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The Rise of Mobile Gaming on Android

Back when I was growing up playing Atari games, I never would have imagined how amazing modern console-quality gaming would become. Who would have thought that we could take that console-quality gaming experience to mobile devices? Not me, but we are there today. Today’s mobile graphics are approaching the visual quality of consoles and PCs with high-end graphics cards. The image below shows a mobile versus PC rendering for Epic Unreal Engine 4. Can you tell the difference? Neither can I.

No wonder mobile gaming is the fastest growing segment in the game industry.[1] Let me tell you how Android is a big reason for this growth and how Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI) is helping the industry to take advantage of this opportunity and fuel that growth even further.

The Android platform provides an excellent opportunity for game developers

The rapid iteration and fast innovation of Android have created a thriving ecosystem, with numerous form factors across device tiers. On the device side, 78.4% of smartphones shipped last year were Android, outselling devices based on the next leading smartphone mobile OS by almost 5x.[2] Android device shipments (smartphones and tablets) are projected to exceed one billion units in 2014.[3] On the apps side, 75% of Android users play games[4], accounting for 90% of the app-generated revenue on Google Play[5]. With the largest user base, Android devices provide a growing opportunity for game developers to generate revenue on a global scale.

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ processors support immersive gaming experiences at low power and thermals

Consumers expect console-quality graphics and long battery life when playing any mobile game. However, enabling advanced mobile gaming experiences for sustained periods is challenging. Consoles and PCs have the luxury of being able to use fans (and large heat sinks) while drawing triple-digit wattages from an external power outlet. Mobile devices, on the other hand, are passively cooled, powered by a battery, and limited to single-digit wattages in order to meet the power and thermal constraints of the thin form factor.

Through its Snapdragon processors, QTI is addressing this performance and power challenge by taking a heterogeneous computing approach and designing an efficient SoC architecture.

QTI has a long history of taking a heterogeneous computing approach to mobile processor design. This approach intelligently utilizes specialized engines, such as the GPU, DSP, and display engine, to support new immersive experiences, while helping to maximize battery life and thermal efficiency. From a processing perspective, games are comprised of multiple tasks. To support the optimal gaming experience at the lowest power and thermal levels, each task should be designed to run on the most appropriate engine, such as running the graphics rendering on the GPU.

An efficient SoC architecture is required in order to sustain console-quality gaming at high frame rates within the thermal and power constraints of mobile devices. Smartly managing the shared system resources, such as memory bandwidth, power budget, and thermal budget, is necessary. For example, Snapdragon processors are designed to deploy smart caching mechanisms in many processing engines to help minimize the need for frequent DRAM access.

Snapdragon processors support a consistent development platform across tiers

Developers want scale. With numerous custom-designed form factors across device tiers, developers need an efficient way to address a sizeable portion of the Android gaming segment with minimal code variations.

QTI was the #1 provider of Android smartphone AP shipments in 2013.[6] By optimizing their games on Snapdragon processors, developers have the opportunity to reach this very large and growing installed base of Android devices with Snapdragon processors that span across various price tiers and regions.

Featuring innovations like the scalable Qualcomm® Adreno™ GPU, Snapdragon processors are designed to support great gaming experiences for a spectrum of devices by providing consistent features and APIs across product tiers. Having common support of APIs and features ranging from entry-level to premium devices helps make it easier for developers to introduce next-generation features to mass audiences, without having to custom design for each device tier.

 

QTI enables developers to unlock the performance and advanced features of Snapdragon processors.

 

It takes more than just great hardware to advance the mobile gaming industry. To support game developers in producing immersive games, QTI provides comprehensive tools, extensive support, and advanced technologies.

For example, QTI offers comprehensive development tools, including the Adreno SDK, Adreno Profiler, and Trepn Profiler, and works closely with game ecosystem enablers, such as third-party game engine providers.

To help further advance the evolution of gaming, QTI and its affiliates have developed (and continue to develop) innovative technologies that support ever-more advanced capabilities and features including vision-based augmented reality (Qualcomm® Vuforia™), proximal peer-to-peer networking (AllJoyn™), biometrics, and more.

To find more in depth analysis about Android gaming on Snapdragon processors, please read a recently published white paper entitled: The Rise of Mobile Gaming on Android: Qualcomm Snapdragon Technology Leadership. It provides deeper insight into the key points discussed above.  

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[1]       Source: Gartner, October 2013, “Forecast Video Game Ecosystem Worldwide”

[4]        Kris Holt, “Google Adds Some Serious Oomph to Play Games

[5]        eMarketer, “Game Apps Are No. 1 for Amazon, Apple and Google

[6]        Strategy Analytics, April 2014

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