The PS Vita and the 3DS have a common problem.
With the 3DS already released and the Vita on its way, it got me thinking about the place these devices have in my life. One common problem occurred to me. They are not phones.
To bring my point across we must jump back in time when the PSP and the DS were released. I remember think this is quite cool. A console in my hand. They seemed perfect for travelling and great for passing the time. Now we are going to jump a couple of years with the release of the 360 and the PS3. How so much as changed in such a short time. A drive to become a multimedia device has become more apparent. Sony's attempt to get a blu-ray player in every house left a mark on the gaming industry. These console were not just about gaming any more it had to do everything. Just to produce a gaming console is just not enough. To maximise profits the casual and non gamer must be added to the install base. It then became apparent that this multimedia image came a little too soon because the Wii with interesting new technology grasped this casual market with little multimedia functionality. However as this generation progressed this theme of multimedia functionality became more of a main feature than a nice extra.
Now smart phones have been around for some time. Arguable it didn't take off until the RIM brought out their Blackberry line of phones. It instantly become popular with business people who loved the function of sending emails and having a phone in the same device. But this wasn't anything like the surge to come in 2007. Apple's Iphone shot multimedia devices into the masses. It was a small computer in your pocket that was also a phone. Not only could you check your emails and call people but you could do much more. Now ,on N4G, the idea of the Iphone being used for gaming is seen as blaspheme. In the early days it did struggled but as it progressed the gaming part of the phone became more apparent. It was seen to be cool to have one.
Now the background is out of the way I can get to my original point. The 3DS and PS Vita have one common flaw. They are not phones. Times have changed since the release of the PSP and Nintendo DS. Carrying around one all inclusive device has become very popular in recent years and almost a necessity.
To say, on N4G, the Iphone and other android smartphones are a threat to gaming is followed by onslaughts of abuse especially on the topic of how you are not a "real gamer". This type of gaming is having little to no affect on home consoles but it is ,however, having an effect on portable gaming. It is hard to ignore the success the App Store has had on mobile gaming. The 69p games have very low development cost but relativity high return. These games are also small simple games perfect for on the move. There are other types of games (like Modern Combat) who gets the controls spot on but lack the battery life to really play. This however because a mute point in the large scheme of things.
I am finding it harder and harder to justify getting a dedicated portable gaming machine when the times I am on the move (or anyone for that matter) is barley long enough to justify getting into a fully fledged game. The BBC in 2003 said the average commute in the UK was 45 minutes (which was the highest in Europe). There were no collective figures I could find for America but for Washington it was around 25 minutes in 2006. OK these are people who have jobs but school children are no better. Considering in the UK a lot (bare in mind not all) live in there schools catchment area. My commute was no different to the figures produced by the BBC. The only aspect in life I can see buying a PS vita or a 3DS useful is on flights, where you are spending some hours sitting in one place.
No you may be thinking what I haven't really talked about the phone aspect in great detail but I have in directly. The problem the Vita and the 3DS has is they are in direct competition to the Iphone and android devices but without the most essential component. I know a lot of you will be getting it and think I am mad but even if all of you on N4G get it that isn't enough for the companies. We must look at the bigger picture and so must they. Sony tried, sought of, with the Xperia Play. It ended up being half of each. It wasn't a good phone nor was it a good gaming device. I do hope this hasn't scared Sony off. These smart phone devices offer more games (I know some are garbage) for less money so buying a game at 69p doesn't drain on your wallet like PSP and 3DS games do.
The 3DS has hit road blocks right from the get go. The hardcore gamer seemed less interested by the limited number of games and the casual were not as easily impressed by new 3D technology as they were when the Wii came out. The biggest test for both the systems is when the Vita comes out. It should sell in Japan as they love pocket gaming but with the increase popularity of smart phones, that do everything, there seems to be little reason to get the Vita and 3DS with the £20 per game price tag.
Phones are not the same as they use to be, nor are MP3 players. They have evolved with the times like many other devices. The two dedicated gaming machines must evolve or die and at the moment they are in danger of the latter