John Carmack: Mobile Will One Day Overshadow Home Consoles

id Software’s John Carmack predicts that mobile phones and portable devices such as tablets will one day overshadow consoles. For the time being, most mobile gaming experiences are diversions, says Carmack, but when games mature into deeper experiences on mobile platforms it could spell bad news for the traditional home console as we know it.

"That’s one of the things that we do discuss internally a lot and it’s amazing to think that when we started Rage, iOS didn’t exist. There was no iPhone. All of that has happened just in the space of one project development timeline," Carmack told IndustryGamers in a recent interview. "And that’s a little scary when you think about it, because major landscape change could be happening underneath our feet as we work on these large scale projects. And we’re going to be doing everything we can to constrain our projects more to not take so long."

Carmack goes on to say that growth of mobile platforms as gaming devices has been parallel to home consoles – or in other words, one is not taking away from the other.

"We’re selling more big titles than ever before, despite having all of these other platforms out there. So it looks like it’s parallel growth rather than one stealing from the other," he said. "But platform wise, you could certainly imagine a future where, instead of having your console, you have your mobile device and it talks to your TV and when you want the experience on your big screen with the surround sound coming out of there, it’s still on the same device."

Finally he says that "within a very short time" portable devices will be more powerful than home consoles:

"It’s unquestionable that within a very short time, we’re going to have portable cell phones that are more powerful than the current-gen consoles," he continued. "People have exaggerated the relative powers – the iPad2 is not more powerful than the 360. It’s still a factor of a couple weaker. But the fact that it’s gotten that close that fast – that means that almost certainly, 2 years from now, there will be mobile devices more powerful than what we’re doing all these fabulous games on right now."

Source: The Escapist


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  1. Erik says:

    That is if Nintendo can keep it from being merely a DSi XXXXXXXXXL.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  2. Erik says:

    I’ll just wait and see if a platform that at current has experiences such as Angry Birds can ever give an experience such as Mass Effect or Bioshock.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  3. Kojiro says:

    … not to mention dual analog sticks! PSP and 3DS only have one and look how they suffer.  A mobile device with zero analog sticks will never replace a traditional controller.  (Despite what Molyneux may think 😉

  4. gamegod25 says:

    I totally agree dude. While I have no doubt that mobile devices will improve, unless they somehow provide a better experience than traditional gaming there is no way it will surpass it.

    Mobile gaming is best suited for short, simple games and browser games like farmville. Games that you can play for short bursts and aren’t very visually/musicially intensive. You wouldn’t want to (or even be able to) play a FPS on a ipad would you?

    Mobile gaming is sure to carve out its own niche but it will never replace 1080p widescreen, hi-def surround sound, actual controller in your hand, chilling on the couch gaming.

  5. Grif says:

    Agreed. Not only that, it seems that Carmack believes that console technology is grinding to a standstill, while mobile technology speeds ahead.

    Not true at all.

    We’ve already seen just a tiny fraction of what the Wii U is capable of, combining console and mobile technologies into one diverse experience. And I’m willing to bet anyone here $100 that Sony and Microsoft are already knee-deep in development on the new Playstation and Xbox systems.

    Granted, I have no doubt that mobile tech will someday match the abilities and performance of current-gen consoles, but it’s doubtful it will ever surpass them.



    "And though we may pledge fanboy allegiances to different flags, deep down inside we all serve one master, one king. And his name… is GAMING! FOREVER MAY HE REIGN!"

  6. Zerodash says:

    Nope.  Don’t want to play most of my games on a mobile device or tablet.  

    Why have not smartphones replaced televisions as movie-viewing devices?  Because watching them on a big screen, with good sound, on a couch is more appealing to most people than viewing on a small handheld screen.

    The same exact thing holds true for games.  There is a reason the PSP God of War games and Metal Gear Peace Walker are coming to the PS3: because those experiences are best suited for large screens and couches.

    That isn’t to say that phones and tablets will not continue to grow or produce interesting experiences.  However, to believe that they will render the big screen experience obsolete is absurd.

  7. Grif says:

    Indeed. It’s one of those "only time will tell" kind of things. It would also depend on the individual gamer. Everyone has their own tastes. I have a feeling the industry and the consumers will balance everything out, though. There’s always something for everyone nowadays.



    "And though we may pledge fanboy allegiances to different flags, deep down inside we all serve one master, one king. And his name… is GAMING! FOREVER MAY HE REIGN!"

  8. Monte says:

    Sure Console and home technology will continue to advance and stay ahead, but the question is, how long will it matter? As I said below which each new conole generation we have been seeing a smaller and smaller gap in power… eventually i think it will get to the point where consoles and hand held’s will appear to have similar graphics and power… yes in truth the console will be more powerful, but the difference in power will not be noticable to gamers. And when the mobile can hook up to the tv and controllers to provide the same comfort of home gaming, then what is left for consoles? What is the remaining appeal to use a console instead of just using your mobile? There is still motion controllers, but i would not be sure they would be safe either. Frankly i think it would take more than a few years, but it does seem like a possible future.

  9. Grif says:

    I’m very much aware of that. Like I said above, I’m not doubting that wireless tech is advancing. I’m just saying it’s foolhardy to suggest that console and home technology is sitting on its laurels.

    I can see how phones can replace laptop PCs and netbooks, since there’s already phones that double as laptops, but I highly doubt they will be a replacement for desktop PCs and consoles.

    Not anytime soon, anyway.



    "And though we may pledge fanboy allegiances to different flags, deep down inside we all serve one master, one king. And his name… is GAMING! FOREVER MAY HE REIGN!"

  10. locopuyo says:

    Phones already have HDMI and output 1080p to HDTVs.  In the future they will be able to wirelessly connect to tvs, sound systems, as well as game controllers.   

    They will eventually replace (or become your) PCs and consoles too.  

    Pwnage of Empires Xbox 360 Indie RTS

  11. GoodRobotUs says:

    I can see something more along the lines of the Wii-U being the standard in the future, a dual-role system that can operate either via a smaller internal screen or plug into the home system.

    And before anyone leaps, let me double clarify that I am not saying that the Wii-U is the future, merely that the technology model involved might be. And when it gets to that point, I don’t think there’ll be any point even trying to differentiate between a console and a Mobile, because they will not advance or decline compared to the other, they will merely merge.

  12. Monte says:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Carmack…

    Think for instance the technology difference between consoles and Handhelds. one of the biggest things seperating them is graphical power but as we already seeing the difference in grpahical power gap between console generations are getting smaller and smaller. Once concoles can display in game graphics that are on par with movie CGI, they will hit their peak. Sure they can in theory keep pushing it, but at that point no gamer will really be able to notice the difference. And while consoles have reached a graphical stand still hand helds will continue to advance to catch up. Evetually, you will have hand held devices with the similar power as those conoles.

    Hell, even the argument that gamers like to sit on their couches and play on a big screen tv is not solid. Afterall, it is possible to hook up PSP to your TV so that you can play psp games while using your TV as a display. Who says future hand held devices will not do the same? We may get to the point where a mobile device can wirelessly connect to a TV and display their grapical power in their full glory on your home TV screen; allowing you to play games at home, with your friends on a big screen without the need for a console. And hell, if the control system on the hand held devices doesn’t have enough buttons for you or is not comfortable enough, we may see Apple release the iController so that their customers can play awseome games on their TV via their mobile device. Essentially, instad of a full console, a mobile device and a contoller is all you will need to play some of the best games being made.

    Its no clue how many years into the future we are talking about, but it does seem theotically possible. Wouldn’t go so far to say consoles will disappear, but the future may yeild a great shift in how we get our games and how we play as we move into the future. The above article does not say that consoles would disappear, only that mobile’s may one day overshadow them

  13. Samster says:

    Casual novelty gaming, perhaps. But I always blink in bewilderment when an involved, cinematic game with rich graphics is a portable-device exclusive. What is the rationale behind that?

    I dunno, maybe I’m old fashioned but I always thought playing games and watching movies on your mobile/portable devices was something to do to alleviate boredom while you were stranded from your real gaming/movie watching hardware in your home of choice thanks to travelling. I take my PSP with me to hotels when I’m away working but I can guarantee you that if I were at home, the PS3 would be on instead. I watch movies on my work laptop while away, but only because the 40" HD tv in my living room would be a bit big to carry in the car. There’s a reason people go to the cinema to watch significant movies for the first and sometimes multiple times – because bigger is better, and it always will be.

  14. Algus says:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss him.  I think it will be a long time before the home console market shrinks to such a degree that it is no longer profitable but I can definitely see the majority of gaming, done by casual gamers, existing on mobile devices. 

    My guess is the more likely scenario…things will go back to like the SNES/Genesis era or early PS1 era where really only the hardcore gamers have these machines in their homes.  It won’t be ubiquitous like the PS2 and Wii were. 

  15. hellfire7885 says:

    Mobile devices definitely can catch up to consoles, but the console isn’t going anywhere. My guess is at some point they’ll matc heach toher in power.

  16. Shahab says:

    People take Carmack’s statements and then make stupid leaps in logic like the idea that mobile phones are going to somehow displace traditional gaming platforms. Because of input concerns, comfort, and screen size/resolution we will not see traditional gaming platforms go anywhere for a good while yet.

  17. ecco6t9 says:

    Power wise, yes.  But most would rather play with real controls and a bigger screen/sound.

  18. Kajex says:

    id Software’s John Carmack predicts that mobile phones and portable devices such as tablets will one day overshadow consoles.


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