Carmack: Mobile tech will eclipse current consoles "within a very short time"

Mobile gaming is evolving at breakneck speeds, and it won't be long before the technology we're gaming with on the go leaves current generation consoles in the dust. It's not a popular theory, sure, but it comes from the popular id Software guru John Carmack, who told Industry Gamers that although mobile games and big budget console titles can co-exist, it won't be long before smartphones, tablets and handhelds will have the power to handle both.

"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,” predicted Carmack. “2 years from now, there will be mobile devices more powerful than what we’re doing all these fabulous games on right now."

Having started work on id Software's Rage before the existence of iOS games, Carmack added he is amazed at how fast mobile tech has evolved in just a matter of years. That in mind, he clarified he's not worried about traditional development becoming yesterday's news, explaining:

“Could the bottom drop out on the triple A market because everyone’s playing Angry Birds? It doesn’t seem to be happening. The numbers don’t show that. 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. 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."

Above: Coming soon to iPhone 5?

Performance potential notwithstanding, Carmack said the mobile market also has the benefit  of being privy to streaming, cloud-based gaming services like OnLive. Even if tablets and smartphones can't match the speed and visual quality of future consoles, he explained they will still offer an unmatched level of convenience and appeal for people who don't necessary have the time or inclination to plug into a system at home.

The full interview can be read here. Have a look and let us know if you think Carmack is on to something, or simply caught up in the mobile hype.

Jul 8, 2011


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  • Cruddi - July 10, 2011 10:47 p.m.

    What? Seriously? I am so against this artical i can't even come up with a argument. Also why do these guys all look like a bunch of c**ks they all have these arty poses and pictures. WHY?!?!?!? face it you are not GODS of gaming go back to your mums basement
  • Oblivion2500 - July 9, 2011 6:10 p.m.

    CONSOLE CAN'T DIE! Because it doesn't matter how powerful a phone or tablet gets, they still won't be suited for powerful games, only causal games for anybody, NOT HARDCORE GAMERS! Then in the end, let say their is now a phone that have graphics like PS3, then the console graphics will be like movies/CG/real-life like graphics. It like saying blu-ray and dvd are going to die because of phones....people will still want to just sit down on the couch and see a big screen with a system that just does one thing for them: movies and games with awesome graphics. PLUS will phones ever get controllers, motion controls, or 50gb games downloads like blu-ray PS3??? Even when that does happen. CONSOLE CAN'T DIE! Enough said...
  • jmcgrotty - July 9, 2011 8:59 a.m.

    Well, Carmack also said "Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important." So his current point of view of the industry is compromised and irrelevant. Of course, his career as a whole has been great, but he's Passé. The handheld/smartphone/portable market is bullcrap. Useless tripe. People should use a REAL system to play real games. Having said that, Carmack is right, but as someone else pointed out, he didn't say that smartphones will ever catch up or pass consoles/PC's. Conversely, I will mention though that, the point of this article was that it has taken smartphones a VERY short amount of time to technologically get to points that it took decades for consoles to get to. The only problem with this is that the pioneers of any tech always take longer to actually develop the backbone of a tech rather than modify it later. As an example, Terminator 2 had the infamous morphing sequences that blew people away. But, it quickly showed up everyplace and is common as hell, as the real challenge was making it in the first place. This is the same with bullet-time movie scenes.
  • BertTheTurtle - July 9, 2011 6:46 a.m.

    I'm quite fond of the traditional home console situation. I don't plan on changing that.
  • NullG7 - July 9, 2011 5:35 a.m.

    Nope personally will ALWAYS be in the market for a designated game system, I believe it dose not mater if the tec becomes more advanced in the next few years at MOST it will become a competitor. Besides if Im willing to dig up my N64 once in a while Im sure others could feel the same as me in the statement that antiquated tec is still fun
  • KippDynamite - July 9, 2011 5:25 a.m.

    If the Playstation was updated as often as the iphone, we'd be at like, PS16. I wouldn't buy a new console every year for gaming, especially for marginal differences. Neither would most people, and so games on the phones will stay with the lowest common denomenator. Also, as Iwata has said, phone games make, on average, something like $800 gross - that doesn't bode well for devs staying in business.
  • Hellhog - July 9, 2011 4:45 a.m.

    Please tell me how you will get a 3.2GHz Triple Core processor into a mobile phone that has a battery life enough to get it through half the day, doesn't melt the phone, oh and fit an ATI X1900 with it (thats 500MHz, 48 stream processors, thats supports DirectX 9.0c and Shader Model 3.0+). Because that's what an Xbox 360 is. Not tech breaking for today's computing, but sure puts any tablet or smartphone to shame. And with stuff like Intel's Tick-Tock policy (new archicture, then die shrink, then new processor, etc. coming out yearly) and remember, consoles are computers, then we have nothing to fear when it comes to new consoles vs new phones. Especially since mobile computing still can't stand up to desktop computing, although stuff like Intel's i7 line of mobile processors do have an amazing kick making them more powerful than many desktop CPUs. But they require 35-45 Watts of power, and some serious cooling. Please, games industry people. Stop talking out of your asses!
  • raptorak - July 9, 2011 12:24 a.m.

    That isn't what he is saying - he is saying that these mobile devices will be able to be plugged into your big screen tvs and/ or monitors. And who is to say that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo won't make portable consoles in the future - oh right, they already do! Simple peons like ourselves are best to listen when Carmack speaks on technology - he is at the top of his game and has been for a long time. Don't be brainwashed by brand loyalty - it is foolish to believe that the fate of gaming will always be in the hands of the same 3 companies. RIP Sega hardware
  • Robusken - July 8, 2011 10:25 p.m.

    Eh theres room to grow here people. We aren't stuck in a situation in which only one type of gaming will exist. I'm sure mobile devices will be getting more and more powerful but the next gen consoles aren't just gonna sit there and not improve a single thing either. Theres a limit to how far mobile gaming is gonna go, at least without any buttons.
  • LTS - July 8, 2011 10:12 p.m.

    Not interested.. until they put a screen on the top of a PS3/360 controller, not interested.
  • ZigzMagoo - July 8, 2011 9:55 p.m.

    I have an Android, and the only time I play games on it (I have plenty of games on it), it is when I am waiting for a battle to load in empire total war. Mobile games will never take over, and at the very least, PC gaming will always exist in the current form it is.
  • Redeater - July 8, 2011 9:25 p.m.

    @TheDigitalG I have been a gamer since the NES days and I can safely say that "mobile" gaming is a joke on the iPhone. Infinity Blade was repetitive, Dead Space was a fucking nightmare to control and Angry Birds is a great way to kill 80 seconds while you are waiting for Duke Nukem to load. I don't even touch my iPhone 4 for games anymore. I have to side with db1331 on this one. These casual games are not going to threaten the "hardcore" (ugh I hate that word) market. If you need any more evidence look at the console sales in North America. Why is Nintendo dead last now when there are still many shovelware games being released? Have fun upgrading your iPhone on a yearly basis to play newer games boys. I think I will be enjoying some Uncharted and Bioshock with dual stick goodness.
  • RicePuddingUK - July 8, 2011 9:22 p.m.

    So just because a couple of Ipad and mobile games (i.e Angry Birds) become popular, apparently Console gaming will die???
  • RedOutlive10 - July 8, 2011 9 p.m.

    Hmm not sure on that.The mobile market will grow but overshadowing the big three's consoles is easier said than done. If just being able to play next gen games and all the eye candy was enough for a handheld platform to surpass the competition, the DS wouldn't have trumped the PSP in sales. Many variables are involved, also if the majority of the consumers are still on the 3 consoles (assuming it's Wii U, PS3 and 360 for now), I really doubt there will be developers taking a risk and making a game that you can't run on other platforms well, it's exactly what happened in Crysis 2, the first title was known for raising the bar it had to be "adjusted" a bit to suit the big user base in consoles.
  • Openwound - July 8, 2011 9 p.m.

    Of course Carmack would say that it would eclipse current consoles in a very short time. For, you see, time holds little to no bearing on Carmack. In actuality, he is a robot sent from the future to speed up the technological advancement of the human race, quickening our descent into a self-constructed apocalypse, making way for... the monkeys.
  • db1331 - July 8, 2011 8:46 p.m.

    *You're WTF is wrong with me today...
  • db1331 - July 8, 2011 8:45 p.m.

    @TheDigitalG Your right, I don't own an iPhone or iPad. What I do own though is a gaming PC that runs the actual Dead Space (not the toned down iPhone version with the little chainsaw added to compensate for the unwieldy touch controls). It runs it at 1920x1200 resolution with bells and whistles that the PS3/Xbox versions don't even have. Not to mention the running and gunning controls FLAWLESSLY with a keyboard and mouse. Now I'm not trying to be mean or put you down in any way, but answer me this. If I can play it like that, why in the fuck would I ever, EVER care about playing a dumbed down version on a phone? Your phone can't even come close to recreating the immersion of sitting in front of a 24" screen with a pair of 5.1 headphones on and the lights turned out. And don't say, "Well what if you are out somewhere and want to play?" I wouldn't, because I have the decency to understand that even just TALKING on a phone is rude and obnoxious in most public settings, let alone "playing" on one by rubbing my fingers across it like some kind of fucked up Helen Keller.
  • Hobojedi - July 8, 2011 8:41 p.m.

    Carmack, I love you for everything; but it's just so hard to agree with you here.
  • jaico22 - July 8, 2011 8:39 p.m.

    I don't give a damn about the iphone. At least, until it comes to sprint. I use my phones web browser a lot. There's no way in hell I'd ever get a plan with Verizon or AT&T unless they offered my unlimited data like sprint does.
  • justinbanda - July 8, 2011 8:32 p.m.

    @TheDigitalG: Definitely. A lot of people who bash the iPhone as a serious gaming device have never spent hours playing Infinity Blade, Dead Space, Chaos Rings, or even great ports of 'serious' older console games like Sonic or Megaman 2. Also, as to the article itself, I think Carmack is not necessarily endorsing mobile devices as the future of gaming, only predicting what could happen. If you think about it, steps have already been taken towards what he's suggesting, in the form of GBA/GC (and later, DS/Wii and 3DS/WiiU) interaction, where the player has a stripped down version of the game, but can connect it to the console for a pumped up experience. Don't freak out, guys. The iPhone may replace the 3DS or PSV someday, but it will never replace a PS3 or 360. The couch experience can never be replaced :)

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