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Carmack: Mobile tech to surpass consoles in 2 years

id Software's technical director believes mobile's supremacy is "unquestionable"

id Software's John Carmack believes that mobile technology will soon overtake consoles, potentially replacing them for users seeking a more convenient gaming experience.

The company's interest in mobile development has grown exponentially in the last few years, and Carmack, in particular, seems energised by the rapid pace of progress in the sector.

"It's amazing to think that when we started Rage, iOS didn't exist. There was no iPhone. All of that has happened just in the space of one project development timeline," Carmack told IndustryGamers.

"That's a little scary when you think about it, because major landscape change could be happening underneath our feet as we work on these large scale projects. And we're going to be doing everything we can to constrain our projects more to not take so long."

Major landscape change could be happening underneath our feet as we work on these large scale projects

John Carmack, id Software

Carmack's comments are supported by recent data from Nielsen suggesting that games were the most popular app category over the last 30 days. The report also indicates that 93 percent of app downloaders are willing to pay for games, with iOS gamers now spending almost twice as much time playing as the average mobile user.

Nielsen's findings seem consistent with Carmack's own experience: id's older developers rarely use their Xbox 360s and PlayStation 3s for gaming any more, and increasingly regard the iPad as their platform of choice.

"It's a different experience, though... It's a diversion rather than a destination. And while they're certainly powerful enough now to make destination titles, that's still not really what's doing particularly well there. But it certainly is a worry."

In Carmack's view, the sales figures don't support the theory that mobile blockbusters like Angry Birds will erode the popularity of AAA console titles, and he suggests that both will continue to grow in parallel.

However, he does invoke a possible future where mobile phones could be linked to televisions and serve the same function as a console. What's more, he believes that mobile technology will be powerful enough to do so, "within a very short time."

"People have exaggerated the relative powers - the iPad2 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, 2 years from now, there will be mobile devices more powerful than what we're doing all these fabulous games on right now."

A key factor in mobile replacing consoles could be convenience, and the same is true of cloud-based services like OnLive, even if OnLive doesn't exist when that future finally arrives.

"It's not at all clear that the existing ones will survive long enough for that future to get there, but I think that it's almost unquestionable that, if you look 5, 10 years in the future, that type of delivery - even though it's not going to necessarily be the same graphical quality of latency quality, but a whole lot of convenience can make up for [what's lacking]. So I do wonder if the mobile platforms might get more and more of that going for them, where it provides a good enough experience for [most people]."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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