Nov

10

Ice Cream Sandwich Gets Mobile Gamers Licking Their Lips

Mark Stephens

There might be a tasty new sandwich on the menu soon that has mobile gamers salivating, because it can make mobile gaming more like a full console experience. The high uptake of smartphones has spawned a whole new band of people who enjoy playing games in short bursts on the go – as we can see every day as we walk down the street, wait for a train, sit in the doctor’s waiting room or take a breather in the shopping mall. Well, some like to play games at home too – and that’s where Ice Cream Sandwich comes in.

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The Changing Landscape

Frequent criticism from more hard-core gamers has been the inability of games to replicate the console experience, as well as the lower specs of the games themselves. Games are certainly plentiful – as evidenced in the App Stores – but the constant challenge is how to “up” the standards and keep raising the bar for gamer enjoyment levels.

Things are rapidly changing as handset manufacturers, OS developers and game developers all come together in a complex relationship that is improving the end-user’s gaming experience.

More complex third person shooter games and console gaming emulators have started to appear, which bring more advanced console gaming step closer to the handsets we have in our pockets.

What Is Ice Cream Sandwich and Where Does It Fit In?

Some people want to play games on their handsets in the comfort of their own home. This means that the games need to be more advanced and layered, battery and processing power of the hardware needs to be improved and different ways need to be introduced to make it possible to sit for a few hours playing the same game.

Most mobile games don’t presently lend themselves to this – they are more for short sharp bursts and picking up a game easily where you left off.

However, USB gaming controller support and HDMI out functions on Android tablets started to bring the console experience another step closer, allowing you to play your tablet-based games on an HDMI-enabled TV screen with an X-Box 360 or Playstation 3 controller rather than the touchscreen on your tablet.

The ice-cream sandwich update in the Android 4.0 mobile OS allows USB host support on a handset, so if your phone has either HDMI out or MHL support (like a Galaxy Nexus), you will be able to get the large screen, USB controller experience from your handset in the comfort of your home.

The Limitations

Of course this latest development doesn’t completely bridge the gap between phones and console games; there are still many CPU, GPU, memory and power questions to be answered.

The graphics are, of course, designed for a handset, not a large screen, so there will be a loss of crispness when blown up to ten times the size and played through a big screen.

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Also, The Galaxy Nexus, which is the only phone running the new Ice Cream Sandwich so far, will not have 4 USB connectors, which means you will have to stick to single player games or find a USB splitter to use.

Looking Ahead

The updates are probably not going to convince the 40-year old lady playing a simple table-waiting game on her mobile on the train to plug her device into her TV; and any serious gamers will still want the extra power and quality of a console to play at home. However, it’s another positive step through the rapidly-changing landscape of mobile gaming.

At the very least the latest Android developments should focus some attention on where the game development industry is going and provide another spurt in the “growth process” of playing more complex games on handsets.

In case you’re wondering or counting down the days, this update will be available by mid-November in most countries.