Is Mobile Gaming a threat to Consoles?
Okay, I'm going to start this by saying that really, anyone with a brain can answer this but apparently it needs to be addressed. Mobile Gaming has become a huge part of the industry it cannot be denied. Now whilst many people out there think that mobile gaming is a big threat to the industry. That by having easy access via downloads from an App Store or Google Play or whatever Nokia is doing nowadays, the smartphone and tablet gaming companies have captured many gamers and it will drastically damage the industry forever. I'm here to say; no in fact it is the opposite, it's made it bigger and better than ever.
Let's start by realising that the audience hasn't transferred, the last generation of Wii, PS3 and 360 has sold more console units than any of the previous generations including the previous where the PS2 became the best selling home console of all time. Now before anyone points out that smartphones have only been around this generation and just started gaining steam, I should point out that the first iPhone, the smartphone that kick-started this so-called "competition", was released less than a year after the Wii, the best selling home console of this generation. In addition as I write this the Switch is sold out practically everywhere and I can't find a damn single one to buy, which is really pissing me of and getting me so god-damn annoyed that I can't contain it anymore I'm gonna scr-- Sorry where was I? Ah yes; iPhones...
The audience hasn't shifted, it's just grown. People are still looking at the gaming audience like it's 1985 and the NES has just been released, they fail to realise that gamers aren't just people who play these things for a giggle and a bit of fun to pass time. They play it for hours and hours, they try to be the best, they actually compete online like sports, sometimes even for money. Now were this 1985 I'd say yeah, these smartphones are a competition because gamers back then were pretty casual. There weren't many games that took longer than five hours to complete tops if you were good at it and even those that did like Final Fantasy don't take anywhere near the kind of hours invested that their modern counterparts have... even if those games aren't quite my "personal favourites" shall we say? It's much the same as movies, people don't watch movies to pass time, they watch them to be truly entertained and for the art of it too; otherwise films like The Godfather wouldn't be so popular.
Let's compare the NES games of the 80s with the Smartphone games of today. Super Mario Bros. is not a game for the hardcore, it's something fun to play to pass a bit of time, you go from level to level in a linear fashion, take a few shortcuts here and there, find secrets and just enjoy a fun little game you can beat with easy in an hour or two even if you've never played it before. What is Angry Birds? A game where you go from level to level in a linear fashion, shooting birds at wooden beams and pigs, each level gets more difficult and you can easily pick up and play this game. Sure there were some more "hardcore" games out there, like The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. Well, the same Final Fantasy, with improved visuals from the original PSP port, is now out on iOS too but Final Fantasy XIII sure isn't.
See back in the 80s, for the most part games had a pretty much 90% casual audience. Just look at the controller at how simple it was. A directional pad that is easy to read, Up, Down, Left, Right, two buttons, A and B. And a Start and Select, which at the time, were literally used for just that, Starting the game and Selecting the mode you wanted to play. It was simple, it was easy to look at and hey, it was something to pass the time or have a little fun with; only a few games were there to be taken seriously and even those were very basic at the time. Final Fantasy wasn't the epic kind of storytelling that exists today and nor was Zelda the kind of complex game it is today really, it was a "kill bad guys, solve puzzles, save the princess" kind of game. Anyone could understand it, your Grandpa could play these games. The controls and the game itself were so damn simple...
Try giving this monstrocity to your G-Pa today! What is this, stick, there's like four buttons and.. a... an... another stick? Buttons on the back and what's this glowing X in the center... is it... is it radioactive? Why is it vibrating, Oh my god, oh Jesus, lordy help me!! What the fuuuuuu--?!!
No-one would know what the hell to make of this if it had been thrown into the market in 1985. People would lose patience and get angry with all the buttons and all the complexities. Nintendo kept it simple with their controller and then, did the same with the GameBoy when they went handheld to play on the go. It was simple, it was easy to use... not unlike a touch screen of a smart phone no?
Finally here come the 90s and everyone's used to these two buttons so... BAM! Two new buttons! Two shoulder buttons that, well weren't used much in those days but still... SUPER NINTENDO IS HERE MOTHERF***A!! This control was built in mind for people who had played the NES, they knew the basics of playing and game and now they were ready for those training wheels to be taken off and go wild with four face buttons, the games have now taken a leap up. Now admittedly as I write this I'm constantly hearing egoraptor's voice in my head a little from his Megaman X Sequelitis Episode. And he had point, everyone had played MegaMan, they were used to it, so it evolved into Megaman X, a true sequel, the training wheels are off bitch! Now you're playing with power... because it's so baaaad... and Super Nintendoes What Genesis Do--? I'm getting carried away here.
Point is, upgrades. The third Nintendo console ramped it up. Added an analog stick and... for some reason three handles... I dunno maybe Nintendo figured, eh, but the late 90s Nuclear War will have turned everyone into a mutant with three arms. Then when World War III didn't break out they just rolled with it anyway. Sony brought the rain with two analog sticks, the third of which, sorta wouldn't be used until like 2003 really, but it set a new Standard that Nintendo launched out with the C-Stick on the GameCube and Microsoft rolled out on their... well I certainly ain't gonna call that controller because it's nothing but a monstrosity designed for bigfoot to play video games.
See that's how video games have evolved. The market has shifted because well, the gaming companies had their peeps. They had gamers now, people who bought consoles for games to get invested in these two-sticked, four face buttoned, four shoulder buttoned, controller rumbling games. They had grown up with them and become gamers, it's own new culture. But that was kind of a problem in a way, no new people were getting brought into this industry unless it was to grab a cheap DVD player from a PS2. Gamers were the only people buying these consoles. And these consoles were only getting more and more expensive causing adults to go crazy and scream "shut up and stop taking my damn money!"... that's the meme right?
So in 2006 comes a whole new console for the home market... The Nintendo Wii. To this day, it's still the dumbest name I can think of. No wait, scratch that, Wii U is the dumbest name I think of. This console got hardcore gamers panties all in a bunch. "What is this game, there's no blood and violence in it?" and "This is for babies, I'm gonna go play my console with an X on it because it's X-Treme!!!" (which sorta plays into how I feel Microsoft are sort of the new Sega but more on that later). But Nintendo realising the state of the industry and their own dwindling sales as a gaming company realised what went wrong. People were looking at the controls, seeing them as too complex and thinking "SCREW THAT!" and moving on. I must admit, even as a long-time gamer, I was getting a bit exhausted too just like all the non-gamers out there. But not with the Wii they wouldn't be. The Wii was simple, it was easy to grasp and perhaps most importantly, it was cheap. Did this damage Nintendo's reputation, actually not as much as people think. Nintendo fanboys like myself stuck around and enjoyed the new control. And really by the time of the GameCube those gamers who wanted to stay with Nintendo were sorta stuck with them for life as fanboys, so their reputation wasn't as badly damaged as people seem to think, the people who would have left Nintendo's fanbase had... kinda already left with Sony and Microsoft taking what was once Sega's fans.
The Wii Remote was simple: you literally do what you're doing on the screen. You've seen tennis right? Swing the remote like a tennis racket. You've played golf right? Swing it like a golf club. You've shot alien monsters before right? Point at the screen and pull the trigger. It was genius, and it brought a whole new set of gamers to the industry along with the Nintendo DS, propelling Nintendo to new sales heights. But in addition to that, it was a simple button set up too, one big ass button on where the thumb is that basically means "YES" and turned on the side, you've got that classic NES controller once again. Suddenly people who'd never played games in the past were buying up Wii's like they were going to run out of stock, and well, they did for a time. It took me literally a year after launch before I finally managed to get one and even then I had to bribe a few people / sell my soul / go to extreme lengths to get one.
Casual gamers were back in the fold once again, they didn't have to deal with complex bullcrap and didn't have to read a frickin' tech manual to use it. This control was like their TV remote at home, hell I'm actually really surprised it never became one. Casual gamers had a place they could play games to pass some time, maybe they'd try out the nunchuck attachment, seemed easy enough; Play some Zelda or some thing with a bit more meat. Perhaps they'd even invest a little money into a Classic Controller and try out something bigger like Xenoblade Chronicles or Monster Hunter 3... maybe their foray by becoming gamers afterall.