by Michael Speakman
When someone is searching for that next hit game on the portable market, it’s easy to go to the App Store or Google Play Store to find a free or low priced game to download. Games such as Terraria, Minecraft and Don’t Starve are climbing up the mobile charts while console games like Final Fantasy VII, Mortal Kombat X and many others are finding new life in smartphones and tablets. With Pokemon GO dominating the headlines it’s a surprise the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS are still holding on to any kind of consumer base.But with Nintendo’s announcement at Apple’s most recent press conference of Super Mario Run with many more titles in their library expected on the way one has to ponder: Is this the end of dedicated portable gaming as we know it???
Looking at the current state of portable systems now it’s not difficult to understand where I am coming from.. Here in the U.S., Nintendo 3DS is obliterating the dedicated portable market and has done so for many years. But even the sharp rise this year in sales and the expected windfall of the upcoming Pokemon Sun and Moon, the lack of marketable software coming to the handheld outside of Nintendo’s offerings makes for a future that can only be described as cloudy and uncertain. The PlayStation Vita lost its chance when Sony decided to drop first-party support and while 3rd party games are still arriving in abundance, the lot is usually either PC ports from independent studios or Japanese imported titles which only target a small gaming niche market.
With the Nintendo NX rumored to be a hybrid of console and portable gaming on the way the question is this: Will Nintendo bring portable gaming directly to Mobile or will they make the NX a device that can save the dedicated handheld market for years to come? So after taking everything in, here are my thoughts on what will likely be the foreseeable future for the dedicated handheld marketplace:
- Even though the PlayStation Vita is still popular in Japan and Southeast Asia, it barely makes a presence out here in the west. Eventually it’s luck will run out and production (from at least a North American and European standpoint) will be ended with no new Sony handheld replacement on the way.My contention is that Sony (like Nintendo) decides to make a heavier investment into the mobile phone market. With titles out now on a mobile front such as Run Sackboy Run, UNCHARTED Fortune Hunter, and Ratchet and Clank Before the Nexus their path seems destined for a different direction than a future with their own handheld console.
- Nintendo’s NX (or whatever it will end up being named) won’t be the hybrid everyone wants and the 3DS will be killed off prematurely. With the failure of the Wii U, Nintendo is banking on the NX to boost lagging home console sales and get the company back to the days when the one two punch of the Wii and the DS dominated the marketplace.Success in the mobile market while coming much later than many would have liked have investors pushing for a full fledged entry into a gaming realm that is hungry for their entire library of products. Their smash hits on mobile so far with Miitomo, Pokémon Shuffle Mobile and Pokémon GO have created a fervor to have even more of the extensive library and licensed material come to smartphones and tablets. With venture such as the aforementioned Super Mario Run coming this year and Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem arriving in 2017, it looks like the future will be brightest away from their own handheld consoles and more toward the potential the mobile universe brings.
After the success of Nintendo’s Miitomo social networking app and their partnership with Niantic to make the major popular Pokémon GO, it’s easy to see why Nintendo’s portable market is leaning toward mobile phones and resigning dedicated portables into relative obscurity. Looking at it from a consumer’s perspective, it seems the dedicated portable market is slowly dying and the inevitability of phone and tablet gaming is here to stay.