Four ways the modern smartphone is challenging the classic games console

What we recognise today as the modern video games console has entertained players for more than four decades. The classic formula of box, TV, and controller has served us well for generations, surviving new fads and innovations.

Of course, the upcoming PlayStation 5 is a world away from the consoles of the early 1980s in ways too numerous to mention, but the concept is largely the same – you sit yourself on the sofa, load up your favourite game, and grab a pad.

But, after so long at the forefront of gaming, could the console’s days soon be numbered? In this article, we will analyse the threat of the modern smartphone to the video game industry’s status quo.

Great titles

There was once a time when mobile phone games were primitive, boring, and unimaginative. Sure, Snake had its charms, but it was hardly going to challenge Crash Bandicoot. Today, however, it’s a completely different story, with mobile titles adding up to seriously big business.

Mobile games are among some of the industry’s biggest franchise titles, with puzzle shooters like Angry Birds 2 grossing an incredible $116m globally in 2018. Other major titles include Pokemon Go, Candy Crush Saga, Fruit Ninja, and Jetpack Joyride, while console hits like FIFA and Grand Theft Auto have also made the cross-over onto the smaller screen.

Perhaps the biggest strength of mobile’s most successful titles is in their simplicity. They are designed to be played on the go, with little set-up time and fewer controls to learn – a concept that gamers have responded to in a big way.

More fun

It’s also fair to say that there’s far more you can do on a mobile phone than on your average console. Sure, the PS4 is capable of running YouTube and browsing the internet, but the modern smartphone is a multimedia multi-tool in the palm of your hand.

Phone users spend hours scrolling social media, staying in touch with friends, and taking selfies – tasks that are much more difficult to complete on a console. What’s more, beyond the traditional titles, there’s much more gameplay to enjoy.

For example, while modern consoles over a small range of casino games to enjoy at home, a smartphone can connect you to literally thousands of casino websites with a few taps of the screen. For example, online providers across the internet allow you to turn your handset into a phone casino, by providing a selection of hundreds of titles commonly found in land-based venues – such as slots and classic table games.

For all their technological advancement, games consoles remain unable to replicate this level of connectivity to entertainment and communication.

Cloud gaming

It’s often said that the true strength of a console is its power, and it’s certainly true that the latest games consoles boast far greater graphical and processing capabilities than even the most high-end mobile handset.

But the introduction of cloud gaming has threatened to make hardware limitations a thing of the past, with gamers now able to literally stream games running on a remote machine through their device’s own screen.

This has opened up almost limitless possibilities, with the biggest and best titles now seemingly available in the palm of any gamer’s hands. And although the screen remains somewhat smaller, consoles may not be able to boast the edge on game performance for much longer.

Controller compatibility

One final criticism of mobile phones as gaming devices is their lack of physical buttons. Today’s modern touch screens might be great for typing and scrolling, but many seasoned gamers find them awkward to use when controlling the action.

However, a growing number of smartphones are now compatible with the gaming industry’s most used peripherals. Through the wonders of Bluetooth technology, mobile gamers can connect their PlayStation or Xbox pad to their phone and enjoy a more authentic button-mashing experience.

Furthermore, you don’t even need the latest phone to do it, as there’s already a wide range of accessories available to help transform any Android or iOS device into a fully-fledged gaming machine.

So, whilst handhelds like the Game Boy and Nintendo DS have been able to co-exist with the console, it seems the mobile phone could pose its biggest threat to date. Because, while a handheld console is seen as another thing to carry, a mobile phone is in the pocket of almost every gamer.

Whether we like it or not, the majority of us have no choice but to keep our phones with us – and this is a key factor in the rise of the smartphone as a gaming device. It is perhaps in the phone’s indispensability where its biggest threat to the home console lies.

However, as we count down to the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, it’s clear that the demand for the classic console isn’t ready to evaporate yet; some 40 years after we first enjoyed the experience in our living rooms.

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