Hi I'm Brainderailment, I haven't posted a blog in a long time and I really haven't posted anything meaningful on this site in over a year. Small introduction to the peeps on this site, I've been here since the Summa days and I lurk.
Having just read Tony Ponce's thought provoking "Screw home consoles, time to go 100% portable" post, I'm ready to say a few things. While I agree with many of Tony's points, I have to make a respectful and (hopefully) clearly understandable rebuttal.
Upon seeing the announcement of the "NGP" I had the thought, "could portable gaming machines completely replace consoles?", "is Sony even going to bother with a PS4?". I think it would be kind of cool for that to be the case for a few reasons. However, I think at this point in time, we aren't quite ready to make that transition and here are my thoughts on why.
The big tv argument.
When you are sitting in your living room or wherever you might play your console, hold your psp/ds about 1-2 feet from your face and compare the size of the screen to that of your perception of the tv. Is it bigger or smaller? In my case, the tv would be smaller, but I don't have to cross my eyes to focus on it. Using a large screen at a far distance rather than a small screen at close proximity is easier on the eyes. When you read those warnings about taking breaks from you computer or tv, it usually states to "look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds." (source)
If you are confused about what size screen you should have, just use a viewing distance calculator. I, for one, choose to have an easier time on my eyes with a perceived smaller screen than to stare at a small one right in my face. Especially since I stare at a computer screen for 12 hours a day at work.
Pixel density is not a factor. Even if your screen has a higher pixel density than a 40" 1080p television, your game will be rendered at whatever resolution the developer feels suits the game best. If you've hooked a PSP2000 or higher up to an hd television, you'll notice that some games are displayed larger on the screen than others. This is because the developers commonly lower the resolution of their game from the console's native to squeeze out more frames per second. This is done on both consoles and portables. I'm no resolution elitist, but I just want my image to be clear and focused. 1080p is more than enough for me.
Now, you are poking at one of my sore spots. Headphones are absolutely, positively, not going to give you the experience that is available through a surround sound system. Please read about "sound localization" and "psychoacoustics" to fully understand why headphones (even the "surround sound" ones) cannot give you a true sense of sound localization. Now you may ask yourself, why would I care about that, immersion? No, not immersion. Immersion can be a buzz word that you might want to attach to the use of surround, but that applies more to movies (medium with a static, predetermined sound and image) than it does to games. (medium that changes depending on the input and feedback of the user) Bear with me please as I explain. When you hear a sound directly to your left in a game, you most likely will turn your character to your immediate left to asses the "threat". Adding surround sound to the equation gives you a much more precise direction in which to respond. Humans have an incredible ability to recognize the exact location of a sound when we are facing the noise, to the point where 1 degree change is distinguishable to us. Much of this is because our outer ear is helping us decipher that information. Headphones take your outer ear completely out of the equation. (Watch a dolby engineer explain some of this phenomenon on Revision 3! 00:20:30 in.) Now, why does it matter? The answer is, shooters. In an shooter, we constantly react to our environment in the game as if we were a part of it, but instead of moving our head, we move our left stick. Giving that information to your brain while you play an FPS or TPS can improve your performance (online and off) and in my opinion, the fun factor.
I implore you to sit on your couch with your head back and you hands on your lap as you play your portable system. You cannot do it. You must be looking where your hands are because your screen is locked to the controller. This also brings up laying down. Surely we've all played a portable system while laying down. If you want to lay on your back, you have to hold your hands in the air like an old person in a nursing home begging for attention, looking for someone to come clean the load of poo that's glued the top sheet to the bottom. Your hands will eventually become uncomfortable from the lack of blood flow. When you lay on your side you have to keep that arm you'd normally be laying on in front of your face. With a console, you can keep that controller tucked between the warmth of your sexy thighs or any other body parts you deem sexy.
While it may be true that a ps3 dev kit costs significantly more than a psp one, the costs beyond that are completely up to the developer. If the developer's goal is to make the next big game that blows all loads, they'll spend a lot more money than the guy trying to make the next Angry Birds. That decision is up to the developer. If he wants to try that on the NGP, I'm willing to bet their costs will be comparable to doing the same game on the 360. Just because the game is on a smaller screen doesn't mean the game is automatically cheaper to produce. The same applies to the inverse, bigger screen doesn't mean more money. The developer chooses whether or not he wants to spend a ton of dough on a mind blowing epic explosion jizz inducing game. The point is, no company is being forced to make multi-million dollar games.
Now, the pc elitist might poke fun at the console players for their choice of systems because they may use wifi to connect to their innertubes. However, the choice is there for use of ethernet to keep that latency and packet loss down. If you want to replace the home console, you cannot ignore online gaming, it's much too popular. In case you are wondering about 3g, go pick up a smart phone and do a ping test, it's not an option unless you are playing a turn based game.
So, do I want portables to replace consoles? I kind of do, because then I can take my main machine to work and other places. But I don't want to yet because of the reasons stated above, and if I so choose, I can throw a $50 controller against the wall and go get another one. My back wont hurt from hunching over a portable (I'm not doing it on purpose, it just happens) and I can become a sweaty blob of disgusting american stink for 8 hours in one session if I want to. No recharging batteries, no looking for a plug to continue my obsession. No hot sweaty hands because of the recharging device between my mitts.