id Software co-founder: mobile will soon be more powerful than current consoles

By on July 8, 2011, 3:00 PM

id Software co-founder John Carmack has high expectations for mobile. He points out that the rate at which smartphones and tablets are improving means that mobile will soon catch up with where consoles are today. As a result, he believes mobile could one day overtake traditional console gaming.

"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," Carmack told IndustryGamers. "People have exaggerated the relative powers - the iPad 2 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, two years from now, there will be mobile devices more powerful than what we're doing all these fabulous games on right now."

Carmack notes that when id Software started developing Rage, an upcoming first-person shooter and racing video game, iOS didn't exist. The iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (200 million devices and 15 billion apps downloaded) were all released and upgraded in the space of one project development timeline. He worries that a major landscape change could be happening as gaming companies work on large scale projects. As a result, id Software needs to do everything it can to constrain its projects to not take so long, he said.

Some game developers argue that that mobile will always be a different experience... Carmack calls it a diversion rather than a destination. Gamers are not abandoning their console for their mobile device; the numbers certainly don't show that, according to Carmack. If anything, companies are selling more big titles than ever before, despite having multiple new mobile platforms available. He argues that this means mobile and console are undergoing parallel growth rather than stealing from one another.

Still, as mobile devices become powerful enough to offer destination titles, game companies will need to refocus. We could reach a point where you just don't need a console: your mobile device just connects to your TV (probably wirelessly) so that you can get the big screen experience with surround sound without having to switch devices. Once you can do that, consoles may just not be as interesting anymore, unless they can stay significantly more powerful and interesting over their mobile counterparts.

User Comments: 14

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Lurker101 said:

Considering how far consoles are lagging behind, this isn't exactly an expectation charged statement.

Guest said:

Your forgetting that consoles won't be standing still but will be much faster and more powerful in two years than they are now as well.

Guest said:

No surprise, consoles are running 6 year old technology.


Doesn't surprise me one bit... I believe current consoles will be beaten to a pulp in a couple years.

Guest said:

It's inevitable, as they are able to shrink processor die further and further

these small devices have more than enough grunt to handle most things

an average user requires.

I do not know why we still call it a mobile\cellular phone, choosing to

define it by that one rather ordinary function to make voice calls. It should

be called a MCD (Mobile computing device) or better (MPC Mobile personal computer).

the MPC-BOT (Books or tablets) , MPC-PD (Pocket devices) etc.

In the next 3 -5 years we will see the death of the following devices:

Consumer Digital handheld Camera and consumer digital camcorder

Most handheld gaming consoles like Nintendo DS etc

Simple master remote controls for audio/visual. Simple home automation devices etc.

Mainstream desktop PC (Not powerful pro workstations/gaming PC's)

Low end gaming consoles (Wii etc.)

Most dedicated mp3 players - already there pretty much

Mobile DVD player/tv - Already pretty much dead I think

DVD Player/BluRay Player and all consumer optical media (NAND, cloud storage is taking over)

Most network players (Going to be built into TV panels)

What we will see:

Virtualization of media storage and most everyday computing needs bar gaming and

pro grade work. Hybrid solution, with local backup of favorites in long term "cache".

In the house we will have PANELS!! lots of panels. Cheap and thin, with wireless gigabit connectivity

built in and large array of codec support. Video signal cables such as HDMI will largely be replaced with these wireless links. Cordless keyboards/mouse and mobile will be used to control these.

One main master console unit\computer that will provide and or manage local storage, sync with cloud and serve data to all Panels\terminals in the house as well provide virtual machine

instances via remote desktop be it Windows\ GoogleOS etc. to all client devices such as the panels.

Disappointingly power cables are here to stay, Tesla is not happy.

Guest said:

Current consoles are already beaten to a pulp. So will the "next gens" as for one, Sony already said they won't get the latest technology as they need to cut costs. So the next consoles will come out and will already be behind. :/

Cota Cota said:

Its no surprise, we had been looking at some big improvements in this 2 years, we jumped from DDR2 to DDR3 finally jumping to measure them in GHz, SSD's and their incredible speed (but still too expensive! im a sad panda), a better infrastructure in CPU's jumping who knows how much times in performance!

The sad thing is that those mobile devices come in one piece and cant be upgraded only disposed

I personally hope that technological selection finally takes us to the right way, Computer gaming!

fimbles fimbles said:

i Had no idea john carmack had been living in a closet since he made doom...

Guest said:

Being able to compare phones to current gen consoles is maybe an indicator that we need a new generation asap.

Mizzou Mizzou said:

Considering that an iPad 2 starts at $500 there's already a flaw in this comparision. Beyond that, as already noted it's reasonable to assume that the next generation XBox & Playstation will be considerably more powerful than the current editions and will likely still sell for considerably less than the iPad 3, 4, 5 ... whatever.

Also, since Mr. Carmack has a vested interest in selling Rage on iPads there's just a slight possibility that his opinion might be a tiny bit biased.

Guest said:

Exactly! Why doesn't anyone else realize that

Guest said:

Seriously? Consoles are going to be moving ahead as well. Why would they stop? This is horrible thinking that mobile devices get to advance while the consoles are stuck.

Guest said:

impossible,only bullish,see now graphic between cosole and mobile you know,the next consoles will more powerful ipad 3, 4,5 will never caught up,see the games ,mobile sucks

Guest said:

To help put in perspective, making full screen 1080p graphics for a 4-6" screen doesn't required the cpu/gpu power it takes to take a 1080p on 40+ on an hd tv.

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