Game consoles won't be surpassed by tablets anytime soon and here's why

It'll be another six to eight years before tablets can even match high-end consoles

Game consoles still dominate this industry, but with smartphones, tablets and digital distribution methods on PC, the pressure on console makers is continually increasing. Tablets like the iPad in particular offer a compelling experience, and they increase in graphical horsepower almost every year, but Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney still see consoles as irreplaceable... for another six to eight years at least.

Speaking to GamesIndustry International in a wide-ranging interview, Sweeney explained why consoles will remain in the driver's seat.

"The big difference between a console and a tablet is the console can consume 100 or 200 watts of power, while the tablet consumes one or two or three or four watts. That's really the limiting factor of performance there. Just on the grounds of the laws of physics, you'd have to think it is three to four hardware generations, or six to eight years before the current highest end desktop or console performance you can achieve becomes achievable on tablets," he said.

"To me, that really defines the role of consoles in the world. They define the highest and most impressive graphics experience anywhere in the industry. They focus on delivering teraflops of computing performance in a way that a portable device or an economical computer really couldn't, despite sheer focus on that one aspect," Sweeney continued.

As for Apple and the iPad, Sweeney remarked that Epic has been amazed by how quickly Apple has pushed technology forward. It's certainly benefited the game developer.

"I'm continually astounded by Apple's sheer will to push the industry forward," Sweeney said. "Apple is by far the leading phone provider in terms of profits or any other objective measure of how well they are doing. A company in that position could just rest on their laurels and keep making more and more profit from each new phone. Apple doesn't take that approach. Rather, they push the technology forward as fast, or faster than possible to go from lower resolution displays."

Latest comments (16)

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
But the Xbox 360 is 7 years old technology, whilst the iPad 3 is zero years old technology.
This is the advantage of mobile devices, they often go through two technology generations in a year.
You can see the difference in that the 360 only has 512MB of memory.
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Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire5 years ago
Isn't it about the platforms and not necessarily raw technological grunt?

Mind you, if I was solely involved with the latter, I'd probably stress that it was the most important aspect. The objective is mainstream, quality entertainment, not purely technical wizardry, surely?
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 5 years ago
More about the experience of lounging in front of a TV and simply picking up a controller.

I'm fairly certain that I couldn't play a game on a tablet for 3 hours straight, yet put me in front of my big screen and Amalur and the time just melts away. Part of it is the controller and part of it is that I am lounging. A tablet requires me to hold the device (never that light after 20 minutes) and try to wrestle the virtual joysticks. No matter how fun the game I always get frustrated by the controls eventually. Usually the controls are directly why I loose.
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Show all comments (16)
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
Kids these days.
Playing a tablet game whilst simultaneously watching TV is becoming quite common.
And I see kids playing tablet games in places like pubs, which keeps them occupied and out of trouble.

It is cool that everywhere I go I can carry a gaming device (the iPad 3) which outperforms the leading home console of this generation (the Xbox 360) in so many ways. More memory, higher resolution display, built in gesture interface, built in camera, built in GPS , far more available games, etc etc
With cloud gaming, like Gaikai, it is even possible to play things like WoW on an iPad.
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee5 years ago
Well, to be realistic matching a high end console would be a physical and mathematical impossibilty any time soon. Just compare the power discharging and heat..

That said new tablets are being released all the time, so in time they will match sub 2005/2006 consoles but it still makes for an odd comparison.

On a broader note I'm not sure how relevent raw comparisons are in any case. Tablets already have HD resolutions and shader based rendering, which can potentially provide a very beautiful game experience... If we even look at some of the new games and Vita titles, what can be done in limited environments is amazing.
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Steven Barber Developer Account Coordinator, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe5 years ago
No way is an iPad better for gaming than a 360....
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
Bruce, did you just say you see kids in pubs?

Must be an American thing with the whole 21 and up only rule for bars/pubs.

And your idea that an iPad 3 is better for gaming than an X360 is subjective and dependent on the form of game experience a consumer wants.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jim Webb on 14th March 2012 10:18am

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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd5 years ago
As Sweeney points out, a console or PC built from modern components will outperform any portable device where power consumption (as well as battery tech and heat dissipation) are more tightly constrained.

The current-gen consoles being based on 7-year-old tech is kind of irrelevant when the PC suffers no such constraint, another console generation (whether it makes commercial sense or not) is rapidly approaching, and mobile devices still haven't quite caught up to the last gen yet. Buying a £500 tablet every other year is not a solution either.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D5 years ago

(Said Word was meant to be in relation to Martyn's comment, but the reply function doesn't seem to make that clear).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Fran Mulhern on 14th March 2012 11:58am

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Can we at least have a good sensible ceasefire whereby, yes digital may be in the future. It just isnt here today.

For everything else, lets let the chips fall where they may, without the overzealous evangelism and let us all get back to making good interactive entertainment!
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David Rodríguez Game Engineer, SEGA Europe5 years ago
To me, that really defines the role of consoles in the world. They define the highest and most impressive graphics experience anywhere in the industry.
I just feel like someone is forgetting about computers here...
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Felix Leyendecker Senior 3D Artist, Crytek5 years ago
@David: It also goes to show how little raw horsepower means when it comes to market success and even the actual visual quality of games. PCs today are orders of magnitude faster than consoles, yet it doesn't translate to the quality of the visuals.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Felix Leyendecker on 14th March 2012 1:03pm

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Kieren Bloomfield Software Engineer, EA Sports5 years ago
"This is the advantage of mobile devices, they often go through two technology generations in a year."

This is exactly the problem with phones and tablets. Damned if I'm gonna drop a fortune on an iPad57 only to see the iPad58 come out tomorrow...
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Meelad Sadat [a]list daily editorial director, Ayzenberg Group5 years ago
Power consumption as a limiting factor for anything mobile is a pretty compelling point.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Meelad Sadat on 14th March 2012 5:15pm

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Robert Douglas Studying B.A in Game Art and Design, Art Institute of Pittsburgh5 years ago
As it always seems to be the case when this topic arises, a general bias appears when one works for any respective market; seems Bruce is just promoting the "new" iPad because he works for that segment of the games market. While I'm sure some great games will come out for it, realistically one's experience of a game is subjective to one's own opinion of the environment said game creates.
I can still get great experiences from my old SNES, PS2, and old adventure PC titles, that in my opinion, I can't get on my iPad2 or Android device. Does that mean the tablet is bad for gaming? Not really, but for this gamer it just doesn't really matter the specs of the device if the games for it aren't as memorable or enjoyable. While I enjoy Angry Birds, etc, such fun quick games don't compare to the memories I have of great gaming on hardware that is many generations older than current consoles, let alone current tablets. Not to mention the great gaming experiences on current consoles and PC that I haven't been able to get on tablets.
The gaming experience varies from gamer to gamer of course, just not for the marketing executive who needs to shift market share in his favor for his respective market (understandably so). To promote the "latest and greatest" on specs alone when no software has even come out or is even proven for it, is a little premature.
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Paul Isaac Lead Programmer, Certain Affinity5 years ago
Watts are not a reliable measurement of performance. A 12-watt LED can outshine a 60-watt light bulb. The real question is how efficiently are those watts being used for a particular task. A smaller piece of silicon can do more work with less power than a bigger chip. And if you consider tech like On-Live then you can push all the watt sucking hardware into the cloud and just let the tablet use its wattage to stream video.

I think there are some legitimate reasons to believe that tablets WILL have a real impact on the next generation of consoles. Tablets have some advantages. The tablet manufactures seem happy to create a new $500 device each year sporting the latest low-power tech. Consoles are frozen in time for 5+ years. And even when they are launched they cannot use high-end PC hardware because $500 is considered terribly overpriced for a dedicated game console.

And if you think display and control issues are going to stop tablets from stepping on console toes, then you haven't yet grasped the full power of a tablet. The pieces are almost all in place to allow you to put the tablet on your coffee table, set it to stream to your TV, grab a wireless controller and you tell me how many consumers will be able to tell the difference between a tablet and a game console. Or rather they will, the one you can't pickup and take with you to the bedroom or car or coffee shop is the console.

Dedicated game consoles are going to go the way of dedicated handheld GPS devices. I don't need that anymore, because this new device can do that and a whole lot more.
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