The battle lines have been drawn, and it’s become increasingly clear that for the next little while the situation is not likely to change. As you read this, nVidia, Qualcomm, and Sony Ericsson are dawning their warpaint, loading up on ammunition, and fortifying themselves for the upcoming fight. What are they fighting for, exactly? Simple, they’re fighting for your wallet. Specifically, they’re fighting to show that they have the very best graphics, the very best titles, and the very best partners to help you choose them for your next phone. The biggest question is, are video game titles on a particular chipset enough to make the buying decision for you?
No consumer likes the idea of Android fragmentation, and unfortunately the single biggest place to see evidence of it is in our video games. Right now, the best games live across NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone, Qualcomm’s upcoming Game Pack, and let’s not forget the over 50 titles on Verizon’s game store optimized for the Xperia Play combined with Big Red’s plans to expand the service to other Verizon phones. There’s some pretty significant lines drawn in the sand, leaving consumers to choose from what they feel is “the best”
It’s REALLY hard to argue that there is much in the way of competition with the recent “Kal-El” videos from NVIDIA. There really is nothing else out there that compares with that level of intense graphical experience. Those chipsets, however, are still a good ways away. Right now, though, there is a competitor when it comes to a total immersion experience. Qualcomm has paired up with SRS Labs to deliver “3D sound” with their WOWHD technology, currently found in their Snapdragon dual-core developer kit. What Qualcomm may lack in total graphical power, will it make it up in the ability to deliver a more complete experience? And what about Sony and Verizon? With over 50 games out of the gate and more to be available in the coming weeks, will they woo customers based on sheer volume or selection? The Xperia Play itself comes pre-loaded with the infamous Crash Bandicoot, what if more of Sony’s iconic titles are to follow?
Is it the quality of the gaming experience, the sheer horsepower of the device, or the availability of popular titles that will eventually drive device sales? Can this somehow be equated to the existing console market? There’s no denying that Sony’s Playstation 3 has the best hardware, capable of generating extremely eye-pleasing graphics with it’s state of the art hardware. Yet, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is the more dominant force in the market, due largely to the volume of available titles, though it doesn’t hold a candle to Nintendo. The Wii’s unique gaming experience is considered by many to be the best overall gaming experience, which lead to their rocketing to the top of the console market almost overnight. Are the lessons learned in the console market transferable to the mobile gaming world?
If not the “console” factor of the device or chipset, will individual titles make a difference? Qualcomm just announced big mobile titles like Vendetta Online, Homerun Battle 3D, and GT Racing: Motor Academy as just a sampling of the titles to headline their Game Pack. Alongside these titles are parterships with huge mobile gaming houses like NAMCO BANDAI Games America, Glu, Com2US, and a bunch more. NVIDIA was the first to market when it comes to “high end” games, but they’ve not yet gotten 20 titles in their Tegra Zone, and at least one of the titles on that list is just a “THD” rehash of an existing title. That said, the quality of most of the games in the Tegra Zone is really high (Personally I am still addicted to BackBreaker HD, the ultimate standing-in-line game in my opinion) and there is no doubt in my mind that the recent “Kal El” performance demos will attract serious gaming companies to the mobile space. Meanwhile, Verizon keeps to the same tricks that have worked for them since the early feature phone days, by including games in their arsenal like The Sims 3 (but not really), Call of Duty: Black Ops (but not really), and Madden NFL ’11 (see where I’m going with this?) that will engage the average consumer simply because of the popular title, and the volume of those popular titles.
With any luck this won’t even be an issue some day. Like the PC market, hopefully Android games will be able to be enjoyed across all devices, though it’s been made pretty clear that’s not happening in the immediate future. I’m told that so long as Android is Java based, a Direct-X-esque solution is improbable, though I admit to not really understanding why. Each group is bringing something interesting to the table, but are the video games themselves really going to drive consumers to buy new devices? What if you’re looking at an LG or an HTC, would the tipping point be that one has titles you like?