The video game market is divided into five segments: legacy PC and console, developing mobile devices — mostly phones, but also some tablets, and the emerging cloud. That’s four, I’ll get to the fifth segment in a minute.
Qualcomm observes these segments and is especially present in evolving mobile devices. At the same time, that has an interesting connection to the emerging cloud segment, as you can’t play a game in the cloud unless you have a client device – at least not now. The preferred client device is a smartphone, as it is almost always with you.
Now for the fifth segment: VR gaming, which is largely surrounded by Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 that also uses Qualcomm technology.
Let’s talk about Qualcomm, gaming evolution, and the bottlenecks currently standing in the way of the expansion of consoles and PCs into more mobile devices and the cloud and video game trends.
Then we close with my product of the week, which is arguably the best gaming smartphone on the market.
This is the oldest form of video games on the broad market. I say broad market because there were video games that you could play on mainframes, but only a few people knew how to play them and had access to the mainframes before that. Console gaming has several lasting benefits, but also some critical drawbacks.
On the upside, the hardware is dedicated and all patches and updates are handled by the console maker as long as that version of the console is supported. In general, you don’t have to worry about malware if you use approved games (which are often downloaded these days), and you can be pretty sure that any current title will play well on a current console. The hardware costs are affordable — usually less than $500 to start — and you can use a decent TV screen, so you don’t need an expensive monitor.
The downside is that the game console only plays games. Chances are you won’t have it with you unless you’re at home, as it’s a bit of a pain to take it on vacation, and good luck playing a game on a console in a car or plane while on the road. are. This is offset by consoles like the Nintendo Switch that allow for mobile gaming, but tend to be aimed at a young audience.
So consoles are great for gaming, but not flexible or portable enough for how most seem to want to play these days. But it’s good to game on a TV at home if you have the space and no one else wants to use the TV while you’re gaming.
The PC gaming market really took off after Windows 95, as that operating system came with bundled games. This segment has a different set of pros and cons.
Benefits include the ability to game and work at the same time, and PCs come in both desktop and laptop form, allowing for both more hardware variety and greater mobility than most consoles. Games that use keyboards and mice generally work better with PCs, but you can also often use game controllers if needed. You can build a custom desktop PC that is a status symbol in its own right for other gamers, and buy your way to a stronger competitive advantage.
The downsides of PCs are that gaming rigs tend to be expensive. You can easily drop over $5,000 into a top desktop gaming rig. Gaming on a laptop may require you to use a smaller screen and reduce battery life. Gaming laptops can also cost as much as gaming desktops when fully equipped. While we take our PCs with us more often than most consoles, we may still not have them with us when we want to game. They are usually large, making them more difficult to use on an airplane or in a car.
I find laptop gaming too limited in screen size to want to use it often. I usually game on a custom gaming desktop setup with a large Dell 49-inch screen.
This is where Qualcomm is showcased and it is the fastest growing segment. It also has pros and cons.
Advantages have to do with availability and flexibility. Like PC gaming, you can use a smartphone for more than gaming, and you can multitask. The smartphone is always connected, leading to what may be a more connected experience. People carry their smartphones with them so they can game wherever they are and often where a PC or console is not viable, such as when standing in a line. Titles have steadily improved over time and the richness of mobile games can approach what you would see on a console or even some PC games.
Downsides are that smartphones are generally designed for connectivity, not gaming, and a non-gaming smartphone, even if it has Qualcomm’s latest and most powerful Snapdragon processor, is likely to wear out very quickly when used for gaming, because the phone can’t. dump enough of the heat it generates. Performance is generally balanced against mobility. Screen sizes are very small (but can be compensated with head-mounted displays) and the small screen is also a control surface (but with a head-mounted display it can become a dedicated controller).
In general, smartphones are getting closer to the usefulness and capabilities of PC and console games, but are still limited by the lack of head-mounted screens, forcing people to generally play on the phone’s much less capable screens. Qualcomm is pushing this effort hard, funding gaming tournaments with decent prizes and pushing their industry-leading Snapdragon 8 and 8+ platforms hard to meet the needs of gamers.
This is highlighted by services such as Nvidia’s GeForce Now, which provides cloud instances of high-performance gaming PCs for remote gamers.
The benefits are that you get decent PC-level performance with any device that can be used as a client. These services favor games designed for PCs, but they can be played through set-top boxes like Nvidia’s own Shield or on a smartphone, depending on the controller interface. These services offer the most flexibility in terms of hardware and the lowest entry cost for top-tier games.
The downsides are that they are very network dependent, meaning you probably won’t be able to use the service on an airplane or cruise ship where network bandwidth is low and latency is very high. You must pay a monthly fee; you do not own the service and the service may not have the game you want to play.
However, it is likely that cloud gaming represents the ultimate future of gaming. We just don’t have the network infrastructure yet to make it dominant.
While there is VR gaming on a PC, the limitations of needing a PC and connecting to a cable have limited the popularity of that approach. Right now, the most popular VR gaming platform is Meta’s Oculus Quest 2.
The advantages are that it is portable and does not require a chain. The games, especially those related to movement, are fun and very playable. You can play this while sitting in a car or plane, and watch movies privately on it, just like you would with a head-mounted screen on your PC or smartphone. Like a game console, you have dedicated controllers and the cost is less than $400 to get started.
Downsides are that expectations for VR gaming are ahead of the hardware. Resolutions are lower than people expect and the game content is limited. Often people are fooled into using the technology, which creates resistance to adoption. There aren’t many cloud games out there right now and Meta seems to be burning an unsustainable $1 billion a month building out the experience and, if Meta fails, there’s no one in the wings to take the slack.
There is also AR gaming as emphasized by games like Pokémon Go, but this is still too limited and the promise of this type of game, as emphasized by the old HP Video Roku’s Rewardhas never been reached in production.
Console and PC gaming continues, but the real growth seems to be in mobile gaming given how fast it is growing and how relatively convenient it is. However, it is hampered by the size of the mobile screen and the fact that you need a gaming phone to experience really strong mobile gaming. With a head-mounted screen, mobile gaming has much more potential, but these screens are not yet widely used, which reduces their impact.
VR gaming has huge unfulfilled potential and I expect the long-term future of gaming will be in virtual space, but we may not get there for a decade or so as we still need better human-machine interfaces. have to meet consumer expectations of something like a Holodeck.
As a result, gaming is in flux. Console and PC gaming are still viable markets, but mobile gaming is growing faster and has the potential to catch up with both by the end of the decade. For now, Qualcomm is well positioned on both mobile and VR gaming, putting it in a good position to help shape the future of gaming.
We’ll see how this all plays out soon.
Xiaomi’s Black Shark 5 Pro gaming smartphone
The best gaming smartphone on the market today might just be the Black Shark 5 Pro.
It uses the latest Snapdragon 8 processor, has a massive 4550 mAh battery with more than 1,200 charge cycles, offers a refresh rate of 144 Hz, has liquid cooling and a 108 MP triple camera system. The starting price of $799 makes it a decent value, although I’d personally pay $100 more and get the better-equipped 12GB + 256GB model.
Black Shark 5 Series Gaming Smartphones / Image Credit: Black Shark
Another distinguishing factor is that it has physical game triggers, making it much faster than screen-based triggers, which is critical for competitive first-person shooter (FPS) games. I have owned a Xiaomi phone before and was impressed with the quality of the company.
This phone is available in two colors, white and black. I prefer the black version. But what makes this device stand out are the extreme cooling to avoid throttling the processor, the mechanical triggers, the top-quality Qualcomm processor, and the massive battery.
Other features include a 6.7-inch OLED display, HDR 10+, a 5 million to 1 contrast ratio, and a dual-zone pressure-sensitive display. The Black Shark 5 Pro is a beast of a gaming phone – and my product of the week.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.