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Setting the Record Straight On: Handheld Gaming

"The 3DS won't sell as well as the DS."

"The PSVita is doomed."

"Smartphones and tablets are going to destroy the dedicated handheld gaming market."

Over the past few years, we've heard all these and a dozen variations one each. Often, it's just a fanboy trying to make his case for why a handheld from some other company is inferior to his preferred company's product. This is easily enough brushed off as the silliness that it is.

But far too often, we hear these same things from people who claim to be experts. Their reasoning is usually that mobile gaming is on the rise, while handheld numbers continue to decline. They cite the popularity of games like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, and speculate that it's only a matter of time before handhelds become obsolete.

They seem to be forgetting, however, a few very important things.

Correlation Does Not Imply Causation
This is, perhaps, the largest factor that they don't... well, factor in. But it's a very simple concept: two things happening at the same time does not prove that one caused the other. The analysts and journalists seem to believe that the decline in handheld sales has happened BECAUSE of the increase in the sales of smartphones and tablets.

But not one report or article has proved this; most of them assume causation and base everything else they say on that. There are a dozen or more factors that could also be affecting sales of handhelds, such as the economic downturn of recent years, and a lack of appealing games. Without getting too complicated, this is called a logical fallacy: something that ignores logic to try and win an argument. (Also, it should be noted that the two newest handhelds are both outselling their predecessors- both of which sold tens of millions of systems- and look to have strong futures ahead of them.)

Gaming Experiences Are Not Comparable
More frequently now, people are trying to equate gaming on a tablet or smartphone to gaming on the 3DS or Vita. They cite the fun they have playing a 99 cent game, or a remake of some older game, and somehow come to the conclusion that this is the same as playing on a handheld. That low price point comes into play as value is brought up for why mobile gaming is superior, as well. What gets neglected is the actual games: to the best of my knowledge, there's no Mario on smartphone. No Pokemon, no Persona. No Call of Duty or Bioshock.

And not only are many of these games not available for various licensing reasons, but a large number are also not possible. Whether it's dual screens or dual analog sticks (or even one), you wouldn't be able to play the games on your Galaxy S or iPad. And sure, there's a controller you can buy for tablets... which you'll have to carry around with you, which diminishes the "portable" nature of your gaming experience. It also utterly destroys the validity of being able to play certain games on a tablet. ("Oh yeah? Well, I can play with all the controls you can... after I add this controller which totally isn't a built-in part of my tablet. But it still counts!")

Gamers Still Want Dedicated Devices
It may be hard for some to believe, but the majority of traditional gamers actually prefer to play games on actual gaming devices. Even I've played some Angry Birds and Snake (yeah, going back to the old-school on that one), but I'd much prefer even those games on my PSP or DS Lite... if I still had em. Traditional gamers may indulge in some of the "time-waster" games that mobile gaming primarily consists of, but they would much rather have the full gaming experiences available from Sony and Nintendo's dedicated devices.

As with anything, I can't say for certain that I speak for the majority of traditional gamers when I say this, but I think I'm close enough to the majority that I'm confident in my assertion. Gamers- the type that visits sites like this and keep up on gaming news, the type that cares enough about the industry to have favorite developers- want a dedicated gaming device.

Nobody has all the answers; I'll certainly never claim to. But this one seems to be a no-brainer... which some people STILL somehow miss. Worse is that the people getting it wrong are thought of as experts, and worse still is that others follow these "experts" without a moment's consideration or hesitation.

The best I can do is try to shed a little light on the subject.

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s45gr322295d ago

Well, ummm the main reason why mobile gaming has risen in recent years is mainly due that it provides mobile gaming experiences. See games like Bioshock, Call of Duty, Uncharted are best played on a gaming console or PC. I do not want a console gaming experience on my handheld I want a game that is suited for mobile gaming. Are we as gamers not talking about games being played while we are waiting at the hospital, DMV, AAA office, riding the bus, train, or taxi. That's were you play say games on a handheld no. Wny would I want to use my handheld at home were there is a big ass tv or capable gaming rig. See this is why the so called experts are championing tablets, smart phones as taking over handhelds. One is these devices deliver mobile games while you are outside the house not console or PC gaming experiences. The games are cheap, cloud saving as opposed to memory card saving, get the games digitally my pockets are not big enough to carry cartridges or discs. There is no excuse to against digital distribution when it comes to mobile devices. Xperia Play is a smart phone with a ps one controler layout. Expect future phones following suit of the experia. A mobile game should be simple and straight to the point. If I am riding the bus I do not want to play bioshock because is too time consuming. That is my two cents on this subject.

dedicatedtogamers2295d ago

The things that surprises me most is the claim that - somehow - "mobile gaming is killing handheld gaming".

If that is the case, experts and journalist pundits alike, where are the numbers?

Last time I checked the sales numbers for the DS and the PSP, they had sold a combined 220 million units, and there's no sign of slowing down. Wait, 220 million? Yes, and that would make the DS and PSP not only the highest-selling handheld generation of all time, but THE HIGHEST-SELLING GAMING GENERATION (pound for pound) OF ALL TIME.

How in the world can people see that and honestly think that handheld gaming is dying?

darthv722295d ago

a convenience that was exclusively dominated by handhelds. I used to bring my psp or ds to work with me until I got a phone that was able to play minute wasting games between meetings.

The convenience of only packing around one device that serves multiple purposes and can blend in with society is increasing. People arent packing around their mp3 players as much when their smart phones are capable to playing back their playlist just as well.

Gamers may still want dedicated devices but the general consumer is more interested in less complication and more simplicity and convenience. Mobile gaming may not be killing handhelds or consoles but it is certainly contributing to the increasing trend of casual and social entertainment on the go.

So much so that nintendo and sony know they have to have their dedicated gaming platforms be able to offer more than just gaming. Netflix, web, email, social networking....etc. 10 years ago you would have thought twice of a handheld doing those things but then again...10 years ago who thought games would be taken more seriously on cell phones?

We are seeing the transition of gaming and evolution of gaming at the same time on the same platfrom. Just like the 2600 paved the way to eventual heavy hitter like the 360 and ps3. Mobile gaming is too paving the way to an evolutionary change in how we will game over the next many years.

30+ years of gaming the same way has to lead to an eventual change. Even if it means non traditional methods.

smashcrashbash2295d ago

@ s45gr32. Again with the same BS. Why doesn't anyone listen? The VITA for example has both complex games and games you can just pick up and play on the go. What is so bad about having both? You play long games on long trips and short games on short trips.Simple as that. It's not complicated. And ask for the argument that phone games are cheap, there is lots of shovelware that is cheap but that doesn't mean I want to buy it. Cheap doesn't equal good in a real gamers mind.

A good game is worth the price of admission. I don't play garbage or overblown flash games because it is cheaper.Play your phone games all you like but stop trying to pretend it is on the same level or the same league as handheld gaming. Gamers still buy handheld games at the current price. People who play phone games wouldn't even touch them if they were the same price as them. Angry Birds wouldn't be as popular if it cost $40.00.

s45gr322295d ago

I am not pretending that cell phone gaming is on the same level as handhelds. Is just more practical to have a phone that does everything plus gaming than having a phone, and a handheld. My fear of today's gaming handhelds is they are not catering to the gamer I do not support Sony on having to buy proprietary memory cards in order to play my games nor having to pay for a 3G online service. With the 3DS is having to pay for N64 remakes at $40.00 for one game that is unreasonable due to the fact a PS2 bundle with two games cost the same didn't the N64 came before PS2. Onlive is something I did not mention which I should of have and the fact that I can play games like bioshock, L.A. Noire, Batman Arkham Asylum via an Android Cell phone through the Onlive App(it also allows me as a gamer to continue my game via onlive on my HD TV set, laptop, or gaming rig when I come home and continue were I left off from my droid phone). Is there a reason to own a handheld. Is less hassle on the Smart Phone platform due to the fact you go with Metro PCS or Boost Mobile buy an Android Phone pay $50.00 a month for unlimited web, text,call, e-mail, plus data. Is cheaper than buy a phone a handheld. Today's Handhelds are implementing features that are already available on a smart phone i.e. Netflix (it is coming to 3DS), web, facebook, four square, etc. mostly on vita. Which proves that even though a smart phone is not killing hand helds is giving them a run for their money. The whole point is that today's gamers are more willing to throw away money than actually saving. A smart phone is cheaper through Metro PCS or Boost Mobile plus you can hook it up to your TV to watch whatever movie, tv show, or sports you were watching on your phone on the HD TV set you own.

thorstein2295d ago

I had to go back and look at his post... I just ignored him after the 1st sentence.

caseh2295d ago (Edited 2295d ago )

Smart phones are just beginning to become interesting. They are packing dual-core 1.5ghz processors, in excess of 1gb RAM and gbs of built in storage.

The important aspect here is that EVERYONE I know owns a smartphone, in this day and age its essential. Knowing I can get the internet etc etc etc on my phone makes having this additional functionality on a handheld like a 3DS or PS Vita irrelevant as i'm always going to have my phone on me.

Look up Generations of Chaos on Android, its a PSP port. Average game but the important factor here is that its a PSP game...and i'm playing it on my mobile. I fully understand I won't be playing games like Uncharted on my mobile anytime soon but more companies will start devoting more time to creating better games. It won't kill the handheld market but it will definately impact it to some extent.

I won't be buying the Vita or a 3DS and i've owned a fair few handhelds over the past few years with the last one being a PSP. Don't underestimate the power of a £3 game on a mobile phone. :D

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