Game Changers

GTA 3 Coming to iPhone/Android

This might be the first toe-in-the-water experiment by 2K/Rockstar, but if it sells like you would expect, which it probably will, then you can bet your bottom dollar that it won’t be the last.  Expect further publishers to follow suit with portable versions of classic games.
High-end smartphones are more powerful and have more capable graphics processors than the Wii and what with the rapid turnover of hardware in the phone/tablet markets, how soon before they are genuine rivals to the PS3 and XBox360?  If these mobile devices are DLNA compliant, they could easily replace consoles as the premier gaming platform.  Who needs a console gathering dust under your telly if you can whip out your phone and play Angry Birds on the big screen one minute and GTA 3 the next?

What this portends is that iOS and Android are very real threats to not only the hand held market share of Nintendo but also the console market share of Sony and Microsoft.  The big two companies are trying to carve out a space for themselves in the front room, to be the centre of the multimedia experience.  You can see this in the deals that they’ve done with media streaming companies such as Netflix, Sky and the BBC, to shore up their position.  But what if you already have a device that can stream this stuff in hi-definition in your pocket? 
The future of content delivery is purely digital, for the simple reason that it can be controlled more effectively than physical media.  Unless you want to jailbreak your phone, running the risk of being cut off from all of your paid for services, it would be impossible to install software that could crack a video stream from Netflix, for example, as it would be instantly rejected by the closed system of Apple and quickly removed by Google on the Android Marketplace.  Also consider that very minor changes can be made to digital delivery systems to thwart hackers, whereas Blu-Ray is a standard that is likely to be very difficult to change.  Media machines based on physical media are increasingly archaic, which leaves the XBox360 and PS3 as pure gaming machines with a few tacked on bells and whistles that are nearing obsolescence.
So is there anything that is stopping mobile phones being used for big triple-A titles like Call of Duty?  There are technical limitations in the current graphical and processing hardware, but these will certainly be overcome in the next few years.  Some might argue that it is difficult to control an FPS with a phone or a tablet device, but with good developers this is not something insurmountable.  Even if it was a major problem, you could have a bluetooth controller linked to the phone/tablet for use at home.
Even if you can’t play Call of Duty on your mobile, who cares?  The most played games at the moment are those on the Wii, mobile phones and Facebook.  Popular games on the Wii with motion control, like Wii Fit and Wii Sports, could be easily replicated on phones with internal motion sensors.  You can already play Facebook games on your iPads and tablets.  The smartphone, in essence is already better than the Wii at playing games, and it’s already sold more units (the iPhone alone has sold 130,000,000 units compared to the Wii’s 89,000,000).

What’s missing is the belief that iOS and Android are also mainstream gaming platforms.  With the release of GTA 3, that could change dramatically.