John Carmack: Mobile Phones Will Soon Outmuscle Consoles

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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John Carmack: Mobile Phones Will Soon Outmuscle Consoles


Mobile phones will soon pack more of a punch than current-gen consoles but id Software mastermind John Carmack thinks there's enough room in the business for both of them.

The capabilities of mobile phones as gaming platforms these days is nothing short of breathtaking. And the nature of the mobile phone market, where regular upgrades are obligatory for anyone who wants to avoid the pointing-and-laughing of friends and co-workers, stands in stark contrast to the console industry, in which ten-year lifespans are a point of pride. Look at it this way: in 2005, the year the Xbox 360 came out, one of the most popular phones on the market was the Motorola Razr, a flip phone that boasted a miniature external screen, polyphonic ring tones and a VGA-resolution camera [but no focus or flash].

"That's one of the things that we do discuss internally a lot and it's amazing to think that when we started IndustryGamers [http://www.amazon.com/Rage-Pc/dp/B003ICGL7I/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1310142972&sr=8-3]. "And that's a little scary when you think about it, because major landscape change could be happening underneath our feet as we work on these large scale projects. And we're going to be doing everything we can to constrain our projects more to not take so long."

Carmack said that mobile gaming is an entirely different kind of experience, calling it "a diversion rather than a destination," but added that the power of mobile platforms could dramatically, and very suddenly, reshape the face of the industry. At this point, however, it doesn't appear to be happening.

"We're selling more big titles than ever before, despite having all of these other platforms out there. So it looks like it's parallel growth rather than one stealing from the other," he said. "But platform wise, you could certainly imagine a future where, instead of having your console, you have your mobile device and it talks to your TV and when you want the experience on your big screen with the surround sound coming out of there, it's still on the same device."

"It's unquestionable that within a very short time, we're going to have portable cell phones that are more powerful than the current-gen consoles," he continued. "People have exaggerated the relative powers - the iPad2 is not more powerful than the 360. It's still a factor of a couple weaker. But the fact that it's gotten that close that fast - that means that almost certainly, 2 years from now, there will be mobile devices more powerful than what we're doing all these fabulous games on right now."

Power is good, but it's also important to remember that much of the segment's popularity arises from the fact that you can pick up a quality "diversion" title for a buck or two and from just about anywhere you happen to be. I'll happily drop a dollar on an hour or so of killed time in a waiting room, but that's about as far as I'm willing to go. I play games on my phone, but I don't "game" on it - how about you?



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Apr 28, 2008
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I wouldn't be surprised if he's the one to make this phone. And it can play anything, because fuck you he's John god damn Carmack, rocket-scientist.

But seriously, of course in time phones/handhelds will surpass consoles. Hell, they already surpass games from the PS1 era.
 
Feb 13, 2008
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PC games : Bought by you, playable when you are near a PC, moddable by you.
Console games: Bought by you, mostly playable when you are near a console (Some rely on online), unmoddable.
Mobile games: Rented by you (you never own them), sometimes playable (if your battery can work), unmoddable.

Then there's the whole controller issue that's still the big sticking point between PC/Console.

Sorry, Carmack, and the iPad2 is NOT a mobile phone. Or a games platform.

Angry Birds is just Worms/Tanks with a different skin. We were playing that on the Speccy. Porting 8 bit games is not the future, that's the past.
 

new_age_reject

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Mobile Phones *soon* out-muscling consoles?
Surely this is one of the most ridiculous statements made this week.
 

Ayjona

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Andy Chalk said:
I play games on my phone, but I don't "game" on it
Try it. It is an entirely new sensation, one that suits hardcore gamers almost as well as casual ones.
 

Seieko Pherdo

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I tend to have these urges to smash hi tech phones because I find them annoying to use, never had that problem with a game system.
 

josemlopes

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As long as I still have buttons, shoulder buttons and thumbsticks Im fine. Playing on an Ipod sucks because you can only use the touch screen. Like Cliffy B. said once, Angry Birds is a good example of what a touch screen only game can do, Infinity Blade plays the way it does because of that too.

You cant play more complexed games on a touch screen only platform.
 

nexekho

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Before anyone argues, go play some top-end games on the iPhone and tell me it isn't possible. That BMX game, Nova 2, Epic's game. They have the graphics power NOW to compete with previous gen with some features from the current gen, just lacking the raw horsepower to take heavy advantage of them.
 

koroem

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Just goes to show how Microsoft and Sony are stagnating the industry by relying on 10 year life cycles for this generation of console. At least Nintendo was innovative with the Motion controls. Which resulted in Microsoft and Sony copying and releasing their versions within the same release window. Motion controls aren't the way forward, and hopefully they will realize this sooner rather than later.

Now Nintendo is playing catchup in the graphics department, and releasing ANOTHER gimmicky controller, and Microsoft and Sony are still fumbling around waiting for the next COD release.

Release new hardware. Push the envelope. Don't get comfortable or someone else is going to beat you to it.
 

Jamash

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"Outmuscle" is such a useless term on it's own and out of context.

Technically, at 2580HP, the British Rail Class 47 diesel-electric locomotive "outmuscles" the Jaguar XJ by over 2000HP, but if I had the choice I know which one I'd want to travel around the country in.

Similarly, I couldn't care less if a mobile phone has a faster processor, more RAM and a better graphics chip than my X-Box 360. I prefer to play my games on a large screen with a controller and a reliable power supply. I've no interest in tiny mobile gaming and I don't want to have to make the decision between playing a game or saving the battery to make an important phone call.
 

Worgen

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Whatever, just wash your hands.
its not like its hard to out muscle current gen consoles
 

Rodrigo Girao

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What's the point of a high-end portable anyway? You cram high-end graphics into their tiny screens, and what's the benefit? It's pointless to add detail that will be barely visible. Look at any good DS game, they make everything big and colorful to compensate for that.
 

Braedan

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I honestly see this as more "no more computer/xbox/bluray player, simply a mobile phone that connects to the tv/controller/keyboard and mouse that is powerfull enough to run everything you need". rather than "we'll game more on phones"
 

Atmos Duality

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new_age_reject said:
Mobile Phones *soon* out-muscling consoles?
Surely this is one of the most ridiculous statements made this week.
When you consider that modern consoles are approaching their, what, 4th/5th year in their generation, it isn't all that surprising.

Remember: A brand new Xbox 360 is still using a hardware profile from 2006. A PS3 is (after adjustment by Sony) a bit ahead of that curve but still lagging behind your average gaming PC now ($800 laptops or $500 home rigs).

Mobile platforms, however, have been rapidly catching up to this stagnant/static console generation over the last 3 years. There's an exploding market for applications thanks to platforms like Steve Job's Monopoly/Apple Farm Droid; which in turn has driven the demand for stronger mobile hardware through the roof.

We will eventually (possibly within two years) hit the Mobile processing plateau on account of battery life, but that's simply my prediction. There haven't been many major breakthroughs in battery development since Lithium Ion took over (predecessor was Nickel-Cadmium).
 

new_age_reject

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Atmos Duality said:
new_age_reject said:
Mobile Phones *soon* out-muscling consoles?
Surely this is one of the most ridiculous statements made this week.
When you consider that modern consoles are approaching their, what, 4th/5th year in their generation, it isn't all that surprising.

Remember: A brand new Xbox 360 is still using a hardware profile from 2006. A PS3 is (after adjustment by Sony) a bit ahead of that curve but still lagging behind your average gaming PC now ($800 laptops or $500 home rigs).

Mobile platforms, however, have been rapidly catching up to this stagnant/static console generation over the last 3 years. There's an exploding market for applications thanks to platforms like Steve Job's Monopoly/Apple Farm Droid; which in turn has driven the demand for stronger mobile hardware through the roof.

We will eventually (possibly within two years) hit the Mobile processing plateau on account of battery life, but that's simply my prediction. There haven't been many major breakthroughs in battery development since Lithium Ion took over (predecessor was Nickel-Cadmium).
But this implies that consoles aren't going to get any better.
I appreciate that mobiles are getting better very quickly but mobile phones are just too small (similar to how laptops are inferior to PC's) and as you said the batteries are part of what's holding them back.
 

Atmos Duality

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new_age_reject said:
But this implies that consoles aren't going to get any better.
I appreciate that mobiles are getting better very quickly but mobile phones are just too small (similar to how laptops are inferior to PC's) and as you said the batteries are part of what's holding them back.
Current generation consoles aren't going to get any better. Not in the short-term anyway.

Hell, Nintendo is finally playing catch-up with the Wii-U, while Sony and Microsoft have no immediate interest in pushing out new consoles yet (they are making great profit streams on their current established systems.)

Plus, if they're going to try to force more legally-binding, unilateral terms on the consumer they must attempt to impose them now on their established customers so that they can condition their userbase into accepting them for later cycles. Microsoft could rate-hike Xbox Live Gold now and people will grumble, but still take the hit. If they did that on the dawn of a new system, it could send a message that would hurt its initial sales when the attach-rate is at its most critical stage.

Now, this doesn't mean that mobiles are going to replace consoles (due to very obvious and previously stated practical limitations). Carmack's statement seems very misplaced in the grand scheme of things: What he says is technically true, but what he claims this will do for the future of gaming is patently absurd.
There is absolutely no reason to force primary content onto a tiny piece of hardware when we have devices that fulfill that role already AND scales in a far more efficient/cost effective manner.
 

TheDooD

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There's no real need for mobile phones to be treated like consoles or PC because the main reason they're PHONES. You're suppose to be talking or texting not gaming. Is there really such a dire need to play video games everywhere you go. You gotta have top of the line gear on the phone to run something that'll look better on your TV and or PC anyway. I learned that mobile gaming is a waste of money, the games are normally great. It's the platform that you play them on that will always suck compared to more stationary hardware.