Mobile gaming convenience will kill gaming consoles, says ngmoco exec

by Phil Hornshaw

The mobile gaming market continues to grow at a breakneck pace, and soon it’ll become so big and ubiquitous, it’ll kill the console gaming market. Or at least, so says one ngmoco executive.

Speaking this week at Game Developers Conference 2012 in San Francisco, ngmoco’s Sweden chief Ben Cousins said that mobile gaming is already on pace to crush the more traditional in-home competition. During his presentation, he noted that speed and convenience of games offered on mobile devices has allowed them to steadily increase in value and market share, while sales on traditional in-home video game console games are rising, but not nearly so quickly.

“In the U.S. and UK, the retail games business peaked in 2009. European retailer GAME is in trouble,” he said during the talk, as reported by PocketGamer. “[Video game publisher] THQ almost killed itself with a bet on kids games on console, while in Japan the market capitalisation of mobile platform companies such as GREE and DeNA is more than Japanese retail annual sales.”

Of course, ngmoco itself is a mobile game maker, but Cousins is not the first to make such claims that mobile is the future of gaming. Developers from Angry Birds creator Rovio Mobile had the same opinion at SXSW last year, when they said the $40+ price tags of traditional games just can’t compete with the low costs of downloadable titles on mobile devices. And even during Apple’s announcement event for its new iPad, Epic Games President Mike Capp said the iPad had more graphical power than currently available consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. And, as PocketGamer pointed out, in terms of the top market caps among video game companies, three of the top five are mobile game makers. The top five today are Nintendo, Activision, Zynga, GREE and Nexon – the latter three of which focus on free-to-play titles on mobile and online platforms.

Cousins compared traditional console gaming and mobile to the rise of console games as compared to arcade cabinets. When arcade games were king, they were trounced as in-home consoles brought comparable power and a lot of convenience to players. The same is happening with mobile devices and home consoles, he said, especially as mobile devices continue to add graphical power. That’s not a bad point, given that console players have had the same hardware for years at this point. The Xbox 360 launched in 2005 and the PlayStation 3 launched in 2006, and both contain mostly the same level of hardware they did six or seven years ago. Meanwhile, as more and more tablets are introduced, they’re bringing comparable technology to smaller packages and keeping it as affordable as home consoles have been.

It’s much too early to put the nails in the traditional gaming coffin, however. PC gaming as a market reportedly had its best year ever in 2011, and there are many huge-selling titles that just aren’t available on mobile platforms, such as this week’s Electronic Arts title Mass Effect 3 and the incredibly popular Call of Duty series from Activision. It’s easy to say that mobile is killing consoles, but as it stands right now, the two platforms offer some vastly different experiences.

But the rate at which mobile technology is advancing suggests that won’t always be the case.