Handheld Gaming – What happened?

Who remembers the Gameboy, the PSP, and the… well I guess we don’t have to ask who remembers the Nintendo DS, because it’s still around, and still has decent sales, but still who remembers having a Gameboy and being one of the cool kids? Then the PSP came around, and it was like having full console games in your pocket, and having the ability to store Music, and watch Movies, and have it all right there! Well, admittedly, we don’t have to ask what happened to make this device no longer popular. The advent of the smartphone, and development of games for 100% touch screen inputs, as well as all of the major game developers decided that this was going to be the future of portable gaming, so why not? When Apple released the iPad, and kickstarted the consumer tablet market, it was easy enough to take these games that had been developed for 3.5″ and 4″ screens, smooth the graphics, and blow them up to a 9.7″ screen, and voila! They could sell another copy of the same game! The graphic quality on these games has always been pretty great, however the story lines, and lack of advancement of previously successful franchises such as Doom, Halo, or Call of Duty onto these platforms, and lack of porting of popular MMORPG’s, and lack of processing power and control customization has always been something that would make hardcore gamers shy away from them.

I guess this is me just writing more about my nostalgia for the PSP, and classic portable gaming – I owned two PSP systems, and a little over a year ago, bought the PS Vita, which was the successor the the PSP, and still play it often. When you look at the quality of today’s mobile games industry though, what do you see? Sure, there are a few games that have story to them, such as Infinity Blade, or NOVA, and we even saw one Mass Effect game for mobile too! But compare any of that to the Resistance Fall of Man story and game play style, or the Call of Duty play style, Killzone, Borderlands, Little Big Planet, the list goes on, you just don’t see quite the same style, and it’s difficult to because the devices we’re using simply aren’t designed for games. Being able to play games on them the way we do is just a bonus. Nintendo, however, believes that the tablet market is the future of gaming, so much so that their last two systems have been tablet centric. The Wii U wasn’t the best seller, but it paved the way for the Switch, the tablet based machine that you simply dock to play on the TV, or slip the controllers on the sides. Is this the wave of the future? Will the next Playstation, or Xbox be tablet based? Nintendo has never really had high end focus on GPU and CPU speeds like Microsoft and Sony have, they’ve always gone for the family friendly gaming experiences.

Personally, I miss the classic handheld consoles, but if Sony or Microsoft were to go the way of Nintendo, and design a quality console that is portability focused, I’d give it a shot. I remember waiting and waiting for Microsoft to announce a handheld like the PSP and it never happening, and I’ve owned at least one iteration of every Sony portable. I think that the market still wants it, the Vita, while it’s mainly considered a dead console in the US, it is still very popular in Japan, and if a quality product is provided, and it is marketed properly, we could see a resurgence in the portable market.

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