Since its inception, one of the gaming industry’s most coveted goals has always been to make it possible to play wherever you are. The early video games were basically unified by being supported by bulky systems like computers, cabinets or, at best, home consoles: nothing realistically possible to carry around. However, step by step, the first portable devices began to be developed, to this day where mobile phones can be considered in all respects, even consoles: the path traveled was certainly fascinating.
The first successes of portable video gaming should be recognized by Nintendo, which achieved its first results in the 80s and from there it has always continued to strive for the mobility of its consoles. The first successful portable console is that of the Game & Watch family, a battery-operated clock and alarm clock that also featured a game, some of which were later future Nintendo classics such as Donkey Kong, Zelda and Super Mario, also protagonist of the recent revival. . The next steps, which are up to date, span the Game Boy, Nintendo DS and 3DS families, up to the first Nintendo Switch hybrid.
A similar, but more recent path for the other major Japanese console manufacturer, Sony: the successes of gaming on the road have prompted the PlayStation house to create two portable versions, PlayStation Portable in 2004 and PlayStation Vita in 2011. Rumors that Sony is thinking of a return of a portable console they only confirm that the project has never been completely shelved, despite never reaching the popularity of the classic PlayStation.
In such a context, where the ability to play outdoors for decades has proven to be an excellent alternative, it was inevitable that mobile phone manufacturers would also include some games in their products. Since the second half of the 90s, almost all mobile phones have been sold with a few simple games: pastime like memory, simple card suites or the iconic Nokia games like Snake or Space Impact. However, the hallmark of a console is that it can play different games depending on what the user wants: aspect came on mobile phones with Symbian operating systems. Since the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, Symbian has been the dominant operating system in the mobile market, chosen primarily by Nokia and unsurprisingly included in iconic phones such as the historic N-Gage, the first phone case designed as a platform to to game.
The main feature of Symbian, that it is designed to install files chosen by the user, has made the operating system fortune and above all paved the way for a logic now implicit in the world of mobile telephony: the concept of smartphones. † The latter is, in fact, characterized by making the phone a platform that can meet multiple needs through digital stores thanks to the most diverse applications; inevitably some of these applications were just games, completing the transition to the phone as a console. Where simple card games already existed, it is now possible to play online poker for free, for example, but other apps also offer more traditional games such as broom or burraco. The simple pastime introduced directly by the producers has become very simple, extremely widespread and easy to find apps that offer crosswords, sudokus and clones of famous games like Tetris or Arkanoid.
The latest step has been taken in recent times by some major industries in the video game sector, which have chosen to develop games intended for the mobile market. If some titles were born precisely for this purpose and designed specifically for touch screens and smartphones, and it is the case of download phenomena such as Candy Crush or the various Clash or, in other cases, well-known series have decided to focus part of their efforts on investments in this sector. Just think of Pokémon, who launched a real attack on mobile gaming with Pokémon Go; to Call of Duty, under which CoD Mobile was one of several revolutions that the series has introduced since 2019; to PUBG Mobile, the smartphone version of the reinvented battle royale after Fortnite competition; and the examples may be many.
Given the progress smartphones are making, especially from a performance point of view, it’s certainly not too early to ask how much room there will be in the future for “simple” portable consoles.