Is Mobile Gaming Heading Back to The Future?

Mark Stephens

With the release of the iPhone 4S, which we reviewed for you a couple of weeks ago, we are starting to wonder whether mobile gaming is going back to the future.

The upcoming release of the latest iPhone and the expected impact it is going to have on its users – turning more and more unsuspecting, innocent phone/camera/chat users into mobile gamers – is occupying a lot of blog post inches.

Here we ask whether we are seeing an effect not seen since the 1990s, when mobile gaming devices burst on to the market?


Will i-Gamers Be The Real Winners?

While overall reaction to the iPhone 4S has been somewhat muted, there is a growing belief that mobile gaming will be the big winner. It seems that the new device has a spec that will be able to deliver gaming like no other mobile phone handset to date.

For developers there is a high level of enthusiasm about creating games for the new device and users are waiting to see what new games will be sparked by the more powerful and graphic-friendly build.

Rewind 20 Years…

If we pause, take a breath and rewind 20 years, many readers will recall that the likes of Nintendo and Sega had just started creating the devices and releasing the games that would soon become commonplace.

Developers around the world were busy creating some very popular and addictive games that gamers took to very quickly and in large numbers – like Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Some doubted that this was a trend and thought it more of a “phase” or “fad” that people would grow out of.

Is this starting to sound familiar?

Mobile Gaming Doubters Beware!

The lesson is plain to see – if you doubt that mobile handset gaming is here to stay and can only get bigger, then the experience of those who thought that Nintendo games were just a “fad” should be chastening.

Twenty years later, Nintendo are still going strong and the mobile console gaming market remains huge, though potentially under threat from mobile handset gaming, as we have discussed before.

The Growing Pace of Change

The difference now is that the world is much more connected than it was 20 years ago, thanks largely to the Internet, which didn’t really start talking off until around 15 years ago; this means that technology is being developed a lot quicker now – what took 10 years back then might take a year or two to have the same effect now.

We can therefore expect innovators like Apple (even without Steve Jobs) and Android to build platforms for better and better mobile gaming experiences for their handset users.

Developers benefit too. They can jostle alongside the larger development houses for a share of the growing games and app market; previously it would have been too expensive to compete in the games console arena, with the ”big boys” – the introduction of small, independent developers helps to spur growth and innovation and has already spawned many best-sellers.


The Final Lesson

Nowadays there are games played on mobile handsets that outdo those that proved so addictive on the Sega and Nintendo consoles of the early 1990s.

With the rapid rate of change it is likely that, in another 3 or 5 years, the games we are playing on our mobile handsets will be far superior to the ones we have now – so much so that we may look back and laugh that we could even be entertained by the ones we play now!

The lesson is not to underestimate either the sophistication or the pace of improvements that are being made to mobile gaming as it is opened up to more and more users.

If we look backwards, we can see what happened as the game console industry exploded from a small niche market to an entertainment giant, and we can learn not to underestimate the possibilities, as we look to the future of mobile gaming as a whole.