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Where Have all the Handhelds Gone?

Last week I went on vacation for the first time in over year. It was the first time we have traveled since the birth of my daughter, who's now close to 14 months old. We were off to god's waiting room, sunny Boca Raton, Florida, where we would sun ourselves by my father-in-law's pool and soak in the rays at the beach. It was going to be a week of pure relaxation. I even had access to his Cadillac DTS. Not only were we going to be riding in style down there, but we were going native, blending in with the locals.

Look at the poser over there. He's not a local.

Getting there was half the excitement. Air travel with a toddler gave me fits for weeks leading up to the vacation. Mainly, how are we going to keep our little one occupied on the plane? For a gamer, the answer was simple. She needed a handheld. Having recently upgraded to an iPad over the holidays, I handled down to my daughter my first generation Kindle Fire. Protected with a bright pink Fisher Price cover and loaded with a couple of developmental games and some of her favorite shows. It was my first attempt to turn the fruit of my loins into a gamer.

In the end, she's probably too young for a handheld. The games only held her interest for a few minutes. She would rather watch her shows, or sometimes eat the Kindle itself. As long as she wasn't crying, she could do whatever she wanted.

On my travels to the Florida however, I did notice something interesting, and that was the complete lack of gaming handhelds. At the airport, I noticed that many of the kids and adults were playing games on Kindles, Nooks, iPads, iPad Minis, iPod Touch's, or their parent's iPhones or Android phones.

At first it was just a quick observation, but I then made it a point to actually find someone using a gaming hand held. I did not find even one person. Not at the airport, flight, time on vacation, or on the way back. Not one hand held being played by child or adult. I finally gave up my search when someone called the police.

Sorry to bug you, but do you own a 3DS?

I remember that having a hand held was essential for any trip. When I was living and working in New York, a hand held was part of my commute. I recall people playing PSPs and DSs on the subway.

Today, I myself don't even own a gaming hand held anymore, opting to use my iPhone or iPad and apparently, I'm not alone. I'm just surprised at how quickly it happened. In a blink of an eye, mobile gaming changed, from dedicated hand held gaming systems to phones and tablets.

Tim Sweeney, of Epic Games at the Develop Game Conference the other day touched on how mobile gaming on phones and tablets disrupted how people play games on the go. Sweeney has been a big proponent of mobile gaming and it shows in games like Inifinity Blade and Infinity Blade II.

Now we have news that Apple will support a unified controller for it's mobile and Mac platforms. This is great news for core gamers. I personally struggle with some core games on my iPad with a virtual controller. Being able to play on a game pad would be a godsend.

I hate to say it, but I believe that the days of the dedicated gaming portable are numbered. With phones and tablets getting more and more powerful, running games that are beginning to surpass what's capable on dedicated gaming hand helds, and do so much more than just play games, what chance does Sony and the PSP and Nintendo and the 3DS have? I'd say that the future looks bleak for them.

Personally, when my daughter is old enough, I would rather get her a tablet than the next 3DS or PSP. Hopefully by then, she be using it properly, rather then eating it.

I'm watching this episode of Octonauts, then I'm eating this thing.
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About SpielerDadone of us since 5:24 PM on 02.08.2013

I'm just a dad writing about games, technology, movies, and geeky stuff that tickles my fancy.

A little background:
- I'm the youngest of two children with one older sister.

- I'm first generation American as my parents were born in Italy.

- Married to a wonderful wife and have two amazing daughters who makes me laugh, smile, cry, and scream every day.

- Hobbies include exercise, reading, writing, sci-fi, film, and of course, video games.