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MassDebate avatar 12:18 PM on 05.15.2011  (server time)
Debatoid: Does portable gaming represent the dominant future of video games?

Welcome to Debatoid! We take a controversial topic, form a proposition, and set two contenders the challenge of stating their case in favor of and in opposition to the proposition. After which, users may vote to decide which contender they support. Rules for voting are at the bottom of the blog, but it is recommended that you read the contenders' cases before you cast your vote.

CaptainBus frames the debate:

Portable gaming is the first to reveal their hand on the next generation of gaming. The 3DS is a console that you can buy, while Project Cafe is still a speculative device and a tantalising prospect for this summer's E3. The NGP has concept shots and developer support long before we consider a PlayStation 4. Apple has total focus on portable devices, with no word on their next range of desktop PCs. Now we have seen a glimpse of where portable gaming is going, are we to start considering that this will lead the charge on gamingís bright future? Debatoid considers this in the proposition:

The proposition: Portable gaming represents the dominant future of the video game industry

Eprahim states his case for the proposition:

Originally, handhelds were some kind of province of video gaming - it was a joke to even think that you could bring with yourself something even comparable to the experience you would get at home on your NES. It's no wonder that portable consoles back then weren't even considered "complex electronic devices", but rather "electronic toys". Games were extremely simple - just think about the Game & Watch games of the 80s which were no more graphically or computationally advanced than a pocket calculator.

Then, in 1990 - everything evolved. Nintendo invented the Game Boy, and from there onwards portable gaming sky-rocketed in popularity and capability. However, things had not yet rocketed so fast to catch up with home consoles; with the release of the Game Boy Color 8 years later, portable gaming was still two generations behind the home consoles, the PlayStation and N64. From the Game Boy Color it took only 3 years to see the Game Boy Advance. With SNES-style graphics, portable gaming jumped closer to the home console market within half a development cycle.

The real boom of portable gaming happened this generation - the Nintendo DS and PSP came out in 2004, and the social explosion of smartphones hit us in 2007 with Apple's paradigm shift - the iPhone. It's mostly about this latter phenomenon that I want to talk about.

With the smartphone revolution, people who were used to playing Snake on their old cellphones could now do basically everything they could do on their home PC on their phone. This, however, required far more processing power, so smartphones suffered an abnormally fast growth.

New processors kicked in extremely fast, new models came out just one year after the predecessor, and even now we can still see how Apple, Samsung, LG and other companies are just rushing to release the best phone. Competition began a revolution in portable gaming, something that was sorely missing in Nintendo's dominance of the portable market during the 80s and 90s.

We have already reached a level where a phone can emulate PlayStation games at full speed, and can even offer a few enhancements - I take no shame in stating that Chrono Cross and Rayman 2 are two of my favorite pleasures on my cellphone.

Phones are starting to have the power of last generation, and obviously Sony and Nintendo couldn't just stand there and watch phone companies take their gamers away.

A couple of months ago, Nintendo released the 3DS - a little technological jewel that plays games in glasses-free 3D. If you do disable 3D on the device, though, you'll realise that it could play PS2 games perfectly. In fact, with the upcoming Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, that's exactly what it intends to do.

But Sony wanted more than Nintendo - the NGP is on the way, a console which can, well, play games at an almost PlayStation 3 level of detail. For the first time, we're soon to experience a generation in which portable gaming has caught up with home gaming.

Phones kept developing in this period, at an ever more scary pace - the Samsung Galaxy S II, released in the UK this month, has a dual core processor, with each running at a blistering 1.2GHz. That totals only 0.6GHz less processing power than my gaming PC!

Home consoles right now are in a rather tight spot - while handheld giants keep pushing their technology forward, the XBox 360 and PS3 are pulling it back. Sony have not even deliberated on a next generation console, completely ignoring the fact that the PS3 is already four-and-a-half years old, and they released the PS3 during the PS2's 6th year. Microsoft stated in November that they are focussing on Kinect, with no plans to develop a new console for some time.

With the home console market stuck where it is and portables racing forward to grab the best technology as soon as possible, is it really that difficult to see who will emerge victorious of the two? I think it's a safe bet to choose the portable world. People don't want to sit in front of a computer anymore, they want to have everything related to technology in their hands: right there, right now. And yes, this includes gaming.

SteezyXL states his case against the proposition:

Portable gaming sure has come a long way since the days of Game Boys and Game Gears. We now have iDevices and Android phones that carry cheap, bite-sized games in one convenient device. Many have argued whether or not this format of gaming will take off and overtake the home gaming industry in the near future. Iím here to tell you that this wonít be happening any time soon.

Portable gaming is still very much a single-player type experience. Not that there is anything wrong with playing a single-player game; I love them! Itís just that we now live in a time where social interactions within video games are the norm. Most of us love logging into our game accounts to check our friends list to see whoís gaming; we love having that friend there to listen to your story on that cool head shot you just made, or how emotionally enthralling that last cut scene was.

As far as portable gaming has come, we have yet to reach that point of social interaction.

Console gaming has always been there to take video games to the next level, while portable gaming has always tried to match what consoles can do.

For instance, the recently announced NGP is said to have the technical power of a PS3. As great as that sounds, Sony is taking advantage of those specs to bring the console experience into the palm of your hands. They announced games like Uncharted, Killzone, Resistance, and LittleBigPlanet to show up on the portable device; all games that are available on the Playstation 3.

Why would I want the console experience in the palm of my hands when I could play the console in the comfort of my home on a big beautiful HDTV? If youíre like me, you do all of your gaming (even portable) at home anyway. Itíd be pretty difficult to finish that thirty hour RPG in 30 minute intervals while riding the bus.

I give props to the iDevices for delivering cheap and unique games playable in quick intervals. That is what portable gaming should really consist of: shorter, bite-sized games that deliver their own unique experiences. Leave the bigger experiences to the PC and consoles.

Even if portable gaming does manage to improve and provide a unique experience meant for handheld gaming, it still wouldnít be enough for it to become the ďfuture of the industryĒ. Portable gaming will never be able to deliver on the bigger blockbuster experiences we all look forward to playing at home.

Big scale games like Mass Effect or Fallout would never work on a smaller device. These games were meant to be cinematic and experienced almost like a movie. You want to play them on bigger screens so that you can see every inch of visual detail these games provide. You want the score of the game to knock your socks off when youíre playing with your surround sound system hooked up. You want to be immersed in the world, so that you can forget the troubles of everyday life and step into the shoes of a kick-ass space marine or a hero defending the world against evil.

New technology is being built every day to better both sides of gaming, but it seems that portable gaming will always be one step behind its console brethren.

Many thanks to Eprahim and SteezyXL for their contributions.

Now, the ground rules for voting:

1. The users that set out the Debatoid (Eprahim and SteezyXL) are not eligible to vote. (we can guess where their allegiances lie)

2. Feel free to comment at any point before, during or after you have voted.

3. To vote, begin your comment EPRAHIM or STEEZY depending on whether you support the proposition (EPRAHIM) or you oppose the proposition (STEEZY). The rest of your comment can be used to, you know, comment.

4. Only comments that begin with EPRAHIM or STEEZY may be considered in the voting process. Ensure you are spelling your vote correctly and placing it in capitals to make Debatoid happy.

5. One vote per user. Only your first vote will count; there are no do-overs. Do not spam the comments. Donít bully other users into voting your way. Letís keep it clean. Donít be a wang.

6. Your voting should be based on the strength of the arguments set out by the contenders. Though your opinion may go some way towards forming your decision, do try to be as impartial as you can muster.

7. Any failure to undertake these rules or any ambiguity surrounding your vote may damage the chance of your vote counting. Whether or not your vote ultimately counts is at Debatoid's discretion. Maximise your chances by voting correctly.

8. The vote total will be updated occasionally via the voter-adder-upper at the bottom of the blog. The voter-adder-upper gives up after a week, so get your vote in before then to make it count!

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