Mobile gaming is by no means a new development. From the days when mobile screens advanced from simple single-lines of text into incredibly low-res pixelated displays, the likes of Snake were already making an impression, limited as these early attempts were. Over time, as the processing power of mobile devices improved to the point where high-quality modern phones can rival, and in some cases exceed, the capacities of simple full desktop computer systems, we've seen an explosion of a new and exciting gaming market. Now, with some of the most popular desktop games like Fortnite reaching mobile devices, we have to wonder what made this possible, and what does this mean for the potential future of the Android platform?
The Path so Far
The rise of more powerful devices becoming host to more complicated games was always a given. How this new industry grew and was shaped, however; this is not quite as simple. The issues here mirror those of consoles, and to a lesser extent, PC gaming. Creating games is not a simple pursuit at the best of times and, when you throw in a variety of different system speeds and architectures, then, the process becomes much more time, cost, and labor intensive. As a PlayStation 2 game will not work in an Xbox system due to their different hardware and firmware, a game from one phone will not inherently work on another.
This is where the likes of Android and Apple came in. While there was initially a wider range of major firmware, the increasing complexity of this firmware and the associated cost caused those initially feasible to slowly narrow to just a few. As with computers, this came down to Apple and something else. Again, as with computers, Apple had a lot to offer but ultimately their designs and desires would lead them to be the inferior choice for gaming. It was Android who pulled ahead here, with their greater focus on games, and with an inherent advantage of privacy and security when it comes to traditional PC gaming. This is especially relevant with games which include an element of gambling, betting, loot boxes, or anything which requires real money.
Android as a Gaming Platform
As games became more standard for Android devices, the surrounding infrastructure and success of the greater market further accelerated the business into something superseding almost every other gaming market today. Marketplaces like Google Play aided in this development and more support for relevant programming systems, like Google's recently released ARCore Framework, have helped further lower the barriers to entry for many.
This also ties into the runaway success of the microtransaction-based mobile gaming economy, which, while often derided and heaped with scorn by long-time gaming enthusiasts, at the very least helped raise the profile of mobile gaming to where it sits today. Eventually, this development would be assisted by huge increases in storage and processing power, which would draw the attention of major developers who might otherwise overlook these often underestimated devices. This, in simple terms, is what gave rise to possibilities like the recent Fortnite mobile edition.
Not content to offer a port-job – something inspired by but ultimately fundamentally dissimilar to the source material, the modern environment has allowed for major gaming releases to reach mobile devices in what is approaching near perfect translations. When you combine this with the type of international phenomenon which Fortnite represents, it's no wonder that Android has reached a new standard of what can be possible in terms of mobile gaming.
When we look at the potential for Android gaming in the future, we have to take into account both the mobile gaming market and the direction of major gaming developments as a whole. As we have seen with Xbox One and their attempts at backward compatibility, as well as the greater emphasis on standardized architecture which we see with the PlayStation 4, the future becomes clear as one with a much greater focus on translatable experiences. Similar firmware and standards mean better health for both developers of games and those of Android itself, and this is doubtless a development on which the Android brand will be leaning on in the future.
The first steps for Android to be taken seriously as a major gaming force have already been taken, as Fortnite’s inclusion shows, though the true possibilities are still yet to be unearthed. Devices like the Nvidia Shield have been making enormous strides, not just as media devices, but as highly versatile gaming devices based on Android systems. As better control methods such as attachable controllers further blur the barriers between phones and consoles, we have to wonder how long it will be before Android devices become well accepted as docking stations, which many futurists have predicted as the path for singular all-in-one computing devices. However long this field takes to develop, we’re already having a lot of fun, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.