It's all about the processors, baby!
Mobile gamers will be enjoying console-quality titles by 2012, according to ARM's Izar Romdan, speaking at today's Mobile Games Forum.
"The hardware that is going to be provided will allow you to have richer graphics, realistic environments, and more effects like water reflections, blue skies and bump mapping," said Romdan.
ARM has worked with several developers to port mobile games to its Mali range of GPUs. He showed versions of Project Gotham Racing and Powerboat Challenge (from Glu and Fishlabs respectively).
The company has launched a new website called Mali Developer Center to help developers port their mobile games to the Mali GPUs, with free tools, documentation and source code for engines and example games.
Two boards are currently using Mali technology: the ST Ericsson STE MOP500, which is being used as a reference platform for the Symbian foundation, and also being proposed for Android and Linux smartphones.
Romdan had one of these boards with him and passed it round the room. In this non-technical journalist's view, it looks chiptastic (proof here). Developers can order one now.
"The board is going to power two smartphones from major OEMs, which are going to be available probably at the beginning of 2011," he said. "I can't comment on their price point, but they will be very high-end smartphones."
What about iPhone? Romdan sensibly wouldn't be drawn on when or whether Mali GPUs will make it into Apple's handsets.
Meanwhile, Korean firm Telechips has a TCC8900 board, which ARM is also helping developers to port their games to. However, ARM is also providing OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0 emulators for developers who don't have the physical boards.
But it's the 'console-quality by 2012' claim that may be a talking point. After all, what is console-quality, really? An iPhone 3GS running at top-whack can already rival a PS2, and probably a Wii. One to ponder.