So, now we’ve got a “complete” set of the next-gen portable game consoles from the folks that brought us the last generation of portable game consoles. That’d be Sony & Nintendo. And just to preface this, when this battle happened last time, I was totally wrong about how it turned out. The original iteration of the DS was an ungainly, poorly-designed piece of hardware, the graphics pretty well sucked, and it was just … uninspiring, as a whole. The PSP had a gorgeous-for-the-time screen, felt great in the hand (except for the stupid analog nub), and its main downside were awful load times & shorter battery life.
In the end, the DS was a huge, rousing success with some genuinely excellent games (Layton FTW), while the PSP sort of languished in this halfway limbo where you didn’t get a lot of the “benefits” of a portable device (battery life, instant access, etc.) but you didn’t get the flexibility of a console.
And then there was Apple. That’s obviously the big change between the last gen and now. And we’ve probably got Nintendo’s success with gaming on the DS at least in part for the success of games on the iPhone.
I don’t own a 3DS. I’ve played with one, but didn’t decide to buy one. In part, there was little software for it I was interested in, but more, 3D isn’t a feature I’m interested in. I’m interested to hear if anyone’s got long-term experience with it, but Nintendo’s complete lack of foresight (or even just sight) into online is a real disappointment to me.
The PS Vita on the other hand, does a good job, at least so far, of making digital distribution & online connectivity a part of its core experience. For a regular purchaser of apps on iOS, this is dangerous, because each “app” ends up being $40. And the nice part of it is that at least so far, the games have been worth $40. Lumines is exquisite, and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is an experience that you really can’t replicate without buttons.
For a long while, I didn’t really see the future for game-centric handhelds. I’m not sure I really do, yet, but at least the Vita makes me feel like Sony’s understood some of the basic concepts at a core level. The Vita needs dramatically more memory for much less – if it was a 128GB/$100 deal, I’d be a LOT more inclined to feel better about its future. At 32GB/$100, there’s so much overhead in the cost of memory that people will be resistant to buying games once they hit their memory wall, which is going to more likely than not happen at 4 or 8GB.
What I like about the iPhone is that I can have not just one or two games on my device at one time, but a VAST library of relatively cheap games so that almost whatever mood I’m in, I have an option. While I tend toward playing one or two games at a time (currently, the extraordinary Hero Academy), having the option to jump into something longer-form, or funny, or whatever, has huge value to me.
In any case, I was totally wrong about how the portable console space was gonna play out in the last generation. This time, my money’s still on iOS – the fact that I always have a phone on me is a huge factor that no portable console will match, with the Vita pulling up 2nd (after about a year or two, which it’ll need for the tide to turn from Nintendo), and the 3DS will ultimately stall in the next year or so and end up with a relatively disappointing run.
Chances are, I’ll be totally wrong about that, too. But I feel like Sony’s bite out of the digital connectivity pie is a big step in the right direction that Nintendo’s completely missed in favor of technology that will ultimately be meaningless.