The story of mobile games in transition beginning with the popular Game Boy

In the beginning there was the Game Boy. The grey box from Nintendo appeared in the 1990s and was a pioneer among modern hand-held gaming consoles. Plenty of imitators and successors followed, with the result that today there are plenty of ways to play games on the go. The coming of tablets has meant that mobile gaming has penetrated into all walks of life. According to Bitkom, a German technology industry association, 56 per cent of tablet users in Germany play games on their tablet computer. As expected the young play most but even in the 50-59-years age group, some 47 per cent use their tablet for gaming.

Casual gaming

One reason is that so-called casual games dominate on smartphones and tablets. Games such as Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga provide a lot of fun without demanding too much of players. These casual games don't offer the full gaming experience to be found on a console, but that's because they're designed to kill time while waiting at the doctor's for example or while taking the train to work. Casual games tend not to tell epic stories, says Maximilian Schenk, executive director of Germany's Federal Association of Interactive Entertainment Software (BIU).

However, more and more developers are now publishing complex and time-consuming games for mobile platforms which are often pricey compared with the casual games, Schenk says. For example there's a mobile version of the large-scale console game Grand Theft Auto. Since the Game Boy, Nintendo has dominated the market for hand-helds. The latest model from the Japanese manufacturer is the 3DS which offers 3D gaming. Although the device can surf the internet or play videos, it's still primarily used for gaming. Perennial favourites on the console include the Mario games and the Pokemon role-playing game.

The PS experience

Since 2004 Sony has been trying with its Vita console and its predecessor, the PSP, to recreate on a mobile platform the playing experience that the Playstation offers on a television. Technically the Vita is superior to the 3DS and can run graphically rich blockbusters such as Uncharted or Killzone.

APPlaying on a tablet has become easy and popular.

Both Nintendo and Sony are facing tough competition from smartphones and tablets, but Schenk believes the end of the handheld console is not in sight. "Smartphones and tablets are not substitutes for games consoles," he says. "Not least because hand-held consoles are specialized for video games." It's not as easy to control a game by touchscreen as it is using a control pad and buttons. However, Maic Masuch, a professor who heads an entertainment computing working group at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, sees a blacker future for the Vita and its competitors. "The trend towards smartphones and tablets will eventually turn off the juice for the classic consoles," he believes.

The main reason: price. A new Vita or 3DS game usually costs around 40 euros (Rs 3290), whereas a smartphone or tablet game can be had for a few euros or even for free.

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