The market for dedicated handhelds is not what it was. The 3DS is selling very well, but it’s not the huge, mainstream success which was the original DS. Heck, even the original PSP eventually sold over 80 million units worldwide which the current PS Vita won’t get near to.
Why does this matter? Well have you tried ‘proper’ gaming on a tablet? Of course you have, and for many tablet friendly games it’s GREAT. Strategy titles, physics based games (aka Angry Birds), Battleships, even tilt controller driving games, such as Gameloft’s Asphalt series. Yet whilst graphically all these devices can pump out a reasonable looking third person shooter, or even FPS title, the controls are a huge FAIL.
Sure, you can get external controllers (which really are quite good). Heck, maybe Gioteck will bring some of their magic to this area eventually. Yet not everyone wants to carry a tablet and controller. Sure you get away with a phone and controller, but not all the phones have the muscle to push these games along, and if you play the good looking games for more than 30 minutes, you can forget using the phone for, er, phoning…. batteries are just not good enough at present.
So you see the 3DS and PS Vita, really do fill a niche, which us ‘serious’ gamers have created. Try Need for Speed on the PS Vita, and it’s the same as the 360 and PS3 versions. Load up Killzone on the PS Vita and it looks like a AAA shooter. Steal some time with Sly Cooper (steal – geddit!) and realise that without those dual control sticks and buttons the game would never play the same. Sit down with a 3DS and Mario Kart 7 and realise that this is PURE gaming, which looks good, sounds good and FEELS good.
One can expect Nintendo not to abandon us. Whilst the 3DS is NOT the original DS, it is still doing very well, and is keeping the company going at present, whilst the WiiU flounders. Top games such as 3D land, Mario Kart, Pokemon, Luigi’s Mansion, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Resident Evil Revelations and the many great E-Shop titles have made the platform rich in content and superb gaming experiences. Nintendo will have a major decision to make though, as they approach the launch of their next handheld system.
We are already aware they have merged their handheld and console teams. The idea is that whatever they produce should have a unified OS, development base and more. The question is, how much more? Might the replacement for WiiU, be a tablet with controls, which streams to the TV (so the reverse of how the WiiU works)? Would such a device mean Nintendo would become a single platform company, playing on their strengths in mobile, but still making their product relevant in the living room? Or will they do something similar to the above, but still hedge their bets by having a further iteration of their ‘DS’ philosophy, possibly without 3D and sold very cheap. In effect the 2DS V2.0, or even drop the DS name and revert back to ‘Gameboy’…
Meanwhile Sony is starting to get a tiny amount of traction on the PS Vita. Not enough that anyone has noticed, but with the PS4 launch (and it’s huge success) and the way in which Vita works with the platform, Sony might get a second bite of the cherry. Remote play is a superb solution, allowing users to really play PS4 games around their house on Vita.In addition 2014 looks like a great year for the platform, when it comes to games, following on from a good second half 2013, which gems such as Killzone, Tearaway and Sly Cooper in Time.
The PS vita has a growing library of pick up and play indie titles, often with cross play or cross save functionality with PS3 or PS4 titles. Fez, Dead Nation, Thomas was Alone, Gun Slugs, Terraria, and with 2014 bringing Football Manager, Minecraft, and Borderlands 2! In Japan the Vita has also blossomed into a ‘platform’ in it’s own right, with Vita TV. This is a Vita with no screen which plugs into your TV. It’s for streaming films etc, but also for connecting to your PS4 from another room. It also can play many Vita, PSP etc titles. Expect this box of tricks to come to Europe and the USA post E3. Ironically, this device might truly help the Vita survive.
The question remains though, will these games be communicated to the masses enough that they will BUY such devices? If they do not, then we won’t get our Vita 2, and that will be a shame. Ok, so one day all good things must come to an end, and new tech has a way of removing the need for old tech. Once we had ‘beepers’ for text messages, and now we just carry a phone. Yet for ‘proper’ gaming, which feels like gaming, and not just ‘looks’ like it, we need gamers to step up and invest in these platforms so we get another generation of gaming platforms in the palms of our hands, due for launch in 2-3 years time…