I write on my own blog psoneclassics.com, but this handhelds topic was too juicy a topic to miss, and I've already written about this topic, so tell me what you think of my ideas, whether they have merit, or if they have none. Be easy on me!
Recently I've been hearing from gamers on the net that handhelds like the 3DS and the PSVita are no where near as good as the consoles, and if they ever wanted to play a console style game, they'd play it on their big screen tv with their controller in their hand. Times are changing, and soon they'll be proven wrong. The new generation of handhelds will be better than the regular hook in TV consoles, and this is why.
Why consoles are better "Supposedly"
"I like playing Console games on a big screen tv."
So you have a big screen HDTV, that's awesome, and they're great to play games on no doubt, and it makes for a really immersive experience if it takes up enough of your peripheral vision. The sound systems that come with these tvs are also really powerful with full surround sound.
- Why this is stupid
If you have a handheld console your peripheral vision is taken up at the pretty much the same rate as a big screen tv, next time you find yourself in a comfortable position for watching something on your big screen, and then take a PSP, or a DS and then hold it up, you'll see that it takes up pretty much the same size in your vision. On the surround sound front, you'll also find that as it does add a lot to a gaming experience, a good pair of earphones, while being way cheaper than buying a surround sound system does a great job of keeping you immersed. There's also a great fact that the screen is included with the handheld as well meaning you don't have to spend an extra $1000 for an awesome LED TV to see the text in your Call of Duty game.
"The graphics on the handhelds suck"
All throughout gaming handhelds have had such a low bar of graphical fidelity that they've been overlooked by graphics whores, who go and buy the best looking games on the consoles, or spend thousands on a new gaming rig for it just to be considered out of date in a few years. Graphics on consoles have been better this is true, no one could ever think that the gameboy had better graphics than the NES, but now things are changing.
Uncharted Golden Abyss Screenshot
-Why this is foolish
Looking at the 3DS, there are some very pretty games coming for it, that look like something the Wii would struggle with, although Nintendo seems to be the biggest problem with that at the moment, having launched the system with no real games there for users just yet. The Playstation Vita though looks like it's running at the PS3's graphical prowess, but the smaller screen actually makes the games look even more polished. The 3D function on the 3DS is, although at the moment not too feasible with the device's poor battery life - something you'd be paying an extra $500 for on a TV, as soon as we see a 3DS lite, the battery power should be up to snuff to get at least 5 hours with the 3D on (instead of the now 3 hours). We're getting to the point where console graphics aren't improving by leaps and bounds anymore, and these handhelds are certainly looking pretty enough to keep most graphics whores happy for at least a little while.
"The controls on the handhelds suck"
Many people like playing their games the way they always have, with a dualshock, or with an xbox controller . But in this way innovation has really become stagnant on the consoles, the first dual analog stick controller was released in 1997, it's no wonder why the Wii with it's motion controls made such a huge splash in the gaming sphere (and outsold the PS3 and the 360 while they played catch up).
Control is about more than two analog sticks
Why controls are better on handhelds
Looking at the DS, touch compatibility was it's main pull, and it became a massive success - that success led to the Wii's motion control innovations. Now you have the Iphone running touch screen controls, and despite it not being as comfortable for most gamers, they make it easier for casual or new gamers to get into it. Looking at the Playstation Vita it seems to have the best of both worlds with dual touch screens dual analog sticks and the regular triggers that we're used to on console controllers. There's no doubt that controls for games like Call of Duty or strategy games like command and conquer will have comparable controls on the handhelds, and with the new ways to interact gameplay can become more innovative. The 3DS and the PSvita also move around like a wiimote with your motions using gyros and accelerometers and for genres like strategy the touch screen compatibility is the best thing other than a mouse you can hope for. Many people dismissed past handhelds for not having decent controls, I believe with this new Generation (especially the Vita) you'll see that attitude change.
"Online Connectivity is non existent on handhelds"
The PC was the first one to start online connectivity in games, and then the Dreamcast followed suit in 1999, and the main view right now and with good reason is that there is barely any online connectivity with handhelds.
-Online connectivity will be superior on handhelds
The PSVita is the shinning example as to why the handhelds will have a great and robust online connection strategy. Like the ability to play games against users on the PS3 while playing your Vita, the cross game chat (that Sony hasn't yet put into it's network, despite it being part of Xbox Live for ages), and systems like Near that let you play with people close to you geographically instead of those just on the net at the same time. If developers like Activision push PSVita-PS3 compatibility between Call of Duty games lets say, there's a huge possibility of the Vita becoming the online console of choice. Games like Wipeout HD proves it can be done, all there needs to be is support. 3G as well could mean you could take your pwning sessions on the bus as well, although no one knows how much this will cost, if it's inexpensive it'll certainly make an impression with online gaming.
As with online gaming Nintendo is essentially dead in the water in this regard, perhaps this can change through firmware updates for the 3DS, but friend codes are not the way to go.
"Console games are better, and handheld games are just watered down versions"
There's no doubt that console games get the big bucks behind them, they sell really well and that's why. But they give up something that you can find in spades on handhelds, and that's innovation.
Big Franchises on consoles stagnate gaming
Valkyria Chronicles 2 - only feasible on the PSP
It costs a lot of money to make console games, some even top 100 million in budget which is comparable to making a Harry Potter film. Games on the PSP for instance cost way less to produce, and that allows developers to continue making games that wouldn't get greenlit on consoles, Valkyria Chronicles for instance. This means that there is more risk-taking with handheld games, and many of these games become quirky successes, like Phoenix Wright on the DS or Patapon on the PSP.
Luckily with the new generation of handheld devices - at least according to developers - it costs about the same to develop on these new devices as it did the older ones. About the same budgets for games on the PSP and the PSVita, and the DS and the 3DS. This just means that developers can continue to innovate with their franchises, and have the top notch graphics at the same price to consumers.
Why are handhelds better than consoles?
Keep your priorities in check, game when you travel!
You can travel with them.
Whenever I'm away I can always flip on my PSP, or in the future, PSVita, and keep playing wherever I am, on a plane, on a bus, or after a long day of travelling to decompress in a hotel room. Also with built in storage and digital games I don't need to carry a crate load worth of discs, and if I want to play an oldie, all I have to do is load up my media go and I'm set.
Buying games digitally off a network is easy too, if a new release comes out while travelling, media go works just fine, and I can have it loaded off my laptop in the correct language in no time. If I decide to bring my console with me I would have a myriad of problems from something like it breaking in transit, going over my luggage weight, or at the very worst getting strip searched by wonderful American welcome personnel.
So what's holding Handhelds back from taking over?
Building a community with great service.
The big problem with this are the hardware developers themselves. They need to take a look at successful digital games services to really get people hooked. The best model of this is Valve's Steam service. Great sales and treating the customers like friends instead of numbers, service before profit, is how handhelds will make their way back to the mainstream, especially with this new generation. Nintendo is really behind the curve, considering they didn't even have a digital store available for their 3DS at launch, and their store doesn't have many games available in it is another problem. Sony does a lot better in this regard but is still behind Valve's great tactics. Some games get discounted so low, that the majority of gamers on the service have them. When a lot of gamers have the same game let's take Team Fortress 2 for instance (that's now free). It creates a great community of gamers that will play together even if the releases slow down during the summer lets say. The best way to keep the platforms successful is to keep people playing on them even if there isn't a new hot title releasing. If they put a great multiplayer into Uncharted Golden Abyss, and have a 75% off sale for 2 days on the Playstation Store, everyone will grab it, and they can get hooked on the platform, just like how PS3 and 360 gamers got hooked by Call of Duty.
Indy industry outreach
He's surprised that he can run on both the 3DS and the PSVita!
Getting indy developers on the handhelds would be a great idea as well, there's no reason why Supermeat Boy, Limbo, or Braid can't thrive on handhelds (as long as their released at their game launch). The power in the handhelds now shouldn't hold back those developers from releasing their games without making huge changes in their code or graphics, and with the growing iOS and Android gaming companies coming up, there's no reason why their games if deemed quality titles can't thrive on the traditional handhelds. When Angry birds was released on the PSP for instance, it did great numbers.
The most popular game on the PSP worldwide is Monster Hunter, the reason why it's so popular is not so much for it's gameplay but for the multiplayer aspect, it's the closest thing to an MMO that the PSP has, and that something that should have it's developers Capcom really excited for the new Generation of the PSP. Same with Nintendo and the 3DS, if you could play a Pokemon MMO while connected to wifi it would have people hooked, and that deep MMO experience would lead a lot of people to question if there were games worth playing on the handhelds, and indeed worth buying the handhelds for.
Where we are right now
There's no doubt that handhelds are behind consoles for most people's gaming time, but it doesn't have to be that way forever. If Nintendo and Sony play it smart, they'll be able to have a profitable market for their new handhelds as long as they keep the gamers happy with good hardware, stay innovative with online services, and most of all have great high quality games. read