For the interest of organisation, I’ve referred to smartphones and smartphone games with the “mobile” label and dedicated gaming machines like the Vita as “handheld”.
I bought a PSPgo. I know, I know. I bought into the whole digital-only hype. I bought into the delusion that this little handheld console was going to change the way we play games. And it didn’t. It completely flopped if you don’t somehow remember. And the flop brought with it wild speculation that the premium handheld market was dying. It was around this time we saw the emergence of smartphones and with them bite sized games.
And suddenly that was the hip new ideology in regards to handheld gaming. Phones were getting better, more people began buying smartphones and developers began making games for them. But why on Earth that made people think that dedicated handhelds would die is beyond me. There’s one major issue that was, and still is, holding the humble mobile phone back from being the go-to gaming device on the move: the games aren’t as good … and they can’t be.
We’re literally seeing these bite sized games like Angry Birds and Temple Run, They’re essentially all repetition but when you’re sitting in a waiting room, you’re going to play them. They don’t last very long and their price makes them come across as disposable – not a good sign for any game. Games need to feel premium to be premium and iOS and Android games just can’t be taken seriously as potential leaders within the mobile gaming market.
I don’t think mobile games are bad. I love playing games on my iPhone and I do so daily. I still play Doodle Jump at least once a day. Let’s look at Doodle Jump for a moment. The premise of the game is to position your martian on platforms as he constantly jumps up. You move him by rotating your phone and if you miss the platform you fall to oblivion and the game ends. The higher you get the higher the score. It’s absolutely addicting and I’ve never gotten bored with it, but this is one of the flagship mobile games but can it be considered as a flagship handheld game? No, of course not. It lacks story, impressive visuals, characters etc.
Mobile games are good but they’re just not good enough to banish upmarket handhelds like the Vita or 3DS. Playing a Uncharted or Mario is a completely separate experience. They have story, character and life. There’s more commitment involved. And there’s most definitely a lot more accomplishment to experience. It’s something these bite sized games can’t compete with.
They’re two separate markets. Smaller, mobile games are cheaper. Larger, handheld games are more expensive. That’s not to say that we haven’t seen these larger franchises on iOS or Android. I have Need for Speed and FIFA on my iPhone. But space is hard to come by. Most apps are only a couple dozen megabytes at most and these huge games just take up too much precious space on these devices that already act as MP3 players, e-readers, video players etc … and I don’t think phones have the staying power to act as a mobile and gaming hybrid. Just ask the N-Gage.