I think it's safe to say that certain genres have become associated with certain types of platforms. First person shooters, Open world RPG's, and sandbox games have become synonymous with home consoles, while JRPG's, platformers (for the most part), and puzzle games have gracefully made the transitition to portables, cementing their status as the "handheld genres". Let's face it: We aren't going to see a game like Modern Warfare on a DS or PSP anytime soon, and the likelihood of receiving a top-down zelda game on a console (ignoring the VC on wii) is slim at best. The real question I have been pondering is: Is this type of genre segregation permanent, or are there certain factors contributing to this that can be eventually overcome? Why isn't everything portable?
Let's examine the first, and most important, factor in this question:
This is the one thing that determines the delegation of a genre to a system. Frankly put, handhelds have not evolved to the point where they can satisfactorily emulate an HD, online, console experience. Handhelds lack in 3 distinct areas, technically speaking, that prohibit them from a number of console-friendly genres:
1. Graphics (Ram, CPU, GPU, resolution, etc.)
2. Online capabilities (A true online experience needs a grounded internet source with supported servers)
3. Memory (mostly affects the DS)
FPS's are nullified by points one and two, as competitive shooters require a stable online connection, and must have the horsepower to support more than 4 players (Metroid Prime: Hunters, anyone?) Even if you ignore online play completely, FPS's require 3-D worlds that, more often than not, are more graphically demanding than other genres. Even though there have been a few valiant efforts at easing the portables into the FPS space, such as Dementium: The Ward and the Socom series, let's not kid ourselves: The whole experience just makes one wish that they were playing on a console. Why settle for blurry, pixelated games with laggy 4 player online when there are crisp, populated, and social FPS's that one can immerse themselves into?
Open World RPG's and MMO's have also been secluded from the handheld scene, as points one and three prevent them from enjoying a portable home. I'm not a tech whiz or anything, but open worlds seen in games such as Oblivion, Dragon age, and mass effect obviously require a great amount of processing power, and I'm pretty sure texture streaming and polygon counts come into play, which only consoles can support. The handhelds' memory limitations also prohibit branching conversations, numerous RPG items (weapons, armor, etc.), and expansive worlds to traverse. Essentially, a handheld RPG usually consists of a linear, 2-D, turn based affair that is restricted to closed corridors or areas. (nothing against Pokemon, advance wars, Mother, I love 'em). Handheld RPG's can be surprisingly deep in terms of content and replayability, but I have yet to see something that offers a true sense of scale and depth, akin to KOTOR, Oblivion/Fallout, or Mass effect.
Sports simulations, even though some portable renditions are suprisingly well developed (FIFA on DS come to mind), are restricted by all 3 points. This genre thrives on real-life simulation, and handhelds simply cannot provide such an experience. Unfortunately, the quintessential elements of sport simulators, which are graphics, expansive rosters, and online play, must be neglected in order to translate the core experience onto a handheld. Feel free to argue with me, but I don't think that sport simulations can rely on core gameplay alone. It is the yearly updates that make them all the more enticing.
The original Gameboy, as influential as it was, was resonsible for introducing and solidifying basic characteristics of handhelds that even exist today. Every handheld, to my knowledge, has these things: a small screen, a simpler and intuitive control method, a battery, and technologically dated hardware. These factors give portables their reasons to exist, as they are used to either keep price down or increase the system's portablility. However, these things also make certain genres less than ideal to play on a handheld system.
For example, the screen size makes certain genres very difficult to play. Right off the bat, racing games, text-intensive RPG's, MMO's, and FPS's all become hindered by this disadvantage. Many of these genres require a sharp attention to detail, and unfortunately many things that gamers take for granted on consoles, like field of vision, HUD, and text must be clear and legible on a 2 inch screen. I wouldn't relish the idea of doing an all-nighter on a portable FPS. Just the thought of it makes my head pound...
The PSP and DS's control scheme also presents a number fo problems for certain genres as well. Racing games require (at the least) an analog stick, and the DS's d-pad AND the PSP's nub do not match the precision offered from one. FPS's require a second anolog stick, and even though the DS's touch screen has been proven to be more than capable, extended play time leads to cramps and general uncomfortableness. Even 3-D platformers have their faults on handhelds. The D-pad is definantly not a suitable replacement for a joystick, but even the psp's nub lacks precision, not to mention the fact that it's ergonomically unsound.
Battery life limits portables to quick, on-the-go experiences, and again FPS's, RPG's MMO's and strategy games all suffer because of it. I know that one can game while charging, thus defeating the argument, but doesn't that defeat the purpose of a portable altogether?
From these points, I believe that technology is not the only limiting factor in the segregation of genres. It is the very nature of handhelds that help perpetuate this. Inevitably, the question will not be if we can get 360-quality graphics on a handheld. The real question is whether or not we, as gamers, want it.
Thanks for reading this mess. All I ask is that if you did not read it, don't comment saying that you didn't. read