A popular online discussion of the moment is whether or not online games have overtaken console alternatives as the platform of choice. While the past decade has seen console gaming getting more and more realistic and increasingly social thanks to things like Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network allowing gamers to play with or against friends without having to be in the same room.

In recent years, however, the Internet has developed into a much more social place – you only have to see the popularity of places like Facebook and Twitter to see just how social with millions of users on each site. This has prompted many gamers to turn their attentions to the web, visiting gaming sites that are, in turn, having to develop their own features and offers to entice the users to them and keep them not only entertained, but coming back.

The majority of games that you can play on a console are, to an extent “multiplayer”, but this can mean just two people playing on the connected controllers. Games such as those on the Wii are much more of a “multi-player” style, but you’re somewhat limited in your choice of games still and the quality just isn’t as high as games like Tomb Raider on the Xbox or FIFA football on the PlayStation. The online space, however, offers gamers much more variety in terms of multi-player action, allowing you to play against all kinds of gamers – novice and to expert – from all around the world, and utilizing the social experiences offered by many online gaming sites today.

The addition of live chat features has become extremely popular, allowing gamers to talk to each other without having to close the on-screen window or having to buy expensive headsets and being embarrassed to shout out instructions in your family home in Aberdeen to people playing in Australia!

This can prove to be extremely beneficial to new gamers, who are now able to play the game and ask for advice to help them improve and understand. Online gambling has become increasingly popular the world over in the past few years but many playing a 5 reel slot machine game – for instance – might not know when to cut their losses or which buttons to press to help them to win, instead pressing the wrong one at the wrong time and losing it all. Just having that online chat feature may make the difference between that gamer having a good experience on-site, and a poor one. When you’re left to play a console game on your own, your only helpline of such is the instruction manual, which doesn’t tell you a great deal. Sure, you could head for online forums, but this cuts into your gaming time and the advice is either reliable or very unreliable depending on the sources!

The new platforms becoming available all the time make it much more likely that online gaming is only going to develop further still in the coming years. The recent additions of tablets and smartphones to the gaming market have enabled gamers to play whatever they like, wherever they like, whenever they like, as opposed to when they get a spare hour to sit down in front of a PC or console. The graphics on online, tablet and mobile games are getting better with every release, and in the case of downloaded apps for tablets and smartphones, the regular updates means that the games have new levels added all the time and that any bugs can be fixed. Unfortunately, console games don’t offer this feature – you pay your money and you play the game as it is.

We’re certainly moving through a transitional era in the gaming world, and it’s looking increasingly likely that console games are going to slip down the pecking order behind the online market and then the tablet and smartphone app markets too.

Matt Rawlings is a UK-based technology and gaming enthusiast with a keen eye for the latest developments.

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