With the Nintendo 3DS set to release in March and the Sony NGP slated for sometime this holiday season, and talk of tablet and smartphone gaming abuzz, it seems like most of what we have to look forward to in 2011 has to do with portable software. Setting aside questions of which is better, the 3DS or the NGP, could this year see a renewed attention to handhelds? Some analysts say yes.
I think NGP will do well in the mid to long term as well, and with NGP and 3DS in the market, the dedicated portable gaming market is set for another five to seven year cycle. Convergent portable devices such as smartphones and tablets can’t compete with either NGP or 3DS on performance, game quality or online capabilities and are unlikely to do so for at least five years.
There are still a lot of unknowns about the NGP… I think its direct competition will be the Nintendo 3DS which means price could be crucial. I think a price of $300 is needed to be competitive in that respect. They should have a very strong software lineup and I think that should definitely help in the competition. Overall we are looking for a pretty strong revitalization of the dedicated portable market over the next few years. While we had been looking at much of the growth in games for phones and other non-dedicated game devices (tablets), now we are redoing our estimates to up our forecasts for the dedicated devices. The main question is how the NGP will fare against the 3DS.
The first quote comes from M2 Research’s Billy Pidgeon, the second from eDFC Intelligence’s David Cole. Both of them seem to be of an accord that Nintendo and Sony’s game consoles will definitely own handheld gaming, but neither of them can comment yet on how the two will perform against each other. But another thing they agree on is that there’s going to be really solid development in handheld gaming during the upcoming hardware generation.
A few days back I mused about how increasing hardware and software prices suggest that handheld gaming may cease to be the “budget” alternative to console gaming. We saw with the PSP and are now seeing again with 3DS and the NGP that handhelds are beginning to adopt the same “values” in terms of software as their console counterparts. Not only in the graphics department and in the sense that “3D” games have encroached in the handheld arena, which was long considered to be the realm of old school games – see the GameBoy Advance which had remakes of the original Mario Bros. titles and a line of NES Classic Series games – but also in the sense that it looks like next-gen handheld software is going to abandon the “pick up and play” philosophy that was partly responsible for driving handhelds up to popularity in the first place.
I can’t say whether this will be healthy for handhelds in the long run, but suffice to say that based on the current software lineups, I think we are going to be seeing some major changes in handheld gaming. So far they seem to be proceeding full steam, so I’m hopeful that 3DS (and NGP) will succeed in bringing handhelds “to the next level.” However, I can’t help but wonder whether that means we’ll be leaving the classic values behind. Are the results worth the cost? Or will this new direction leave many gamers behind as the N64 and GameCube left many classic Nintendo fans behind?