If you’re a casual gamer with a few minutes to spare, or a hardcore player who dedicates hours to your hobby, game consoles at home and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets both offer valuable entertainment and distraction, but which is the better way to play? Do consoles offer the best experiences or can mobile gaming give gamers everything they want?
On the couch
What immediately sets home consoles apart from mobile gaming devices is the overall quality of the experience with rich graphics, sweeping orchestral scores and massive adventures your reward. Multiplayer gaming online has also been honed for consoles, while playing co-operative and social party games with friends, like Dance Central, in front of a TV simply isn’t possible on mobile.
The initial investment of a console like Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Wii U (along with a high definition TV) may be high, but they’re all based on proven, lasting technology and enjoy great support from game publishers, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. Next generation consoles like PlayStation 4 in 2013 and Xbox One in 2014 will cost up to R7000, but will provide value for at least five years, whereas mobile devices of the same price are refreshed every year.
On the go
Controller input is another area where console and mobile gaming diverge. PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 use controllers with two analog sticks and over a dozen buttons, while most tablets and smartphones have a single touchscreen as their main source of input. This difference typically leads to more casual gameplay experiences available on mobile devices, with actions such as running in a platformer or accelerating in a racer being automated while the player solely controls jumping or steering, for example.
Genres such as strategy or turn-based role-playing games, however, are perfectly suited to touchscreen controls while more complex action titles that rely on multiple, rapid button presses are far more comfortable to play on a console. Various console games that have been ported to mobile opt to display a virtual controller on the touchscreen but most gamers feel that this control method lacks the precision and tactile feedback of a traditional console controller.
Conforming to your lifestyle
Console and mobile gaming offer very different ways to play at different price points, but where you end up spending the most time depends on your lifestyle. If you’ve only got of a few moments to yourself per day, or you have a long daily commute, playing a few rounds of Angry Birds on your phone or taking a few turns in XCOM: Enemy Unknown on a tablet is a perfect way to play, while console games require your full attention for at least thirty minutes at a time.
Handheld mobile devices like a Nintendo 3DS or PS Vita are also perfect gaming solutions for children, acting as distractions on long trips, easy to manage rewards or brief interactive entertainment in lieu of sitting in front of a TV for extended periods.
Game prices differ dramatically, however, and console titles cost between R200 and R700 (depending on age), while many mobile games are very inexpensive at R30, or are even completely free-to-play, but the depth and quality of these games is very inconsistent.
When (virtual) worlds collide
To enhance your games and add further convenience to the way you play, developers are creating methods for casual players to interact with console games using mobile devices. Imagine using your smartphone to call in an airstrike in a multiplayer shooter on Xbox 360, or helping your friend escape from enemies by cutting power to a city in open-world action games on PlayStation 3? Battlefield 4 and Watch Dogs will make this a reality this year, and that’s just the beginning.
Developers are also keeping gamers connected with consoles using specialised mobile applications so you can check your statistics in racing games. Thanks to the proliferation of mobile data networks, you’re always connected so you’re never too far from a way to play.
The console and mobile videogame worlds are rapidly converging so no matter which suits your lifestyle (and your pocket), it’s entirely possible that console gamers of the near future will be enlisting their mobile counterparts to virtual wars online… or simply asking them for help to reach the next level in Bad Piggies.