The global gaming market is gigantic and diverse. While there are only three recognized home consoles (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One), each boasts a distinctly different gaming experience. There are also hundreds of smartphones with the capacity for gaming, and infinite gaming PC builds available.
The advent of mobile gaming, however, is the decisive factor that has enabled gaming to eclipse what was the upper echelon of the entertainment industry. While it is said that the global games market will generate close to $160 billion this year, $77 billion of that is to come from mobile games, with there set to be close to 2.6 billion mobile gamers worldwide.
So, while gaming as a whole has become a gargantuan market, preference for many people who play games goes to the small screen. Historically, in almost every argument concerning which platforms are better, mobile gaming comes out second-best in all but one category: accessibility. However, smartphones are continually increasing in power, so what are the modern pros and cons of gaming on the small screen compared to those of more traditional big-screen gaming.
Pros and cons of big-screen vs. small-screen gaming
Perhaps the most obvious pro for small screen gaming is that smartphones are incredibly accessible. Last year, it was found that close to 3.2 billion people used smartphones worldwide, showing that the pocket devices have become a necessity for close to 40 percent of the population. As such, with people needing mobiles to go about their daily business anyway, they’ve become an incredibly accessible gaming platform.
Smartphones aren’t considered to be luxury items in most of the larger gaming markets and are instead necessary expenditures for day-to-day life. Even though many mobile models cost the same or more, gaming consoles and computers can be seen as non-essential items – consoles more so than computers due to their potential work capabilities. However, perhaps the key aspect of small-screen dominance is the portability.
It’s been an argument in computer gaming for a few years, now that laptops can hold a decent punch of power, but are portability and convenience worth the cuts elsewhere? With gaming computers compared to gaming laptops, the portability comes at the cost of not being able to customize the build at will. When looking at computer and console gaming compared to portable mobile gaming, screen quality is the major tipping point for many modern gamers.
Apple and Samsung – who battle as the most premium smartphone providers each year – consistently look to offer the best displays. The Galaxy S20 weighed in with an AMOLED display, which, as explained by , beats the iPhone 11’s LCD screen, offering higher contrast, inkier blacks, and more vibrant colors. Still, both offer high levels of graphical fidelity through the small screen.
People appear to have become better-adjusted to playing on small screens that are high-quality, but they still can’t match that of TVs and monitors due to the need to gain portability and convenience. As gaming is about entertainment and experience, having a larger and high-quality screen makes a big difference to many players. Still, the rise of mobile gaming shows that portability is the new demand of the market. This is a trend that the ever-inventive Nintendo spotted a few years back.
Their latest console, the Nintendo Switch, can be played on-the-go as a portable console or can be docked to play like a regular home console via a TV or monitor. However, demand was so high in jurisdictions like Japan for a dock-less starter kit that Nintendo released the handheld-only Nintendo Switch Lite. Together, the two models have sold over 63 million units worldwide in just over three years.
It always comes down to the games
With mobile gaming still very much a casual form of the entertainment medium, and smartphones not being anywhere near as powerful as dedicated computers and consoles, if people want to play the most expansive titles, they usually won’t be turning to smartphones. Even though Apple once claimed that its iPad Pro was as powerful and an Xbox One, it didn’t matter, because the only games available were mobile games.
Whenever there’s a debate as to what the best games of each year are, it’s incredibly rare for a mobile game to come into the equation: exceptions would include Pokémon Go and the mobile ports of Fortnite and Minecraft. Just looking at this year, though, you’ve got Ghost of Tsushima, Marvel’s Avengers, The Last of Us: Part II, Maneater, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Valorant, and Journey to the Savage Planet, with the most portable being the Switch-exclusive Animal Crossing.
Due to the power of the hardware in question, the screen sizes, and the adaptability of controls on the user interface, it’s nearly impossible for a top-class gaming experience on console or PC to be replicated on modern mobiles, with the one exception being in iGaming. Online gambling entertainment offerings, such as poker and casino games, have mastered the art of replicating the gaming experience between the small and big screen.
Comparing the specs of the latest computers, consoles, and smartphones
CAPTION: A video comparing the specs of the two next-gen video game consoles, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
We’re in a time of evolving gaming hardware, with computers constantly being able to be customized and updated with the latest tech. At the same time, there’s a new generation of consoles on the way. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will be here in a matter of months, expanding the gap in quality between console and smartphone gaming.
Both next-gen consoles boast 16GB GDDR5 RAM, a CPU of 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5HGz for the PS5, and 3.8GHz for the XSX, and native 4K output and 8K support. Released in February this year, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ features 8GB RAM, an Octa-core CPU with speeds of 2.73GHz, a Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED display. As you would assume, the differences in specs are enormous.
To find a middle ground, the Nintendo Switch, which will likely be followed by a ‘Pro’ version next year, offers a 720p HD display when in handheld mode, with the docked display outputting 1080p Full HD visuals. The Switch shows that for most platforms, by making gaming portable, sacrifices have to be made to specs, with the exception being online-based gaming, where size doesn’t really matter for games like poker.
In the battle of small-screen vs. big-screen gaming, it’s primarily the likes of online poker and casino games that can morph between the two without sacrificing anything in the gaming. As for video gaming, while the portability and convenience of the small screen have won over many, for the very best experience, players must turn to computers and consoles.