For more than a generation, finding excitement and stimulation through electronic sights and sounds of video games. While most of that entertainment is found within the walls of the home through consoles that inhabit the living room, many seek to take that joy with them on the go via pocket-size handheld gaming systems. Depending on different factors, your introduction to handheld gaming varied. Whether it was Mattel Electronic football, Nintendo’s Game & Watch series, or Tiger’s handheld games all the way through to the evolution of the Game Boy and the introduction of the PSP, handheld gaming has been present in our society for decades. With the seemingly monthly advances in cell phone technology, the recent release of the Nintendo 3DS and Sony’s NGP (Next Generation Portable) on the horizon, one has the wonder if this generation of handheld gaming devices will be the last as we know it.
Touting the best-selling gaming system of all time with the DS, Nintendo’s release of the 3DS makes for a system with improved graphics, touchscreens, and 3D game play. Not to be one’s to let the House that Mario built have all of the fun, Sony its set to improve upon the PSP with its pending release of the NGP. Boasting 3G technology, touchscreens, and improved controls, the NGP may feature the latest technology for a handheld, but much of the same technology is mostly likely already available in your cellphone. Can the 3DS and the NGP (PS Vita?) survive against this onslaught of mobile computing?
Lets look at some of the most current mobile computing devices that are challenging Nintendo and Sony for supremacy:
I. The Xperia Play
The most interesting and in some regards formidable entry comes from Sony itself. The Xperia Play is made by Sony/Eriksson, boasting the Android 2.3 as an operating system and a slide out gamepad in lieu of a Qwerty keyboard. What really makes the Xperia Play a player is not just the many handheld quality already available for Android, but the fact that it will have access to Playstation certified games and to the forthcoming PlayStation suite. A service that allows the user to download and play complete PS1 games. With 3G already built-in and a price of only $99 with a 2 yr contract, Sony may be shooting NGP out of the water before it is even launched.
In many respects, most consider the iPhone as the only true competitor to Nintendo’s handheld dominance. Apple’s app store revolutionized the $.99 game and is a powerful platform that is able to run games powered by the vaunted Unreal engine. While the iPhone 4 is $199 with a 2 year, the 3GS is currently only $49.
III. HTC HD7
While the HD7 is the spotlighted device in this section, it is merely used to represent all Window phones as a whole. While fairly new to the scene, Windows phones sport Xbox live integration with achievement points for specified mobile games in addition to the same friends list that you find our your Xbox 360. Many windows phone handsets can be found $99 with a two-year contract.
IV. EVO 3D
The major selling point of the Nintendo3DS is that is supports glasses free 3D with is supposed to add a new depth to how we play games. Not to be outdone, HTC is releasing the EVO 3D on the Sprint soon. Boasting similar specs to the previous released EVO, the EVO 3D will sport glasses free 3D that can be utilized for both watching movies and for playing games. It is expected to retail for $199.99 with a two-year contract.
Hardware is nothing without software! A gaming system is worthless if there aren’t any quality games to play, and this is were Gameloft comes in. They make games for every single mobile OS on the market from Symbian to Windows phone and everything in between. In addition to the standard mobile fair of simple puzzle games and old school remakes, Gameloft has published many mobile versions of popular console titles and well done “clones” of others.
As stated before, impressive hardware is nothing if impressive games aren’t available. With gaming libraries for mobile phones becoming more robust everyday, combined with the lower price of mobile phone games for both the consumer and developers, the last days of dedicated devices like the 3DS and NGP may be soon behind us. However, with the still rabid demand for many established titles found only on these devices, it may be a bit too soon to write-up an obituary.Something tells me that no matter how it ends up, gamers (both hardcore & casual) will win in the end.