they’d prefer a much slimmer device with sleeker look and don’t care about core games.. they just love different ways of gaming that core gamers hate.

      • Personally, I use mobile to kill time with the little puzzle games they sell for a buck. When I want to sit down, play through a strong narrative or play with my friends, I go to my console. Every medium has its strengths I suppose. 
        I do miss carrying around my giant Parcheesi board though.     

  5. True gamers stay true to the console, and more specifically the PC platform. But there is a larger interest outside the ‘hardcore’ gamer mold, that prefer simplicity and mobility. Granted some mobile gaming may have had a minor influence on the decline in xbox sales, but you can’t really blame it just one thing. Xbox, hasn’t released a much anticipated game since Skyrim, and even then that was multi-platform, and most prefer it on the PC. Mobile gaming isn’t for the hardcore gamer, but more for the general populous looking to entertain themselves. 

    • I think that writing off mobile as being incapable of providing a rich and engaging experience might be selling things a bit short. I agree that they haven’t created that type of experience *yet*, but I see it coming, especially if Republique ends up coming to fruition.

      Regardless, I think we’re looking at a coming convergence that will benefit gamers. Being able to have a more immersive experience across platforms is win.

      I’m reminded of a game called Majestic that bled into the real world with scripted AIM conversations, phone calls and PC-based puzzles. It was VERY cool, and while the tech might be a little outdate, something that blends elements of my electronic profile would be very interesting to me.

  6. Am I the only one thoroughly sick of this false dichotomy between “hardcore” and “casual” gamers? You honestly can’t make a observation about mobile or handhelds in this industry anymore without a flood of snide, elitist comments about those filthy social casual scrubs diluting the hardcore master race gene pool or something. These different types of games have been around more or less since the birth of the industry, but this division into two competing camps is a relativity new phenomena, and frankly it’s gotten absurd these last few years. I’m primarily a “hardcore” PC gamer, but these labels aren’t really helping anyone. 

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