Developers may have no option but to embrace smart phones, says id's John Carmack.
The gaming world might be abuzz with excitement about the 3DS and the NGP, but Carmack isn't entirely sure that the portable gaming market will support another generation of dedicated hardware. He thinks that Nintendo and Sony's upcoming handhelds might be the last we ever see.
Carmack didn't think that multi-function, touch screen devices were ever going to be as good for playing games on as a dedicated gaming handheld. However, he thought that the games you could play on an iPhone or similar device, weren't a million miles away, and for some people that would be good enough. Carmack wasn't sure exactly how many might settle for what he called an "80% gaming device," but said that if it was a big enough number, then developers would have no choice but to follow. "If that's what the consumers are going to trend towards on there, there may not be much as developers we can do about that," he said. "You don't always get to build pyramids just because you want to."
There's certain some truth in what Carmack is saying, but what he's describing is very much a worst case scenario. There's no reason that developers can't make content for dedicated handhelds and for devices like the iPhone or iPad, and it's hard to believe that Apple or Android will be such a big threat that making new hardware becomes completely unfeasible.
Just like Carmack says, there will inevitably be some shrinkage of the audience for devices like the 3DS and NGP due to the rise of smart phones. Those audience aren't going to just disappear entirely, though, as there will always be some gamers for whom an "80% gaming device" isn't enough. The 3DS, for example, might not reach the 145 million units its predecessor sold, but it could sell half of that total, or even less, and still make money for Nintendo.