Video games have come a long way from their meager beginnings in video arcades and living rooms. With ever more powerful graphics cards and processors, games have become more advanced, more complex, more in-depth and perhaps most obviously, far better looking. But video games haven’t been revolutionized through GPUs and more powerful processors alone. With the advent of social media and mobile technology, video games have also seen a sea shift as of late. Increasingly, people are moving away from consoles and towards games on their phones, tablets and social platforms.
So how has this shift come about? Why, in a world where the latest PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games feature graphics to challenge those found in summer blockbuster films, have more people made the shift to mobile gaming and social media? Well, there may not be one definitive answer to that question. But if you were looking for the fundamental reasons, it might just be: because they could.
Video Games for Everyone – The Benefits of Mobile and Social
The very first mobile gaming platform to enjoy any degree of success, arguably, was the Nintendo Gameboy. Launched in 1989, it enjoyed tremendous popularity and would eventually serve as the first in a nearly unending line of successive mobile products. However, though the Gameboy was a mobile device, it could also be argued that it was a console in and of itself; instead of plugging it into a television, you simply threw it in your pocket. Mobile gaming as we think of it today – that is, games found on mobile devices that aren’t specifically designed as gaming platforms – started with “Snake.”
If you owned or used a Texas Instruments scientific calculator in the early or mid 1990s, then you are very likely already familiar with “Snake.” In the game, users steered an ever-growing snake around the screen, with the goal being to grow as long as possible without turning back on yourself. If you touched any part of the snake’s body, the game was over. It was simple, fun, and had an incredibly easy learning curve – all hallmarks of current mobile video games. What “Snake” proved, way back in the mid 1990s, was that a video game could exist – and succeed – on a platform that wasn’t intended solely for gaming, and that games could be enjoyed by everyone, not merely children and teens.
Of course, anyone who played “Snake” will also tell you that the graphics were rudimentary at best. Fun or not, the limitations of the graphics likely hindered the game’s reach. Today’s mobile devices, by comparison, have no such limitations; quite the contrary, in fact. Modern mobile GPUs, examples of which include the Snapdragon smart technology found in most Android devices, are capable of producing graphics and color spectrums that would put even generation-old console devices to shame. With that sort of computing power being used as the foundation for games that put “fun” first, it is perhaps inevitable that there is a shift towards these platforms. Now players can have their cake and eat it too.
A Rising Tide – The Migration to Social and Mobile
Everything that was true about “Snake” then is true about mobile and social media gaming now. The audience is no longer niche, but rather universal. The games place an emphasis on fun, accessibility, and ease of use over complexity and storytelling. And as a result, these games are starting to take over. In fact, these platforms have become so popular for gaming that some companies develop games solely for mobile and Facebook. There is perhaps no more definitive arbiter of success in business than the presence of a viable and growing industry – and that is what is happening today in gaming.
So what does the future hold? That video games will continue to be made for mobile and social platforms (and continue to be popular) is a foregone conclusion. But what of traditional video game consoles? What future do they have? Will traditional consoles eventually die out, bound to be replaced with PC, mobile and social? The jury may still be out when it comes to that question, but one thing that is clear is that changes to the industry are already well underway. And they have been spurred on by advances in mobile and social technology.