Is the Handheld Dying?
This has been a question on most people's lips since the rise of the Iphone. After all, we're only one Pokemon app away from rendering the DS and it's ilk practically redundant. But with PS Vita fresh on the market and condescending advertisements for it blaring across most channels (seriously, who wrote those? Because they should be fired. Out of a cannon into the sun) I can't help but wonder if it will sink or swim, is it different enough to make it in a smartphone dominated market?
Well, first let's look at the previous successful handhelds. Obviously Nintendo jumps to mind, considering they have been the big player in handhelds since they came up with the game boy way back in 1989. So in the last few years we've had two Nintendo systems, the DS and the 3DS. Now the DS was the most successful handheld of all time, outselling most regular consoles and generally getting 8-14 year olds and the Japanese all aflutter. In fact, it's the second most sold games console of all time (behind the Playstation 2) which should tell you something about the appeal of Pokemon games (ok, I'm sure it has other games to and they are somehow relevant).
Then Nintendo came out with the 3DS, which had a slow start but a successful first holiday season based off of its unique 3D technology. Not for some, with complaints of motion sickness and blurriness heard off in the nosebleeds, but definitely a success once it had time to get some momentum going. Time will tell if it will rival the DS, but it's safe to say that Nintendo is ok on the handheld front and they are happy to play it safe and release similar consoles and titles to those they have been doing for the last twenty odd years.
Then Playstation thought it could break into the market with the PSP back in 2004. This brought a larger screen, better graphics and a whole range of games which hadn't been seen in handheld form before. This was a moderate success for them, if not the gamechanger they were looking for - people weren't quite ready to break out of their Nintendo bubble quite yet. To compare it to the DS (released in 2004 also) it's the 7th best sold console of all time. Which is still exceeding the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, but then again it's a lot cheaper than either of those also.
Cut to today. With Iphones and Adroids, tablets and kindle products flooding the market - it seems like everyone is using a handheld of some form, and quite a lot of them for gaming. That's the good news. However, none of these are a traditional "handheld console" and they provide direct competition for these systems. That's the bad news.
Now the PS Vita brings some fresh ideas to the table. It has 3G allowing for internet on the go. It has a touchscreen, part of the success of the smart phones, for more accessibility. It has rear touchpads to add to the front buttons and touch screen, making 12 buttons all up (the same if not more than a traditional controller). It has both physical games and an online purchase system (not unlike the App store). It has cameras and bluetooth. It's basically a lot of smart things wrapped up in a 7 inch (long) bundle.
But it doesn't make phone calls. And that could make all the difference.
Personally, I hope it's the first smart-handheld to compete with the increasing reliance on our one-stop-shop smartphones. But equally, I'm not sure who is forking out hundreds of dollars for a smart phone, more hundreds for PS Vita and hundreds more for a traditional console (or picking between the three). If you have the budget for all of the above, more power to you.
I guess we will have to wait for solid sales figures to start coming in. The PS Vita has sold over 1 million units so far, which is promising - but how will that age? And can it evolve past the limitation of it's predecessor the PSP?
I just don't know.
Also, I want those ads to stop sometime soon. Unrelated.