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Dead on Arrival: Handhelds in a Mobile Market
on January 27, 2011 at 02:29 PM
It has been a long time since I have written a blog for the site. Part of the reason is because I have been busy but the major reason is that I never had any topics to go off of until now. I am currently reading the liveblog for the Sony PlayStation conference currently taking place in Japan and it has got me thinking about the potential future this and other handheld devices have. I know this isn’t exactly a unique topic and it is one that has already been touched on before, however, I thought I would go ahead and give my two cents.
Nintendo in my honest opinion has failed to market the DS as anything but a dedicated video game handheld system. They may have stuck on cameras to the system which can then be used to take pictures and make useless modifications. Even the earlier iterations of the DS had basic wi-fi connectivity that would allow you to do basic things like local chat. However, no version of the DS has really taken off because of it has extensive social features. The 3DS also seems to be headed in the same direction. Sure the system looks like it will support more social in game features but based on what has been revealed to us thus far it looks like everything will be directly tied to individual games.
Nintendo has announced in the past the possibility of the 3DS being able to play 3D movies which would be stored in SD cartridges. This looks like a great way for expanding the use of the 3DS and if major movie studios get behind it could possibly become one of the systems main selling factors. This looks like a great idea and SD cartridges look like the right way of doing it as they are rather small and durable so you could just stick a bunch of them in a bag for a long flight.
In all honesty I do believe the 3DS sell extremely well especially amongst children. I believe the ability to play games in 3D will be a great hook for younger children. Nintendo’s good old first party support will also ensure that Mario, Zelda, and fans of other Nintendo games will enjoy the system as well.
There are some problems that I do see for Nintendo down the road. First, the battery life is said to be capped at around the five hour mark. For many people like myself this pretty much prevents the 3DS from being the go to entertainment system while on the go. The other problem with the system is that outside of 3D it isn’t doing anything new. Yes there is more powerful hardware which will allow for better graphics, however, we all ready have that with the current generation of the PSP. Now granted there is still some time before the system releases so I doubt we have heard about all the features that the 3DS will offer but as of right now the system seems like a one trick pony.
At this point, 2:11AM and a bunch of information has just been unleashed about Sony’s PSP successor or NGP as Kaz likes to call it. In all honesty I am not sure what to make of the system. It sounds like Sony, is really offering a lot of support with the system which is a good thing. If any one thing ruined the PSP it was definitely the lack of support. A simple comparison of Japanese hardware sales versus American hardware sales can show you just how much potential the PSP had.
I do have reservations about this new handheld though. For one there is as of now there hasn’t been any pricing detail. The system is equipped with a microphone, an impressive display, two cameras, two analog sticks, six axis motion control, 3G, and some amazing processing power as games like Uncharted have been shown. For the looks of it right now it looks like a pretty expensive device but I guess we will have to just wait and see. Another problem with that the system might have is lack of support. Sony has mentioned all of these cool feature, however, looking at their past record they have a habit of announcing great plans for their products and then never following up on it or worse not implementing them world wide. I guess time will tell if Sony has learned from its previous mistakes or if the NGP will end up like the PSPGo.
Lastly, I want to take a look at the mobile gaming market specifically the iPhone as that is the only one I have any experience with. I know a lot of “hardcore gamers” seem to dismiss iPhone games and don’t really consider them “real games” but I actually think there is something them. For one the market is rather wide and varied which a good. Looking at consoles the one thing you notice is a prevalence of first person shooters in fact there was a nice blog by warbuff on this very topic today. This isn’t to say that the same problem doesn’t occur on the iPhone. There are countless tower defense games for example. Regardless the market seems varied enough with games like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Fruit Ninja.
The other thing that I see happening with iPhone games is an increase in depth. While I feel there is some validity to the fact that the previously mentioned games aren’t rather deep, the device seems too be capable of delivering that hardcore experience. Games like Infinity Blade offer a richer combat. A recent Dead Space game is receiving amazing reviews as being a game worthy of the franchise. If more games like the ones above are released for the iPhone (and I honestly think it is just a matter of time) then I think it could easily be the go to device for on the go gaming.
The iPhone has a number of advantages right from the start. First and foremost is that the device pretty much accompanies the owner everywhere. [Side Note: Conference just ended]. The other thing is battery life. Phones especially good ones are built to last the whole day a major plus for on the go gaming. Another plus are the specs for most smart phones are top notch. These devices have to have a constant operating system running and enough power run all these different features. Lastly, is that they have a number of other uses. Music, video, pictures, communication are all built into the iPhone and other mobile device and this simply makes it much easier to market the device over dedicated handhelds like the 3DS.
Now I feel it wouldn’t be fair to simply ignore the disadvantages of the mobile gaming market so I am going to point them out even though I feel they aren’t major problems. For one the mobile gaming market has a lot more variation in systems. Obviously you have you iOS device but there is also the Android system and the Window 7 system. A big problem with being a mobile gamer is that not all games reach every system which is a shame. However, I don’t really see this as being a problem exclusive to the mobile industry and current home consoles have their own “exclusives” as well. Another problem that plagues non-iOS users is price. Simply put being a mobile gamer means having to pay a constant fee to your service provider. This severely hinders the younger who simply don’t have the money to constantly pay a monthly fee. Apple has a convenient solution to this in that the iPod Touch pretty much does everything the iPhone does without having to pay for a constant monthly fee.
Apple looks to a have very good working system. Their products are roughly the same in price as dedicated handheld systems and their games are substantially cheaper than the games you find on Nintendo’s or Sony’s system. Content also gets updated onto the App Store regularly and so far all games are backwards [and forwards] compatible.
Anyways I’ve rambled on long enough so I’ll conclude by taking a small survey. Have any of you played some of the “deeper” gaming experiences available on mobile devices? Do you think that eventually these “deeper” experience will eventually add up to equal those of dedicated handheld devices? Do you think Apple will end up forcing Nintendo and Sony into making their handheld devices more “all in one” devices like the iPhone? or will mobile gaming die out eventually?
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