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EDITORIAL: The Death of Handheld Gaming

Much has been written about the death of mobile gaming, from the failure of the Playstation Vita, the slow success of the Nintendo 3DS and the purported success of iOS and Android devices. The real reason gaming devices are foundering and phones and tablets are not has less to do with gaming than it does competition for the small screen space and user time.

Here’s my own experience, see if this sounds at all familiar:

I carried a Blackberry for work and a dumb phone for personal use. I took the train to work every day and during my 1 hour morning commute and 1 1/2 hour evening commute I had lots of time. My personal phone had no web access. The Blackberry did, but it was weak. Typically I might have a few emails to reply to, but in general the morning and evening train rides were pretty quiet.

So I bought a PSP to pass the time. I ended up playing the heck out of those games and buying a shelf full. In addition to the games, I could rip and convert video as well. UMD movies were kind of silly since I could make my own videos from the DVDs I already owned. Oh, it played music too.

Flash forward to 2013: I’m taking the train to work again. This time it’s about 45 minutes in the morning and an hour or so at night. I carry an Android phone, an iPad and a work laptop. Remembering the time spent in 2005 with games like Wipeout and Untold Legends, I pick up a Playstation Vita.

I can’t say it’s ever naturally occurred to me to pack it in with the rest of my gear. I can do music and videos just as easily on my iPad or Android phone as I can on the Vita. Easier in fact since I don’t have to use special software to get data on either. The 32GB memory card for my Android phone was 1/4 the cost of the same sized card on the Vita.

But what really made the difference was the ease of Internet Access. My 3G enabled smart phone has a hotspot feature, so I’m plugged in from the moment I hit the train station until I get to work and again until I get home. I’m writing this on the train as we speak.

The real reason handheld gaming is dying on the vine has nothing to do with people wanting to play iOS games, or that iOS games are “better” (they aren’t). It has to do with more devices and more applications competing for real estate in front of my eyeballs than ever before.

The PSP had to compete with Tetris on my dumb phone and email on my Blackberry, no big challenge there. The Vita isn’t just competing with iOS games, it’s competing with everything my iPad does. Reading books, watching movies, listening to music, surfing the Internet, getting mail, sometimes all of these at once.

I had that awkward thought this morning. I have Vita games I could be playing, why didn’t I bring the Vita? Because I’d rather spend the time with Google News, Facebook and Reddit. While that’s all also possible on the Vita, my iPad has a much, much larger screen.

Cool Kids Are into Social Media, AMIRITE


    3 Responses to “EDITORIAL: The Death of Handheld Gaming”

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    1. owen Says:

      So you basically saying you are a distracted consumer who doesn’t care about the mobile game fad. And as we get more and more distracted the less we will do in general.

    2. Episode 306: Batman Returns | Gaming Podcast Says:

      [...] Gamers can read Jordan’s “Death of Handheld Gaming” article here. [...]

    3. » VGRT Episode 140: Batman Returns - Game Stooge: The most up to date gaming and tech news blog on the planet. Says:

      [...] Gamers can read Jordan’s “Death of Handheld Gaming” article here. [...]

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