id Software technical guru John Carmack has been rather chatty lately, giving long interviews and imparting his wisdom upon eager listeners. This time, he's talked to the folks at IndustryGamers about the future of mobile gaming, and he has an interesting vision for the future.
For one, Carmack says it's "unquestionable" that cell phones will soon become more powerful than the current crop of game consoles. We're not there yet—the iPad 2 is "a factor of a couple weaker" than the Xbox 360—but handhelds will "almost certainly" have overtaken their set-top brethren in a couple of years. That fact has some major implications. Will people end up playing the latest titles on tablets, oblivious to their big-screen TVs? Carmack doesn't think so:
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. Could the bottom drop out on the triple A market because everyone’s playing Angry Birds? It doesn’t seem to be happening. The numbers don’t show that. We’re selling more big titles than ever before, despite having all of these other platforms out there. So it looks like it’s parallel growth rather than one stealing from the other.
However, Carmack does tentatively foresee a future where, to play console games in their living rooms, users simply interface their cell phones with their TVs and use the same device to play more serious titles. In that future, I assume handheld games would remain relatively low-tech and cheap—barring, perhaps, a few exceptions to the rule like today's Infinity Blade. Certainly, I don't think we can expect game developers to pour the same amount of effort into mobile games that they do into Xbox 360 titles and charge $1.99 for them.