back to article Doom guy: tablets, phones to be gaming platforms of the future

id Software's John Carmack has talked up the future of mobile gaming and why tablets, smartphones and cloud-gaming services such as OnLive will become the dominant gaming platforms. The man behind FPS classics from Doom to Quake shared his views in an interview with IndustryGamers. "It’s unquestionable that within a very …


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  1. Syren Baran
    Thumb Down

    Not again

    Sure, modern smartphones have high end CPUs and GPUs, and will have more powerfull chips than current gen consoles in the near future, just as they have more crunch than last gen consoles now.

    One slight problem, though. The mouse might fit in my pocket, but neither the keyboard nor a 30" screen will. Ego shooter on a smartphone or tablet? Come on, even joypads are sub par.

    1. stucs201
      Thumb Up


      Far more to a decent games machine than just the processor. Besides I'd expect a new X-box and playstation to be appearing by the mobile devices catch up on the processor, the current ones have been around a while.

  2. Jonjonz


    Your only as cool as your last release. Vain hot air trying to pass as wisdom. You want to sell out to making Farmville clones for mobiles over developing real games for PCs, no good luck with that. In fact I hope his raft falls apart long before the food runs out.

    It started with dumbing down decent PC games for the console markets. Console = how fast can I 'beat' this game. Die, cheese maker die.

    1. James Hughes 1


      Are you talking about...? Are you implying John Carmack is a has been? The guy who invented the first person shooter? The guy who runs his own successful rocket company ? The guy who wrote Doom, Quake, Rage etc? Are you saying Carmack and ID are just going to move in to Farmville style games?

      I agree with Carmack, most gaming (by volume) will move on to tablets and handhelds, because, as he said, the processing ooph in a couple of years will be more than we have on PC and consoles now.

      Angry Birds had sold 6.5 million copies just on iPhone as of 2010. Halo 2, I believe the best selling Xbox game, sold 6.3 million. (Figures out of date but still I believe a good example). Multiple that by the number of games on each platform, and you begin to see the way the market is going.

      1. Ian Yates


        What's missing from those stats is the cost of those two games.

        I don't disagree that mobile gaming is a boom market, but I don't personally find it comparable to console/PC gaming.

        I have quite a few games on my phone and tablet, but when I'm home and fancy some multiplayer FPS, you're never going to convince me to give up my keyboard/mouse or controller.

        Casual games are certainly becoming more phone/tablet-based, and rightly so. Consoles and PCs will just become further niche in more "hard-core" gaming.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "will be more than we have on PC and consoles now"

        Absolutely no way, unless consoles and PCs stop developing.

        Powerful hardware is initially larger and hotter requiring year(s) of dev to get small and efficient enough for mobile use.

        Sure, the gap might get smaller - with smaller screens mobile devices have less to actually render - but in absolute terms they still won't touch it.

        1. James Hughes 1

          @AC 13:19

          Er, do you even read the title you copied from my post? It says NOW - so I'm saying that in a couple of years the CPU/GPU combination's in mobile devices will be on a par with what PC have NOW. Of course PC's will get faster. RTFP.

          And I am saying it because it will happen. Just look at the roadmaps for these mobile chips.

          Yes, I am aware that some powerful hardware is initially hot. But I'm not talking about Nvidia's/Intels hopeless efforts to reduce power consumption - I'm talking about chips that have been built from the ground up to be ultra low power, but ultra high performance. 2 years away. Max.

          And I don't know if you have noticed, but some mobile screens are now on the resolution level of most TV's/monitors, if not higher, so the pixel rates required are certainly of the same order of magnitude.

        2. James Hughes 1

          @Ian Yates

          Please read the post. I said BY VOLUME. I deliberately ignored price.

          Unfortunately for the console gamers this will push developers in to the larger market - the games are cheaper to produce (or are at the moment). This means if you make a turkey, you haven't lost as much - its a safer market to be in. Spending 5mill on developing a game for a console/PC when you can make more money on mobile devices? Where would you rather be?

          I predicting what will happen is that people will just wirelessly connect their mobile device to their TV/monitor, turn on their wireless controller, and play games that way. The devices will be perfectly capable of running the current crop of high end games, if not more. That will be perfectly sufficient for most people.

          1. The Indomitable Gall

            @James Hughes 1

            Ok, so you can shift volume on a smartphone... IF you're one of the lucky 0.00001%

            Have you seen how many also-rans there are in the smartphone world? There's a sea of casual games and it's easy to get lost in the crowd.

            Also, what does Angry Birds have to do with what Carmack said? Casual games just don't need the sort of computing oomph sported by current consoles.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Invented the FPS

        two words - "MIDI Maze".

        Anon - for flame protection

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Invented the FPS

          <quote>two words - "MIDI Maze".</quote>

          One word and a number - "Catch 23"

      4. Chad H.
        Thumb Down


        If your going to argue someone isn't a has been I wouldn't mention games that were made several gaming generations ago.

  3. Ralthor
    Thumb Down


    The limiting factor here is ease of use. If someone comes up with a revolutionary design for touchpad game control then perhaps. If not then it wont matter how powerful your phone is xomplex gameplay wont take off on it. There will always be people who will play regardless, but most people wont bother.

  4. Cameron Colley

    I tend to I agree with him.

    I know hardcore gamers won't move to mobile gaming but, then, some won't touch consoles because they prefer the tweakability of the PC and the possibilities it has for more complex gaming.

    However, hardcore gamers are no the only gamers and are probably a small percentage of the total market -- look at the WII, it's hardly a hardcore gamer machine bit it's hardly underselling.

    So, in conclusion:

    Will "Gaming" as a hardcore pursuit move from PC (and console) to phones? No.

    Will the majority of games be played on mobile devices? I think so.

    1. alphaxion

      They already are

      They already are, just look at the impressive sales figures of the DS line of consoles - also look at who is doing the buying of DS's, I've seen 70 year olds buying games for themselves on that format.

      I wonder if we'll see a renaissance of old genres on the handhelds - the likes of Monkey Island and 4X games.

      My one complaint is that the selection of decent games on the likes of the iphone is very limited (though getting better all the time, Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing is a great port from the console to the iphone) and the resultant overwealming number of games are shitty clones of the same tired games - how many breakouts, centipede and bejeweled can a market support?!

  5. Martijn Bakker


    In fact, I'm sort of hoping for the opposite.

    In the 20th century, console games were slower and uglier than PC games and severely limited by their three button controllers. There wasn't a single game on a console that wasn't more fun on a PC .. unless the publisher restricted it to their particular console to prop up failing console sales.

    In recent years, processor power has become less of an issue. Even our phones can display a decent 3D image. While this might make phones more attractive as a gaming platform, it also removes much of the gap between PC and console graphics.

    Then there's innovation in the controllers. Wiimotes and Kinect allow for lots of new and fun game concepts and remove many of that old awkwardness of controlling your console game with two buttons and a joystick. No longer is the console just a gimped PC.

    And there's the development in 3D television. This will allow future consoles to present a genuine 3D experience which we're unlikely to see appear on a PC in the near future if only because few will shell out twice for a large and expensive 3D screen.

    Contrary to McCarmac's opnion, it would seem that the console is beter positioned than ever before to become the gaming platform of choice for the near future.

    1. stucs201

      3D on a PC

      > And there's the development in 3D television. This will allow future consoles to present a

      > genuine 3D experience which we're unlikely to see appear on a PC in the near future if only

      > because few will shell out twice for a large and expensive 3D screen.

      Er 3D in various forms has been available for the PC for longer than the consoles...

      I'd also expect glasses free 3D screens to work a lot better with the relatively predicable viewing position of being sat in front of a PC.

    2. CD001

      PS effect


      In the 20th century, console games were slower and uglier than PC games and severely limited by their three button controllers.


      Ye-es - but then the original Playstation was launched in 2000. Say what you like about Sony NOW, but the original PS WAS a game-changer in the console market. It was the first really "grown up" console.


      Contrary to McCarmac's opnion, it would seem that the console is beter positioned than ever before to become the gaming platform of choice for the near future.


      Maybe - but it depends on how you define "gaming" - bear in mind one of the most successful game publishers in recent history has been PopCap and current mobile devices are already being catered for with games like Bejewelled or Plants vs Zombies - so in the casual gaming market, mobile is ALREADY ahead.

      The more (and I hate to use this word but I can't think of anything better to counter "casual gaming") hardcore games will still reside on the PC or consoles with each being better suited to different games.

      PCs are generally better at RPGs (and MMORPGs), strategy games and, arguably (but this is simply down to control interface - you can't beat a mouse for scoping with weapons) FPS games - which is pretty much a HUGE chunk of the market.

      Consoles tend to excel with third-person games like Tomb Raider or inFamous, racing games and ANY beer 'n' pizza game - that's any game where 2 or more people can sit in the same room, drinking beer, eating pizza and racing each other or co-operatively blasting hell out of huge waves of zombies... or whatever. People are more likely to own a huge TV w/ home theatre system than a PC-rigged gaming system of equivalent awesomeness so games where that really makes a difference (like racing games) tend to be more fun on consoles.

      1. Luke McCarthy


        The PlayStation was released in 1995, not 2000. I think you're confusing it with PS2.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Stereoscopic 3D on consoles? That's so 1980s...

      The Sega Master System had stereoscopic 3D games using shutter glasses in the late 1980's via the "SegaScope 3-D Glasses".

  6. mark 63 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    captain obvious

    thankyou mr carmack

    specialist subject - the bleedin obvious

  7. Danny 5

    i disagree

    consoles are purpose built to play games, pads and phones are not. this should be enough to make sure we'll be getting consoles at home for a good while to come. even cloud gaming wont really change that imho.

  8. stu 19

    Current Gen Consoles

    That's current gen consoles, since consoles take a long time to develop and have a life of, what, 7 years approx before a new one is due?

    That means that the PS3 is not due a successor till 2014?

    The PS3 was an order more powerful that the PS2 so its probably fair to say that the PS4? will be an order more powerful than the PS3

    PC Add in boards are released to the public in small increments, but that's not how the technology advances, it makes a nice big jump. We, the consumers only get small increments so the hardware developers get a nice ROI. eg my ATI 5970 is better than the newer 6x series, but you can be sure that by the time the series has run its life it will have better boards etc.

    So what ? Well consoles have to implement hardware and then they are stuck with it for the life of the console, no upgrades, just improvements in software use of the hardware, so its inevitable that other, newer technologies will catch up to a degree.

    If we never see another console then I think its true that mobile devices will catch up. But the next console out will kick that back to touch.

    The comparison does not take future console plans into account, so IMO, its a bit invalid.

    However they could still be dominant for things like on-live, because delivering on-live on a nice fast tablet with decent video playback will work fine, probably just as fine as your PC (albeit without the 30 inch monitor - until wearing goggles is not too geeky) but that's not the same thing as mobiles beating up consoles.

  9. Dan Price

    One dev timeline?

    "When we started Rage, iOS didn’t exist. There was no iPhone. All of that has happened just in the space of one project development timeline."

    Yeah maybe, by id's glacial pace. When they started Rage, people lived in mud huts.

  10. Richard Jukes


    Isnt Carmack busy writing Quake XII or Doom 15? Has he finally gotten enough money to stop releasing below par sequals?

  11. The BigYin

    Why does....

    ...the phone/tablet need the juice? That would kill the battery. Have a grunt GPU set-up do the rendering and an efficient way to squirt the rendered images down (plus responses up). A bit like modern networks FPS games, but with a server doing the rendering too.

    Otherwise you'll need a forklift to follow you around to hold the batteries!

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Why

      Because if you render on a server then you have to be within range of a many megabit network connection. That makes the overall system "portable round the house", but not really "portable". Public wireless access does exist, but inevitably (being wireless) it is contended, so the bit-rate you'll get "on the beach" is nowhere near enough to play a game being rendered on a server.

  12. AndrewG

    Still stuck on power and graphics :(

    What amazes me is these numbnuts are still stuck on the power and graphics mantra after the way-behind-the-power-curve Wii and the Nintendo DS basically owned the 360 and PS3.

    Yeah mobile gaming is probably going to do to consoles what consoles did to the PC game market, but not because mobile platform reaches a console spec, its becasue it finally got up to a minimum spec to be useful and is a damm sight more convienent and the limitations of the platform mean they'll have to focus on a little thing called gameplay rather than how they can overdrive the gpu.

  13. A 31

    gadzooks !

    Leave the Carmack alone !

    you biggoted evil monkeys !

    and pay respect to the man that raised the bar so your ungrateful little bottoms could sit and enjoy some of the best shooters of this world !

    the master does not need to prove himself, especially to any sinister vulgum pecus

  14. Sil
    Thumb Down

    Not realistic

    Mobile & tablets may become a good market for very simple games but that's it.

    - without keyboard, joystick or gamepads more advanced games are not user friendly;

    - the low res screen is not game-friendly;

    - if the game is any good graphically the batteries won't last;

    - The tablets will overheat. Already today you have to purchase a gamer's notebook with advanced cooling if you want to play for more than ten minutes. A standard notebook will overheat in no time and tablets are inherently worse.

    1. M Gale

      If it overheats just from running software...

      ...then it is not fit for purpose. Take it back.

      Running Nova HD quite happily on this Tab. Granted it makes for a nice little handwarmer but it's not overheating in the slightest. Neither is the ancient laptop that can just about manage UT2004, unless I lay it flat on a thick pile carpet. The Tab's batteries seem to last an impressive few hours under this sort of strain too, so it's not all bad.

      Though yes, playing Nova HD is definitely awkward due to not having any way of interacting outside of a touch screen. Some games are great (Jet Car Stunts, after all, was made for touchscreens and tilt sensors), but others are truly awful. Also what the hell is with Droid manufacturers making backlit touch-sensitive spots instead of real buttons for navigation? Asides not being able to see the bloody things at night when the backlight goes out, it's far too easy to attempt to jab the "fire" "button" and end up swiping your thumb across "home" instead. ARGH!

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Overheats != unfit for purpose

        Just because the machine can't shed the heat when it is running at full speed doesn't make it unfit, as long as it has proper regulation. Most end-user facing devices spend most of their time idle, so it makes perfect sense to design them so that they deliver the answer in one second even if they can't dissipate the resulting heat in less than two.

        Human beings work the same way. We can all generate lactic acid in our muscles faster than we can remove it. Put another way: we can run fast enough to get tired. That's a good thing.

        1. M Gale
          Paris Hilton

          Maybe in a data centre.

          Every computer I have works as it should under all circumstances. Unless you live in an equatorial region or are stuffing petabytes on racks, "you're using it too much" is not a good excuse for "the manufacturer was a cheapskate on heat sinks". Even given the equatorial example, it should have to be a blazing Summer before a consumer device starts complaining.

          Saying the device should overheat because you spent a little too long on Crysis for Tablets is a little like saying computers should crash at least once daily because you've only ever experienced Windows 95.

    2. NumptyScrub

      portable devices as gaming platforms...

      "without keyboard, joystick or gamepads more advanced games are not user friendly"

      As has been pointed out previously, phones and tablets have Bluetooth. Hook up a PS3 controller to your phone et voila! a tiny screened PS3 is born. I've played RTS games on consoles, and while the control system is skewed from my usual expectations, they are not unplayable. If you can use the same controller on a tablet, then you can use the same control scheme on a tablet too ;)

      Even a bluetooth keyboard and mouse paired to a tablet for some oldschool FPS action is achievable with todays technology; Quake 2 should run on an original iPad or Galaxy Tab without any issue (after porting, of course). Where do you think it could go after another couple of years of Moore's law in effect?

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Not that old chestnut again

    The old "in a couple of years platform X will be as powerful as platform Y is now, therefore there will be no need for platform Y anymore..."

    How many more times is this old mantra going to be drawn out...

    Yes, in a couple of years tablets and phones may be as powerful as 'current' gen consoles (battery issues aside).

    But in two years we very well may have new consoles that jump several generations ahead again.

    As said above, the limiting factor is size. You could make a tablet today that was more powerful than a 360/PS3 and even approached a top spec' PC build - but it would be huge, power hungry and hot - just like 'gaming' laptops.

    And game development is not going to stand still in that time (although you could be forgiven for thinking it already has for a while...)

    Simple rule. Larger processing box > smaller processing box in same generation. Simple physics.

    PC > console > tablet > smartphone

    And, unless every game player will be dumbed down to the level of demanding no more than endless angry birds clones and endless mario this or that whilst waving some plastic controller around in the lounge then nothing's going to change.

    I'm happy with the distinction between my phone, my tablet and my PC and until I can plug my multiple monitors, projector, sticks, throttles, wheel and pedals into a tablet, I'll stick with the bigger box thanks...

  16. sisk Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    Casual gaming, maybe. But I guarentee you that the hardcore gamers of the world are not going to be giving up their consoles for their phones. The best games are still going to be console and PC only and the people willing to spend the most money on games want the best ones. I'll admit there's a ton of cash to be made in the mobile game market (casual gamers do outnumber the hardcore gamers by a good margin), but I would call Id very foolish indeed to focus their efforts on that market after building such a huge following of hardcore gamers.

  17. john devoy


    Tablets and phones wont take off as true portable consoles until they sort out the controls, theres only so many games that work on touch only; platformers and shooters play like crap on touch compared to traditional controls.

  18. Jonjonz

    Count there be anything worse than a console port?

    And you thought good PC games had to be dumbed down to be ported to consoles. Wait till you see how dumb mobile ports will be.

    Shame to see a once gifted dev get mesmerized by the Farmville profits.

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