Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

Summary: Id Software co-founder John Carmack predicts cell phones and tablets will be more powerful than today's video game consoles in two years. But will that make games better?

TOPICS: Hardware, Mobility

Id Software co-founder John Carmack says mobile game systems - cell phones and tablets - will surpass the current crop of video game consoles within a fairly short period of time. His comments come in an interview posted by IndustryGamers. But will that make them better? Hardly.

Gallery: Id Software Through the Years

Id Software's Rage


Carmack notes that mobile phones and tablets have become very powerful very quickly, and doesn't see that curve lengthening or changing. While he says that "people have exaggerated the relative powers" of the iPad 2 compared to the Xbox 360, but the mere fact that mobile systems have developed so quickly indicates that they will overtake the capabilities of current consoles in fairly short order - two years from now, he predicts.

With Nintendo a year away from introducing the Wii U, Sony rumored to be reading the PlayStation 4 for a 2012 release, and Microsoft certainly not willing to let its Xbox console series be sidelined, home console hardware is a moving target, of course.

But does all this make games better?

For the last 20 years, game developers have been obsessed with making games prettier to look at, and more realistic, in terms of predictable physics, true lighting and shadowing, and special effects that look indistinguishable from the best movies.

But games aren't necessarily more fun than they were when the original Nintendo Entertainment System ruled the roost. They're just a lot prettier.

In fact, if you're an old fart like me, you can argue that games back then were more fun than they are now. That's why a lot of gamers of a certain age love to revisit the games of their youth with retro collections.

More powerful hardware isn't a home run to making a better game, though it almost assuredly paves the way towards making a more expensive to produce game. We've seen the budgets of games spiral upwards to tens of millions of dollars as huge development teams assemble to maximize the potential of the target hardware.

But as budgets have increased, imagination has decreased.

The people writing the checks for the production of these games are, by nature, averse to taking risks with their money. They want proven successes. So they're more likely to bank on known properties, sequels with a built-in audience.

The result? Year after year of the same old crap - unimaginative games that sport only iterative differences between each other, along with a few "me too" titles that borrow liberally from other successes wherever they can.

What's happened is that the worst of Hollywood has bled over to the worst of game development.

Back in 1983, the first iteration of the home game console industry crashed. It crashed for a variety of reasons, but the principle one was a total loss of consumer confidence in what was being offered. Lousy products were being rushed to market and stores were glutted with garbage that consumers didn't like and didn't understand.

Consumers spent $25.1 billion on video games, hardware and accessories in 2010, according to the Entertainment Software Association, and the average gamer - not the person who buys the game, the person who plays them - is in their mid-30s. This is a very mature, robust entertainment market.

I'd hate to think that eventually we'll hit another point as we did in the mid-80s, and I don't see it happening. But just like the movies, people will stop spending money if they don't like what they're getting.

Regardless of how much horsepower the iPad 2 or the average Android smartphone has, a game has to be fun to make it worth playing. It's a lesson any game developer should recognize - even one with the credentials of John Carmack.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility

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  • Apple's A5 already now can render 1080p widescreen games like RealRacing2HD

    ... quite decently -- though, Carmack right, of course not at XBox 360/PS3 level (yet non-technology oriented people would confuse the image already now).<br><br>But next years A6 expected to be much more advanced than A5, so the difference to consoles will not be that evident even to technology-oriented people.<br><br>A7 might very well surpass current consoles. Though by that time Sony and Microsoft might release much more advanced game consoles, so the distance between mobile gaming and console gaming will keep up. At the same time, the difference will be seen mostly on very close distance which would show the nuances that newer consoles are able to render in comparison to picture from mobile device, which would show details only at the level of previous generation of consoles (which are current now). From middle and far distance there would be seen little, if any, difference in details of picture.
  • I don't believe it.

    Assuming current console stays the same, and it's already a few years old in terms of processor spec with only the die size shrinking to reduce cost and power consumption... Sure I could see mobile devices coming up in terms of performance. All else staying the same.

    However, the consoles are not stagnant. The software NEVER takes advantage of the hardware the consoles have. And Battery technology has not nor will improve dramatically in two years to be able to keep up with what *potentially* could be in terms of processor power.

    Carmack sure made a name for himself.. A decade ago. Today, he is irrelevant. It's like asking Kevin Mitnick to hack today's networks, or Steve Wozniak to design next generation computing platforms.
    • What Carmack said wrong? See my post above -- the analysis tells that he is

      @unredeemed: ... quite correct. Also, Carmack still produces 3D engine for games.
  • RE: Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

    Processing power isn't everything. Hell, most games don't even use all of a console's power until near end of life of the console. Tablet/Smartphone gaming will always fall flat compared to a dedicated device simply because there is no dedicated gaming input. That is, it doesn't have a controller or keyboard/mouse, only a touchscreen. Most of the people on the web seem to be praising Infinity Blade, and while it's definitely fun for a while, if you put it on any console or a PC, you'd be a laughing stock of the gaming industry. Frankly, tablet gaming is awkward for any "serious" gaming. Anything greater than something like Angry Birds just isn't worth it. Tablet/Smartphone gamers aren't really gamers: they're people playing a game to mindlessly waste time. They're people like my 50 year old father who gets pissed off every other time he tries to check his email or navigate Netflix. It's like saying you race cars when you only own a minivan.
    • RE: Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

      @Aerowind Its not so much that they don't use all the processing power until the end of the life of the console, its that they finally figure out how to use it in a more efficient way. It can take a few years to find the most efficient way to render something on a given platform.
  • RE: Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

    Is this his version of a quote of Moore's law without mentioning the source. It is the better copy paste work.
  • RE: Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

    Not the first time, or the last, that Carmack's been wrong.
  • RE: Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

    The trouble I have with touchscreens for playing games, they're not tactile. Certainly not in the way a controller is and this takes a lot away from games.

    I doubt tablets will over take games consoles. How many get plugged into TVs for one?
  • RE: Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

    I don't think so. I play games on phone or tablet when I'm bored to death on train which could be about 1 hour a day. When I get home I play Xbox because I want to. So statement like this is not accurate.
    • I agree, he's comparing two different things.

      Consoles won't suffer because of portable gaming devices.

      They hadn't in the past with the release of handheld gaming consoles, which is all a cell phone is in this sense.

      So even if it does, it's not like it will effect consoles.
      William Pharaoh
  • Nah!!!! I'll stick with my game console...

    Nah! I really like my smart phone and tablet, however neither are gonna replace my XBox 360. I too am one of those "old farts" who started out with PONG back in the day.<br><br>If nothing else, I think the game consoles' form factor will get smaller and smaller as the capabilities of the consoles get increasingly powerful. <br><br>Imagine a future Playstation or XBox or Nintendo that's only slightly wider and longer than say a Roku player which is about 1 inch tall and 5 inches wide and with solid state storage. I say slightly wider and longer so that you can slot-load your game discs.<br><br>Nah! I'll stick with my game console.
    • RE: Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

      @kpkeller@... Quick correction to my posting. I'm not saying that the Roku has the solid state storage, but I'm envisioning the game consoles of the future having solid state storage.
  • RE: Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

    @unredeemed Carmack is no idiot and has more credit in the industry than what you can only dream of...

    What he said was: "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,".

    Wake up. Bunch of wannabes.
  • RE: Id's Carmack: Phone game hardware to overtake consoles in two years

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