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.