My recent purchase of another netbook (previous one got smash'd), prompted me to start thinking about just how much gaming I do on the go, and how having multiple platforms of gaming available to me is actually quite important. But where do I put my money? Where do I invest? More after the jump.....
When I recently realized that I desperately needed some kind of PC-esque device with me on my very long college days, I began my search for a suitable laptop. Since I was especially short on cash (even shorter now), my only real option was a netbook. They're cheap, reasonably well built, and the batteries last FOREVER. It seemed like a perfect fit.
But I couldn't help wondering that maybe if I'd spent the extra cash, I could have also had a good PC gaming experience on the go as well as something portable where I could work and surf. "But," I said to myself, "You've got a 3DS. If you want to game, game on that!". I thought about this, but the kinds of games you play on PC are so different than those on something like the 3DS, I saw the PC as a totally new avenue of gaming rather than a duplicate of what I already had.
This whole conundrum ended in me buying a netbook, but it did present an interesting blog topic: What are the pros and cons of each kind of mobile gaming?
I feel it only appropriate to start with the devices that are specialized for mobile gaming: Handhelds. While some consider them a dying breed, I prefer to think of them as an underdog waiting to get their revenge. You can't really compare them to a PC, and their main rivals are Smartphones anyway. Gaming handhelds are becoming more and more powerful, and easily exceed Smartphones in their graphical capabilities. Because they're dedicated, they can have a gamer interface, with joysticks and buttons as opposed to adapting a Smartphone into a controller.
Games for handhelds are pretty different than the stuff we see on cell phones. Most of cell phone games are quick-entertainers like Angry Birds, Doodle Jump, or Paper Toss. However, handheld games can produce everything from high-impact fighter like Street Fighter to a huge RPG like Pokemon. The game selection is much more varied, pulling from pre-existing franchises and big gaming names for their purchasing power. The handheld market is looking to re-create some of the typical console experience as well, with both the Vita and 3DS having two thumbsticks available to them. They're almost becoming consoles in their own right!
But handhelds are not perfect. For starters, they're dedicated for a reason. You aren't going to be making calls or texting on your 3DS, and you certainly aren't going to be checking your e-mail or surfing the web. While the Vita may have 3G capability, it's going to come very limited, and unfortunately, it doesn't look like Sony is investing heavily in the 3G capabilities of the Vita for much more than basic web browsing or Twitter updates. Handhelds are great at gaming...But not so great at much else. I didn't even get into the battery life, which is dismal compared to any smartphone out there.
Smartphones have recently emerged as a huge powerhouse in the mobile gaming market...So much so that dedicated gaming handhelds are being hailed as "archaic" and "old-thinking". Smartphones have the unique capability of being able to nab any game on its marketplace at any time as long as there is cell service. This makes it very appealing to someone who is always on the go. Games are usually bite-sized, making them very good "Oop! I gotta go!" experiences. Games are also typically very cheap, ranging from $1-5. If you have a smartphone...Mobile gaming is easily available, cheap, and good fun for the road.
Ironically, many of the smartphone's pros are also its cons. The fact that they aren't dedicated gaming platforms means that the games are typically rather simple in nature, and if they aren't, present unique control hurdles that the developer must overcome. The fact that games are cheap also means that they must be cheap to produce, meaning that most mobile games are pretty short. While there have been steps taken to bridge the game platform vs phone gap (XPeria Play), they have not been very successful. You aren't going to see your typical gaming experience on a phone for quite a while yet.
The last on our list is the almighty laptop: Capable of just about every kind of game imaginable. With a Steam-enabled PC, you can get just about any game you want...Be it an RTS, FPS, RPG, or any other three-letter acronym you can think of. Purchasing a cheap USB mouse will practically make it a mobile Desktop gaming machine. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that it's a COMPUTER. Yes, you can do everything that a home PC can do on a laptop (DERP), which is a lot more than you can say for a handheld or smartphone. Bigger screens, huge range of games, and all the power of a PC? I don't think I need to say much more than that.
The bigger they come, the harder they fall, right? Unfortunately, a good gaming PC will probably run you about $800-900. After tax, you're looking at a thousand-dollar investment. They're hardly portable unless you already have a backpack to tote around, and they're heavy to boot. If you want to do any kind of long-term gaming on it, you'll also have to have a power outlet nearby, because the battery life of a laptop that's playing a game is about 2 hours, if you're lucky. There's no way to cheat the system, either. Getting a netbook might be cheap, and grant you more battery life and more portability, but at a severe cost of processing power. This little internet-box that I purchased can barely handle Minecraft and Runescape, let alone something like WoW or any kind of FPS that was made post-1990. Gaming Laptops might pack the most mobile punch...But at a severe cost of being really MOBILE at all...
As much as I did want to swing for an expensive gaming laptop, I had to save my money and get this netbook. You know what I did first? Cleaned the fucker out to get as much raw computing power as possible, and try to play Minecraft on it. I enjoy struggling with limitations, and with a bit of research and good old fashioned elbow grease, I managed to get Minecraft running at a whopping 12 Frames per Second!
Anyway, my inner-techie aside, I decided that having a 3DS (and eventually a Vita), would be just fine as mobile gaming platforms. And who knows, maybe I can even swing a Smartphone when I move.
But the big question is...What's your mobile platform of choice?
Thanks for reading!