Feature: Consoles vs Smartphones – The Gaming Landscape for 2013

A recent survey has indicated that roughly 80% of all consumers in the US are now gamers, which has been attributed to the increase in smartphone ownership.

Despite the fact that the survey was conducted in the US, a similar situation may also be present in the UK.

According to PlaySpan and Magid’s online survey in December 2012, 35% of respondents stated that consoles were their preferred platform for gaming, which was closely followed by 34% of respondents who said that smartphones were their preferred gaming platform. The remaining 31% was taken up by tablets, computers, and dedicated handheld consoles.

These figures aren’t surprising, given that smartphones are becoming more and more advanced with each new release, meaning the quality of games available for them is beginning to rival the gaming experience offered by the latest games console.

However, as the gap between consoles and smartphones continues to narrow, so does the price.

A flagship smartphone, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 or BlackBerry Z10, will cost anywhere between £450 and £700 depending on hardware choices, whereas the PS4 is rumoured to cost around £400 when it is released in 2014.

IHS Screen Digest, a reputed UK gaming industry analyst, believes that nearly £300million will be spent in the UK this year on mobile games alone; a figure that is up from just £100m three years ago.

However, this figure is still drastically less than the amount expected to be spent on console games, which is thought to be around £743million, but the gap between consoles and smartphones is certainly narrowing.

These figures are somewhat skewed though, as the respective costs associated with the console market, such as hardware, accessories and games, somewhat dwarves that of the mobile markets.

To illustrate, most console games retail for at least £40, whereas as previously mentioned, you will very rarely pay more than £5 for a mobile game, meaning you have access to a huge range of immersive mobile games without the need for a huge bank balance.

The same can also be said of peripherals, most console accessories and peripherals are eye-wateringly expensive (PlayStation memory and SD cards anyone?), whereas if you owned the latest smartphone, such as the HTC One, you could get a protective case, cover and a range of other useful mobile accessories for less than £20 altogether.

It is undeniable that over the last few years, the mobile gaming world has exploded, primarily due to the dramatic rise in free-to-play games and cheap apps on smartphones, which suggests that people may be giving less attention to consoles.

This fact can also be seen in the general derision that greeted the announcement of the PlayStation 4, and the fact that the success of mobile gaming is already having an impact on consoles.

To illustrate, the control pad for Nintendo’s Wii U console has a video screen which works independently of the main console unit, and the PlayStation 4 will allow gamers to use their smartphones a ’second screen’, which suggests that the console giants are aiming to muscle-in on the mobile gaming trend.

Conversely, mobile gaming is attempting to encroach on the console market; at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, mobile firms were keen to show off how their phones and tablets could connect to modern televisions, which could mean that gamers could soon be able to play a game on their smartphone, whilst beaming the sound and graphics wirelessly to the TV.

Although mobile gaming looks set to continue its meteoric rise, with Microsoft set to announce their next console at E3 2013, as well as Sony’s already announced PS4, it doesn’t appear that the console is going anywhere yet.

Author: Guest Post

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  • Martin Brentnall

    Where to start…

    1. The quality of smartphone games is not even close to the quality of console games. Not. Even. Close.

    2. Most console games do not retail for £40. Many new releases may retail for £40, but most console games drop to below £20 within a few months of release. Since older games comprise the majority of available games at any given time, this likely puts the average console game at around £15-20, which isn’t even close to £40.

    3. Smartphone peripherals are cheaper than console peripherals because you’re comparing cheap plastic covers, styluses and screen protectors to complex electronic devices like controllers and cameras.

    Try comparing some peripherals that might potentially turn the smartphone into a comparable gaming experience. You’re going to need a decent set of headphones, a head mounted display, a proper controller and any of the associated accessories for these things. Not looking quite so cheap any more is it?

    4. The Vita is a portable system, not a console, and is thus not a subject of discussion in the comparison of console peripherals. The correct comparison is the 1TB hard drive you can put in your PS3 for £50-60. Smartphone storage isn’t looking quite so cheap in that comparison now is it?

    5. There has been very little “general derision” of the PlayStation 4. The announcement by most accounts has been extremely well received. It’s interesting that the only linked evidence of such “derision” comes from this website.

    6. An increase in smartphone gaming has no implications whatsoever for the demand for console gaming. They’re different markets.

    7. The Wii U Gamepad – aside from the TV remote function – is completely dependant on the Wii U console. The Gamepad acts as a dumb touchscreen monitor interface to the console. It is useless without the console and certainly does not work “independently” from the console in any sense of the word.

    8. The use of mobile devices as second screens isn’t an attempt by console developers to encroach on the mobile market. It’s an attempt to take something that’s already there and exploit it in a useful manner to enhance the existing experience. No-one is going to be dropping their DualShock 4 to play Killzone: Shadowfall with a tiny touch screen.

    9. If you connect a smartphone to a TV (and a bluetooth controller, because let’s face it, no-one is going to take a touchscreen-only controller in a home gaming experience seriously), then your smartphone basically becomes a (crap) console. I’m not really sure why anyone would want that, given that the whole appeal of a smartphone as a gaming device is that you can take it with you.

    In conclusion, let’s put it this way: No-one is buying an iPhone or Galaxy S4 as an alternative to a PS4. No one.

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