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Former Microsoft exec: Mobile won't kill consoles

Shane Kim says the "total pie" of gaming is expanding and that console makers won't allow their hardware to lose out to mobile titles.

Will mobile games kill consoles?
Will mobile games kill consoles?

A former Microsoft gaming bigwig is convinced that the growth of mobile gaming won't eliminate the demand for game consoles.

In an interview with IndustryGamers published yesterday, former Microsoft Game Studios Vice President Shane Kim said he "would never" say mobile titles could kill game consoles such as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Kim believes that the gaming market is expanding, leaving room for titles dedicated to both game consoles and mobile devices.

Given Kim's history at Microsoft, some might believe that he has a vested interested in supporting consoles in their fight against mobile platforms. But it's worth noting that since leaving Microsoft, Kim joined the board of Zipline Games--a mobile-game development house.

"So will there be some impact on console gaming?" Kim asked in his interview with IndustryGamers. "I think it would be hard to say that there isn't any impact, but I would never say that it's going to go away completely. I think that the big console game manufacturers, they've all got plans for the next console generation. I think that they're all shooting to make sure that those next versions, whatever they look like, are going to be things that are going to be compelling for the kinds of gamers, especially hard-core gamers, who really enjoy that style of gaming."

Kim indicated that mobile gaming's biggest obstacle is power. He said "it's going to be a while before" mobile devices will boast the kind of graphical and processing prowess needed to take on game consoles.

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Even so, mobile gaming is becoming increasingly popular among consumers around the world. According to Flurry Analytics, which analyzes the portable-game software market, iOS and Android titles secured 34 percent of all mobile-gaming revenue last year. The Nintendo DS took 57 percent of the market, while the PlayStation Portable was able to muster only a 9 percent share.

Those figures stand in stark contrast to those of 2009. That year, according to Flurry Analytics, the DS owned 70 percent of the space, while Apple's iOS platform had 19 percent share. Android wasn't even a significant player in the market in 2009.

Mobile is also a major component in the growth of downloadable games. In May, research firm NPD announced that nearly half of all game downloads are completed on mobile devices. NPD also found that 40 percent of folks surveyed in its study say they're spending less on physical games, instead opting to put their cash into digital titles, such as those on mobile platforms.

That shift in the marketplace is helping the mobile-game business grow quite rapidly. Juniper Research said in November that in 2009, mobile-game revenue topped $6 billion. By 2015, it expects that figure to grow to more than $11 billion.

Kim believes that such growth is good for all stakeholders in the industry. He said in the interview that there are "different styles of games that are more popular on the different platforms, and that just creates more opportunities, clearly, for more developers to create content."