Mobile gaming is becoming more and more popular. Smartphone and tablet games have evolved to a point where they nearly match the graphics and excitement of current generation consoles. To keep them competitive and ahead of the technological curve, the next generation of game consoles will have additional features to help them better compete with the growing interest in mobile gaming. It’s a subtle shift, but one worth documenting, so here are the 5 ways the mobile gaming industry has influenced and changed the next generation of consoles.
- Mobile gaming forces consoles to boost interactivity: Smartphones and tablets with a touchscreen are very interactive. To compete with this, the PS4 and Wii U have introduced their own touch interfaces. The PS4 will have a touchpad on its wireless controller, enabling gamers to interact with the game through various touch gestures, while the recently released and struggling Wii U uses a tablet-like touchscreen on its gamepad. The Xbox One has taken the interactivity one step further and kept its Kinect motion sensor from the previous Xbox console but has upped the resolution of it to a 1080p camera. The Xbox One also released a SmartGlass app for smartphones and tablets, which essentially works the same way as the Wii U’s gamepad does.
- Mobile games’ portability makes for better wireless controllers: Carrying your cell phone or tablet with you to any room is a lot easier than moving the console. Many console manufacturers have tried to duplicate this portability with wireless controllers. The Wii U has made the wireless controller into a second screen, so developers can immerse players further. With the off-screen option, some games will allow you turn the TV off and play the game entirely on the controller. You can also watch Netflix on the gamepad. With the PS4 using the cloud gaming technology it acquired when Sony purchased Gaikai, you’ll be able to use the mobile PS Vita to play PS4 games streaming remotely over a Wi-Fi connection, bringing PS4’s massive graphical and computing power anywhere you go.
- Next-gen consoles are getting social: There are several mobile games that let you share game information with your friends. Many console games have added this concept. Uncharted was one of the first console games to use this option, and the upcoming PS4 has made social sharing even easier. The option is built right into the wireless controller. Simply push the “share” button to review the previous 15 minutes of gameplay and select the clip you’d like to share. Send the clip to your PSN friends list or upload the video to Facebook, Ustream.tv, or Twitch.tv.
- Multiplayer evolution: Next-gen second screens: Playing the same game with friends, in the same room, with each person playing from their own smartphones is possible with NFC (near field communication). Current generation consoles allow you to play head to head the same way since Pong, but there really hasn’t been any evolution in the area, until now (or the next generation of consoles, at least). The Wii U’s gamepad allows one person to manipulate the environment in the game to either positively or negatively affect the other (up to 4) players, who’re using the regular Wii U controllers. With the PS4, users will be able to use the Playstation Vita to take advantage of a second screen and support the first player. With Xbox One’s SmartGlass, a second player will also be able to interact with the game while someone else plays.
- Communication through next-gen consoles: When playing a game on a smartphone, you can easily text message friends, and the same convenience will be available on the PS4 and Xbox One. Above and beyond that, the Xbox One will have Skype and cross-game chat functionality, with the PS4 only enabling the latter.
Of course, these aren’t the only ways that mobile gaming has and will affect console gaming. As the mobile market continues to mature, the business models and gameplay of both consoles and mobile games are likely to influence each other. What other ways do you see console gaming changing?
JT Ripton is a freelance writer who focuses on topics relating to business and technology. You can follow him on Twitter @JTRipton.