The Future of Gaming Graphics on Mobile Devices

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If you’re an avid gamer, you probably spend most of your time today playing on a console or PC. The thought of serious gaming on a mobile device might have never crossed your mind. And maybe that’s mostly because you can’t imagine mobile games meeting your standards from a graphics perspective.

But in the next few years, that may change dramatically.

We’ve known for awhile now that smartphones are literally supercomputers in our pockets — but for most of the time we’ve had them, they’ve only been used for communication, browsing the Internet, and games that were more for passing the time than full engagement.

Soon, though, mobile devices will be the some of the most powerful systems around — even for intensive gaming and graphics. In a few years’ time, your phone will harness the power to deliver a more stunning visual experience than you could ever have imagined.

Don’t believe me?

I know, it sounds a little crazy. How could a little rectangle that fits in your pocket be a graphics powerhouse?

But it’s not just me saying this — industry experts are now signaling what might be the greatest evolutionary leap we’ve seen in graphics technology. Soon, mobile will dominate the video game market.

Unlocking the Potential for Mobile

When you think of a mobile game, you probably imagine something simplistic.

Colorful, yes. Cute, yes. But highly detailed and immersive? Probably not.

So, could a phone or tablet ever really be capable of creating an experience with graphics on par with a gaming console? According to insiders, that time is coming soon.

ARM, a leading hardware company responsible for designing the inner workings of mobile devices, sees an evolutionary leap just around the corner. Nizar Romdan, ecosystem director for ARM, says that the visuals put out by smartphones and tablets will be on par with — and will soon surpass — what the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are capable of.

And by soon, he means very soon. Romdan says we can expect this by the end of 2017. In a little over a year, we’ll be able to handle a graphical experience on our phones that we once had to buy complete machines for, dedicated solely to sustaining those visuals. “Mobile hardware is already powerful,” said Romdan. “If you take today’s high-end smartphone or tablet, the performance is already better than the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.”

You read that right — with the right accessories, you could be enjoying a stunning visual experience on your phone right now. But when new high-end graphics technology comes to graphics technology as 2016 progresses, we’ll see the beginnings of the mobile graphics revolution.

Mobile devices like Samsung’s Galaxy S7, for instance, has only recently been released. The phone’s architecture allows for the use of new rendering applications that present thousands of dynamic objects on the screen in high-detail.

Lighting, shape, color — all of these will look more photo-realistic than ever before. The phone also supports and includes the Samsung Gear VR, a virtual reality headset that uses the phone’s hardware to power a completely simulated, demanding interactive experience.

And when every mobile device that hits the market comes with similar architecture, people will start to realize just how much more power mobile devices will soon have when it comes to gorgeously rendered, interactive environments.

How Graphics Will Change Everything

All mobile devices need to catch up with consoles graphically is more advanced chip hardware and rendering technology. The smaller and more powerful, the better the gaming experience.

Compared to the tech landscape of a few years ago, mobile devices now have some of the best Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) available. The standalone GPU was originally created to handle graphical calculations that helped lighten the load on the device’s processor. And now, with such powerful GPUs in mobile devices, they can’t help but produce striking experiences.

Used to be, the popular games you played on mobile were straightforward and 2D, using simple, pixelated sprites. But now, thanks to hardware like ARM’s advanced Mali-T760 GPU, games like Call of Duty can be run at full power on mobile devices with graphics quality that rival that of their stationary competition. It’s easy to understand how this could open up a new world of opportunities for game developers and gamers alike.

Taka Kawasaki of Epic Games Japan has an interesting take on the inevitability of advanced mobile graphics and gaming. Talking of the near future, he said: “It will mean more than 3 or 4 billion consoles in people’s pockets, worldwide.”

Attracting Game Studios and Hardcore Gamers

The biggest questions mobile hardware developers have to answer is how they’ll convince studios to create games for mobile, and how to attract gamers that swear by their traditional machines for games. And graphics just may be the answer.

Once studios, both indie and triple A, recognize that they can have all the flexibility and tools they need when designing visually thrilling games for mobile, they’ll start diverting more and more of their efforts to that platform. Creators who normally might have stayed away from the mobile development environment will see the incredible potential and the unquestionable might of mobile hardware for delivering the exact graphical experiences they want for gamers.

And if there’s anything hardcore gamers really want, it’s a complete experience.

Once studios recognize the potential for mobile gaming as the platform of the future and begin creating exclusive, fully realized content for mobile, those traditional gamers will flock to mobile in droves.

If someone had said 10 years ago that we’d have machines in our pockets capable of pumping out a photo-realistic gaming experience, they would have been ignored or even ridiculed. The concept just sounds so futuristic.

But now, there’s no doubt about it. The continued growth of technology means that graphics will only look better as time progresses, and the hardware to produce them will come in ever smaller packages.