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Mobile versus console; the march to the top

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We’re into the new year, and with it brings new titles to both Xbox One and Playstation 4, along with an undoubtedly larger install base and bigger profits. But will the next gen consoles continue to steal the show this year, or is mobile on a march to the top?

In today’s gaming marketplace, you would think with the release of two new next gen consoles, that everything would be squarely focused on Microsoft and Sony, and maybe even Nintendo to a lesser degree. But with Apple’s release of the IPhone 5s(and it’s first-ever 64 bit architecture) and the continuingly growing support for console controllers and other similar peripherals on mobile devices, this market has gained quite a bit of traction as of late.

This shouldn’t really be a surprise though. With the new generation of smartphones, we’re starting to see big name publishers make their mark on mobile. Activision released Call of Duty: Strike Team for mobile, and although it is a scaled down version of it’s console sibling – Call of Duty: Black Ops II - it was well received as a huge step in the right direction towards the console experience.

Of course next generation consoles can do much more than a mobile device, but mobile is getting to a point that is better than most handhelds and can still rival the console experience. Just naming a very few, games such as Gameloft’s Asphalt 8, EA’s Real Racing 3, and slightly lesser-known developers like Atypical Games’ recent release of Battle Supremacy all prove this point (along with Activision’s above mentioned title).

So how could mobile possibly gain more attention than console? Several factors such as portability, free to play, low-cost premium games, micro transactions (better know as the dreaded IAP), and quick pick up and play type games have all contributed. Mobile is diversified in the fact that you can access it anywhere at just about any time. And all the power is in your hands. Consoles obviously don’t have this advantage.

Am I saying mobile is better than console? No, but I could plead a pretty strong case for mobile. The fact that owning your next smartphone instantly gives you access to a marketplace of games goes a long way when consumers spend money. Controllers are already available for Android devices that mimic the console controllers, and Apple finally jumped into the water with their support of controllers through iOS 7.

What is next to come is what will be really interesting to watch unfold. But if mobile has one big hurdle to tackle, it’s getting past the pay to play mentality and taking itself seriously. Free to play games dominate the charts for top grossing games for the most part, because developers have learned how to get a player hooked into a game and then have them hit a pay wall right when things are heating up.

In most serious gamers’ opinion, this is seen as lowly tactic and they’ll dismiss the game or developer. A repeat tactic on the same gamer will usually yield the same result. Factor in that these marketplaces are supporting multiple levels of devices that can or can’t handle a game’s assets, and all of a sudden you have a strangely diversified market of who can and can’t play your game, let alone pay for it.

And so, as it stands, consoles still win at the end of the day. Developers have a pretty standard platform to build their game framework from, and they know their consumers expect to pay the premium price up-front for a full experience. Knowing that a purchase is almost guaranteed to provide the experience advertised, gamers hang their hat and can sit back and enjoy their gaming. They are free from ads, free from pay walls, and have no chance of their device not being supported.

So will mobile begin to take itself seriously? I suppose the question is rather, will developers begin to take the mobile platform seriously enough? And will they garner the attention of hardcore gamers and console gamers alike? We have a whole year to find out, and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

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