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 Rage, iOS didn’t exist. There was no iPhone. All of that has happened just in the space of one project development timeline,” Carmack told IndustryGamers. “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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