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August 29th 2012 9:22 am

The future of portable gaming - dedicated handhelds or gaming tablets?

With the recent explosion in the popularity of mobile gaming, pundits have been forecasting the end of dedicated gaming consoles like the PlayStation Vita and the Nintendo 3DS, saying that these are increasingly becoming niche devices and that most people will be doing their gaming on their phones, on tablets, or on the iPod touch, the latter being advertised as a gaming device by Apple.

Then again, what does that say with the announcement of products like the Razer Project Fiona, a Windows 8 tablet that comes with two attached controllers for more precise control of games, and now today, the Archos GamePad, essentially laid out as a game controller that happens to have a screen in the middle? To look at the design of the GamePad, it is very (very, very) reminiscent of Sony devices like the PSP and Vita.

If products like these take off, then it is safe to say that dedicated gaming devices aren't exactly dead. Project Fiona and GamePad were both built for gaming, and they just happen to do a lot of other things too. And the same is true of the Vita and 3DS, which have the ability to access the Internet, play media, and take photos. In fact, Sony and Nintendo have been looking for ways to expand the capabilities of their handhelds for years—remember the Game Boy Camera and Game Boy Printer? We've come to expect more from our gaming consoles, both handheld and home, and they are giving us more.


If anything is dead or dying, it's the proprietary firmware/OS that dedicated consoles run on. Sony already has PlayStation Suite/Mobile, which lets them provide content across various "PlayStation Certified" devices like the Xperia Play and their tablets (Tablet P and Tablet S). As they extend the range there won't be enough of a distinction between the original PlayStation devices and the certified devices to justify separating the two. I wouldn't be surprised if Sony eventually creates a PlayStation-brand device that runs a skinned version of Android (though Sony is notorious for always wanting to create their own formats, in the end they usually surrender anyway).

Nintendo is likely to be a little more stubborn, given that they are still slow to embrace the full capabilities of the Internet and don't play well with others. But it's likely that they will keep building more features into their handhelds and consoles, and now, with products like Project Fiona and the Archos GamePad, they don't look so out-of-place or antiquated.

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8 replies

I don't think dedicated gaming like the 3DS will ever go away, yet. I think Nintendo and Sony still do incredibly well in that market overseas and that's where they are selling the units. At least I can't see Nintendo moving away, Sony seems more likely.

I agree with you on that we'll start to see a convergence of sorts with devices becoming more unified like the Xperia Play, but better implementations obviously. With how much stuff is becoming available via download it makes no sense, IMO, to have dedicated devices and not tap into the mobile market.
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We have already seen massive improvement in those devices. I always love to bring this up, but the Nokia N-Gage which sort of pioneered this (and I was guilty of wanting one as a young person). The N-Gage was awful, and the N-Gage QD was a major improvement to show how much they learned. Of course by then it was too late for them.

Then we saw this phone (www.unwiredview.com­/2007­/05­/17­/samsung­-anycall­-520...)

Then the Xperia Play. Each looking more impressive as time goes on, and I am excited to see what the future holds.
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I kinda wonder if the possible success of ouya will make handhelds the next thing to take on for android
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That would be really nice. Gaming on Android is really lagging compared to iOS. The success of OUYA and PlayStation Brand on Android, that should help boost gaming on Android. It's already seen major improvements, but it's still faaaar from what iOS offers.
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I agree with you Kris that dedicated gaming devices may not be dead but I think the traditional handheld gaming is dead. Gone are the days when people are willing to pay $20-$40 for a good handheld game. Now, most people will not spend more than $0.99 on a game for a quick 5 min. gaming session.

Also, since phones and mobile OSs advance so fast nowadays I feel that no developer will spend the time to make a AAA title because, by the time it comes out, it'll dated when compared to games that come out at that time that were made for the new breed of hardware.

I'm holding out though. I really hope that developers will always get some value from developing good games for dedicated portables. The last thing I want to do on a handheld is to play an ad-supported Angry Birds RPG.
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I personally won't buy another handheld gaming device from Nintendo or Sony, simply because it's been proven that money can be made with $1 apps. I can't justify spending $40 on a portable game any longer. Yet at the same time, I strongly dislike the lack of physical game controls that tablets have. That's precisely why I'm salivating for the Gamepad.

Interestingly enough, the whole reason I want this badboy is for emulation, and the only way that emulation succeeds is when sony/nintendo/microsoft make games for dedicated systems. So for me, one can't exist without the other.

I think there's always going to dedicated games, but Sony and Nintendo seriously need to play catch up to change their business models for the times. I wish MS would release a dedicated handheld and make all of their xbox-live arcade games work on it. Not out of the realm of possibility.
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You forgot nVidia's Project Shield...
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I didn't forget, this post was written last year!
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