Blog Post

Carmack: Mobile Gaming Power Growing With ‘Good Enough’ Approach

It’s fashionable in the video games industry to proclaim the death of PC gaming in favor of the console experience. John Carmack, founder of one of the seminal PC gaming companies id Software, thinks that we’re not too far away from a world in which mobile devices are putting the same kind of pressure on console game experiences.

In comments to, Carmack acknowledged the rise of smartphone and tablet gaming as something that is both exciting and troubling for traditional game makers. Exciting in that the prospect of more screens for one’s games is always a good thing, but troubling in that many of the games popular on mobile devices are casual games like Angry Birds, rather than the immersive games id Software is famous for creating, such as Doom and Castle Wolfenstein.

“So I do wonder if the mobile platforms might get more and more of that going for them, where it provides a good enough experience for [most people] – there’s a whole spectrum of people and there’s a whole spectrum of game concepts and directions,” Carmack said. “You have the completely casual people that have no interest in buying a PS3. And then you’ve got the hard core people who want to sit down all weekend and stay in a position where they can get 20 hours of gameplay in.”

The problem for game developers is that the prices people are willing to pay for those casual games is far less than they are willing to pay for the bigger games, but can they make it up on volume? It’s probably too early to tell, but it’s clear that companies like Rovio are doing quite well for themselves with different cost structures geared around simpler games and faster development cycles.

For the most part, Carmack sees what he called “parallel growth” between mobile games and the traditional hard-core gamer industry. But that could start to change: “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 said, and that could make for interesting experiences between the mobile device, the console, and the big-screen television. Perhaps Nintendo was ahead of its time once again with the tablet controller it unveiled at this year’s E3.