Gaming : Traditional Console Made Obsolete By Smartphones?

Has smartphone gaming made the traditional console gaming obsolete?

Clash Royales or Blur? Flow free or God of war? Asphalt 8 or Dirt 4? 2048 or destiny? Which one have you played or heard from your kid? Gone are the days when the eyes of every other kid was pinned to the television or playing console games all day. Since the inception of smartphones and tablet games, a whole lot of kids and adults have shifted to such gaming because of the ease and convenience the smartphones provide.

And not just ease, but smart phones offer playability on the go, online and multiplayer gaming flexibility, and endless and newest games at cheapest prices that can be purchased from anywhere and anytime in the world. Indeed the digital graphics and animation in these games are not equivalent to the high definition screens, high resolution, and sound quality that gaming consoles like PlayStation and Xbox present, but the quality of mobile gaming is briskly advancing.
Continued growth of mobile gaming revenues have put Google and Apple in the list of top five public companies by game revenues in 2017. If the sales of gaming consoles kept decreasing at the rate which the sale of smartphones is increasing, then that day is not far when names like Xbox and Nintendo will be heard in childhood stories of a parent.

Gaming

The Difference

It’s not a 1 on 1 comparison. But mobiles have a few *key* advantages that make them more competitive than traditional gaming.

  1. ASTC texture compression is SIGNIFICANTLY better than what the modern consoles are using (eg. BCx), able to reliably compress to 25% (or lower) the size of console counterparts, and far more flexible. This has a direct effect on bandwidth.
  2. Mobile architectures like Imagination’s PowerVR and ARM’s Mali have a feature called Shader Pixel Local Storage, that flat out ELIMINATES the need to swap out to RAM for deferred workloads. This not only saves bandwidth, but it saves tremendous amounts of power on mobile as well. Of course, this is for tiled workloads. So vertices, varyings, and uniforms must be stored in RAM between rasterization and pixel shading stages.
  3. Mobile phones have smaller screens and can get away with rendering at lower resolutions. This point cannot be understated, as pixel density and computation are very closely linked. Rendering at 720p is perfectly adequate for a mobile phone with a 5″ screen (even better with non-interpolative upscaling). The same cannot be said about a 50″ TV.
  4. Mobile can do 4xMSAA and 8xMSAA nearly for free (for normally sized polls). This operation is entirely pipelined in hardware. AMD APUs do not have the same capability, but it seems to be specific to Tile Based Renderers. And at small screen sizes, while MSAA is a boon, it is (arguably) less necessary at smaller pixels sizes. Experience says that alias “crawling” is less offensive on a screen with tiny pixels.

Gaming

What More?

A few mobile tech demos have shown that mobile graphics would not look out of place on a console. These demos include: Epic Zen Garden, Epic Protostar, Unreal Paris Apartment, Epic Moon Temple, Unreal Elemental, etc.

Of course, hardware and game quality are two separate things. While mobile hardware is already capable of gaming experiences on par with modern consoles (albeit at lower resolutions eg. 720p, and with slightly reduced effects), we believe that the mobile stores (Google Play, or Apple’s app store) are not nurturing to the types of games that are often enjoyed on consoles and PCs.

There is also the issue of on-screen controls on mobile devices. Game controllers are not standard for mobile phones and tablets, and as such they are at an extreme disadvantage when trying to appeal to avid gamers.

Nitesh Agarwal
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