Game on! Your next gaming “console” may be mobile

Gaming on desktop PCs and consoles is a big business, but one that generally requires participants to be locked down to a location. In today’s growing mobile world, that’s less than ideal. But mobile devices don’t have the horsepower needed to offer immersive, multi-player 3-D gaming environments. Or do they?

With advances in mobile chips, there’s growing momentum toward high-quality mobile gaming on tablets and smartphones; devices that you’d likely always have with you. Qualcomm’s(s qcom) Snapdragon S4 chip, for example, was shown off at this week’s Mobile World Congress, powering Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation, a Gameloft game with console-quality graphics and support for multiple players on an Android tablet. NetbookNews captured this video demo, which impresses:

This move towards better graphics capability on mobiles isn’t surprising. The computing power of today’s chips is only improving marginally, although that will change with the next generation of silicon built on the ARM(s armh) Cortex-A15 architecture. That leaves the graphics core as a key area for potential tweaking; especially useful as displays on both smartphones and tablets are now capable of true high-definition video.

Indeed, Qualcomm has already announced a Pro version of its Snapdragon S4 chip, saying it will include a new Adreno graphics core with expanded visual capabilities:

The S4 Pro processor features the Adreno 320 GPU, support for higher resolution displays, as well as hardware and software compatibility with the S4 class. The Adreno 320 is a high performance programmable GPU—with up to a four times performance improvement—providing a superior user experience for Web browsing, games, user interfaces and other graphics applications.

Qualcomm, of course, isn’t the only chip-maker with a stake at the gaming table, although in 2011 it shipped the most mobile device graphics processors, according to Jon Peddie Research:

Although it only accounted for 3 percent of mobile GPU sales last year, Nvidia (s nvda) has its game face on. The company showed me its Tegra 3 gaming capabilities at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show and my review of the Asus Transformer Prime — powered by Tegra 3 — found it to be a great mobile gaming rig.

More computing cores and faster clock speeds are certainly part of the equation in mobiles, but right now, the push is on for improving graphics capabilities in connected devices. As a result, your next high-quality gaming console may be one you carry in your pocket or travel bag.