Since the early days of mobile, the theory that mobile phones (and now tablets) would replace handheld game devices from Nintendo and Sony has been repeated a million times.
I’ve felt from the early days of the smartphone that handheld consoles would face a real “pocket space” challenge, in that people would only carry so many devices with them at one time. During the early gold rush in the mobile gaming space, I was pretty certain that the 3DS and the PlayStation Vita were doomed.
Just look at the numbers. Tablet prices are extremely competitive or below the cost of a handheld console, and offer other valuable features like web browsing, email, texting, and app stores. A sea of free games (with pay as you play elements) is already available, and the marketplace is growing at an insane pace.
It just seems so logical. Console handhelds are doomed.
And then…you play one. Tearaway, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Pokémon X & Y, Guacamelee, Steamworld Dig – the list goes on and on of the amazing experiences that are possible on handheld consoles.
A device designed specifically to play games can be magical. Not only do the action games they support play better, they don’t interrupt my play with meeting invitations, emails, or “OMG” Facebook posts. Instead, the experience purely is about playing the game.
This isn’t to say mobile and tablet experiences are horrible. I play tons of games on my devices, and the experiences tailored to those platforms are amazing. But the same holds true for handheld consoles, and I am a big believer in their power.
While the stock market analysts might tell you that handhelds are dead, I believe just the opposite. There is no better way to game on the go, and there will always be a market for those willing to go the extra mile or pay the extra dollar to experience the best the industry has to offer. In my mind, nothing does mobile gaming better than the handheld devices I have loved since the days of the Game Boy.
Editor-in-Chief, Game Informer