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The Evolution of Mobile Gaming

Mobile is by far the most popular platforms for developers of puzzle / casual games nowadays, overcoming the desktop PC by far. No wonder - the smartphone is what I like to call the "gadget of the century" - the device that everybody wants. All "app stores" (I don't have a better name for them) are filled with games, free or not, along with a series of other programs meant to keep us busy all day long.
This revolution in portable gaming has started long ago - at least from the technological point of view. Now you can just touch a shortcut on your mobile to play pokies now at Red Flush, but 35 years ago no such things existed. The whole concept of portable gaming was introduced by a Japanese game designer Gunpei Yokoi at Nintendo in the late 1970s. According to the anecdotal evidence, Gunpei was playing around with a pocket calculator when he thought of the first pocket-sized gaming device that was later sold as the Game & Watch.
The Game & Watch was exactly what its name suggests: a game and a watch combined. It had a single game with a monochrome display, a rudimentary controller (usually the game only involved horizontal movement), a watch and an alarm clock. Although not many have expected it, but this device was the first major success for Japanese game producer Nintendo, and was marketed for over a decade, until 1991.
The second most important device in the history of pocket gaming was also a Nintendo product, the Game Boy. This was a small device with a monochrome display, but it had the potential to run several games by changing cartridges. Although it had more sophisticated competitors, even with color displays, the Game Boy was a huge success, mostly due to its lower price and superior battery life. Nintendo released the Game Boy in 1989 in Japan, and has sold almost 120 million units of it worldwide. This device was later redesigned several times.
A few years later it was time for another revolution. At the 2003 edition of the E3 - the Electronic Entertainment Expo - Sony has presented the PlayStation Portable, the device that has redefined portable gaming. This was the first handheld console to go beyond gaming - it had strong multimedia capabilities, a huge screen, and the capability to connect to the internet.
The popularity of the PSP was only overcome by the release of a multi-functional portable device, that gathered the capabilities of a telephone, a media center and a gaming device: the iPhone. Its release in 2007 has redefined not just the smartphone, but the gaming device as well. A whole industry has been built around the development and distribution of content, software in general and games in special for the new device, and its epigones. The smartphone - and the tablet, of course - has slowly become the most popular gaming device of them all, with the richest offer and the biggest game variety.
What's next, you might ask. It will be interesting to see what the future of mobile gaming holds for us. I can imagine completely immersive games with the use of "virtual reality" devices like the Oculus Rift, or augmented reality helped by the likes of the Google Glass. One thing is for sure, though - it will impress.





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