Gaming On The Go is a weekly series that explores the mobile gaming industry, as well as uncovering the current trends, with hands-on guides for the latest smartphone and tablet games.

In today's society, it's hard to imagine going a day without our phones. While we have the world virtually at our fingertips, our smartphones are no longer just a means of communication — they are also a means of entertainment. And what better way to kill time than to play games on the go?

Like many others, I went through a period of severe Candy Crush addiction. While I dabbled in console games from time to time, I began to notice that I was spending more time playing games on my phone — and I am not alone.

According to annual research conducted by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) released this April, approximately 35 percent of gamers play video games on their smartphones.

Smartphones and tablets have transformed the way in which we game. No longer do people need to be in front of their PC or gaming consoles. They don't even need to buy – or carry around – a Nintendo DS, PSP or (if you're feeling nostalgic) a Game Boy.

But this doesn't mean that gamers have stopped using consoles. The ESA found that 155 million Americans play video games, and 51 percent of U.S. households own a game console. Among households that own a gaming device, 56 percent play games on a console, whereas 35 percent use their smartphone.

So what lies ahead for both mobile gaming and game consoles? Before speaking on their future, it's important to look at how far they've come.

The Past & The Present

The first commercial video game console was the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey, which lead to the creation of a laundry list of consoles. That includes the Atari 2600 VCS (1977), the Nintendo Entertainment System (1985), Sega Genesis (1989), Sony's Playstation (1995), and Microsoft's Xbox (2001) and Xbox 360 (2005), Nintendo's Wii U (2012) and PS4 (2013) — just to highlight a few.

Mobile gaming can be dated back to the 1976 release of the Mattel Electronic Auto Race. Credited as the first handheld electronic game, it introduced the world to a new kind of gaming. Then, starting in the '80s, Nintendo, Atari and Sega all entered the race with their own handheld devices.

Trivia On-The-Go: Nintendo’s first handheld game console, the Game Boy, sold one million units in its first week of sales back in 1989.

But the industry of mobile gaming as we know it emerged in the late '90s — when the first pre-installed mobile game, Snake, was released on Nokia 6110 in 1997.

Then Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) emerged as the first way to play multiplayer games on phones. While WAP was primitive, it opened the door for the more sophisticated Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) and Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW).

In 2004, Nokia attempted to merge mobile phones and gaming into one product with the N-Gage, but it appeared that people still preferred keeping the two separate. That same year, Nintendo released the DS, followed by Sony's Playstation Portable (PSP), which was the most technically advanced handheld console on the market. Not only did the PSP use optical disc format instead of cartridges, but it also allowed gamers to browse the Internet from the device.

Then Apple drastically changed the mobile industry with the release of the first generation iPhone. Marking the start of the smartphone era in 2007, Apple released the iPhone 2G — a phone that had a desktop-like interface, impressive hardware and ran on iOS, which is optimized for complex games.

In July of 2008, the App Store opened with 500 apps, followed by Google's Android OS and app store — originally called Android Market, what we now know as Google Play.

While some games saw success after the initial launch of iOS and Android app stores, none was more explosive than the 2009 release on Angry Birds. Its success sparked the increase in the number and quality of games, leading to the creations of titles like Temple Run, Draw Something, Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga.

These games helped shape the industry to include social, interactive and engaging games, targeted for all demographics.

Trivia On-The-Go: According to the ESA, the three types of games played on mobile devices are social games (31%), puzzle/ board/ card/ games (14%) and action games (5%).

According to the ESA's 2014 report, adult female gamers who played on both consoles and mobile devices increased by eight percent from 2010. Women became just as likely as men to play games on their phones, with casual games like Candy Crush Saga and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood hooking a new demographic.

A Look To The Future

Sony and Nintendo have both blamed poor sales of their most current portable consoles, the Vita and 3DS, on the rise of the smartphone gaming industry. However, Sony went on to release the Vita Slim last year, and Nintendo rolled out the 3DS XL in February, in an attempt to compete with the mobile gaming market.

In today's market, video game publishers like Activision Blizzard and Nintendo find themselves struggling, whereas mobile app developers like Supercell and King Digital continue to grow. With over 430 new games added to the App Store each day, it only makes sense that Japanese developer and publisher Konami Cooperation recently announced that its main platform will be on smartphones, instead of AAA games.

"Mobile is where the future of gaming lies," Konami CEO Hideki Hayakawa told Nikkei. "With multiplatform games, there's really no point in dividing the market into categories anymore. Mobiles will take on the new role of linking the general public to the gaming world."

And with new technologies like wearables hitting shelves, mobile gaming will continue to evolve and be integrated into everyday tasks. Just look at all the fitness tracking devices and apps that add gaming qualities, like Pokéwalker or Zombies, Run!

But that doesn't mean that game consoles will becomes obsolete. Peter Warman, chief executive at the video game research firm Newzoo told Forbes that "mobile gaming does not replace console or PC gaming."

Trivia On-The-Go: "Freemium" game Clash of Clans was the highest grossing app on iOS in 2014.

Newzoo predicts that console games will make up $11.1 billion – compared with mobile games' $7.2 billion – of the expected $24.05 billion game revenue in the U.S. this year.

In order to appeal to the new gaming market, console and computer games often release companion apps to continue the gamer experience. Some of these include FIFA 15, in which gamers can build a team from their phones and then jump onto the console game; iFruit, Grand Theft Auto's companion app that allows gamers to customize their cars; and Assassin's Creed Unit Companion App, where players solve exclusive puzzles to open up Nomad Missions.

Final Thoughts

Apple Watch and Android Wear will continue to change mobile gaming, and the industry will continue to make bank off of freemium games. Everyone from your mom to your friends to your boss probably plays some kind of game on their smartphones — which makes me wonder, will game consoles one day be a thing of the past? 

Not likely. Where there are gamers, there will always be that desire to play on consoles. While I wait to see what the next generation of game consoles has in store for us, for now, I have no problem killing time with a little Ball King.


Photo: E-Plus Gruppe Fotostream | Flickr

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