Handhelds A-hoy!

Posted by Critical Failure On Sunday, October 24, 2010 6 comments

Would you feel comfortable playing your PSP sitting at a bus stop? When a gaming company like Nintendo or Sony markets a handheld system as “portable”, how much of that is marketing and how much of that is reality? We know from past systems that a handheld system does not always equal a portable system. (This can be seen with the Sega Game Gear taking 6 AA batteries for a total of 12 min of game time.) On the other hand, there are plenty of handhelds that fit the portable profile quite well. But what exactly are the defining features which classify a handheld as portable or not? The short answer would be: durability, functionality, and sheer size.

Having a super expensive handheld that feels like it could break at any second is a bitch and a half. That first line of PSP’s that came out with that huge scratch prone screen looked like a money-pit time bomb to me. Handling the rough and tumble world of being taken on the school bus is the last reason in the world cartridge games are still being made. (See the DS.) It seems like a “portable” that runs off of disk based games can only really be played in three places. Those places are, 1) The can. You can enjoy the epic story of Lufia in 15 min segments exclusively from the shitter! Diarrhea has never been so fun! 2) On a plane. I suppose if I were on a 16 hour flight, I wouldn’t mind long loading times that came along with those early model PSPs, but I don’t fly internationally enough to warrant letting Sony fuck my wallet with the dildo of debt. 3) Home. Why in the great historic fuck would you buy a portable system for 300 dollars if you’re only going to play it at home where regular consoles can be played? Nintendo’s clam shell design which has been around since the Game Boy Advance SP has done a lot of good in terms of screen protection, but even those have had problems.

If someone jammed a Sega Game Gear up my ass, do you think I would ever walk again? Size obviously wasn’t really considered super important in the early 90’s handheld market. The original model Game Boy now carries the nickname “Brick” despite being smaller than all of its competitors. I don’t want handhelds to get to tiny either, but it seems like the wave of new technology is bringing back the old formula of having a “portable” system too large to fit in any pocket. At least in the early 90’s baggy pants were in style so there were some pants which could manage to holster an Atari Lynx, (though a heavy duty belt would be needed.)

So 3DS looms. Apparently Nintendo wants us to be excited about the inclusion of a portable virtual console that will give players the option to repurchase games they already have. This is a system which is large, presumably easily breakable, and with a price tag to rival the top of the line home console. I don’t much like the idea of being critical of Nintendo especially since digital access to the portable classics have been demanded by fellow Nintendo fans for quite some time now. Perhaps I am bitter that the Wii’s Virtual Console slowly spoon fed us games that have been out for decades. Perhaps I would just really rather have that Game Gear up my ass.


classicl337 said...

Good read CF!

As much as I am looking forward to the 3DS, I completely agree with your concerns. There is no way that I'd be willing to buy one on release day because all of the points you made in the article. It's really a bummer that Nintendo is gouging early adopters.

Scott aka Slammers

Carl Williams said...

The problem Nintendo will be facing with the 3DS is the many gamers that know this is simply the Virtual Boy part 2. It is not going to be easily enjoyed by people with eye problems (no 3D is) and the fact that well, perspective limited "portables", i.e. Virtual Boy, don't sell well to consumers that will be playing it in a moving vehicle.

Price is another concern. Reports are stating over $225 minimum for this thing. Nope, uh uh, not in this economy, I don't care how many AAA titles are available at launch (which we all know, no matter how good launch titles are, the 2nd+ years produce the best software, till then, it is all learning the hardware). People won't be buying these for their kids to throw in the backpacks or leave on the floor to be stepped on (GBA is immensely durable, why Nintendo is going with a flimsy design is beyond me).

Nintendo is pricing themselves out of competition for the other handhelds/portables available. This is part of the reason that Apple is kicking butt (sure, $200 is a lot for a low end iPod Touch but when you factor in all it does, it is not that bad a price). The landscape is changed in the handheld market, thanks in no small part to Apple. People aren't that interested in $40+ portable games anymore, they want "snack" games, people want enjoyment for about what a candy bar or a soda costs, or less.

Launch titles. They have some great ones supposedly going to be available on day one (yeah right, anyone remember the 180+ companies that "signed on" to make 3DO or Atari Jaguar games that never materialized at, or after, launch?). Nintendo is going to have to bring some bad ass Mario on day 1 for 3DS to get it moving. I doubt this is going to be a situation like the Wii was, where we see $1,000 3DS systems on Ebay.

The "3DS Virtual Console" is going to be no better than the Wii Virtual Console. It is going to come out with some great titles, get people interested and then, slow to a trickle after they have sufficiently saturated the market. I am not going to be buying Super Mario Bros 1 on Gameboy on the 3DS VC for $5 anytime soon (figure the prices will be $5 for GB, $8 for GBC/Game Gear and $10 for GBA/Neo Geo Pocket games, watch what they go for, I am sure I am close).

All in all, I have an iPod Touch and have been enjoying it more and more every day to the point that I don't miss my broken PSP (which was used 99% of the time to play Robo Warrior or GemVenture and not PSP games).

Great write up CF. Going to be interesting to see how Nintendo fends with the 3DS.

911BONEZ said...

I find I agree with you and at the same time I do not lol. For a good lot of the points you made I can see what you mean, dumb kids can scratch the hell out of the gigantic PSP screen, and the thought of theft does linger with a more expensive system like a PSP. With the GameGear it is really just the times, the Turbo Express was massive but that was because it had to be to fit all that sweet old technology in it... All in all I like your point of view CF, but at the same time this may only apply to the finicky among us.

CF said...

True dat. Thanks for reading!

kickflipjr said...

All the iphone needs is buttons and it would be a serious handheld contender. It still is great despite not really being a "handheld".

JerryTerrifying said...

Oh man the iPhone and iPod touch is a terrible gaming device. When playing a 3d game the battery life on a full charge goes down to about 3 hours. That's fucking awful. Also the batteries are only good for about 400 recharge cycles so you're looking at replacing your battery every year if you're lucky. It's awesome how you have to have the battery changed for you too that really makes it conveniant and inexpensive..oh wait it does the opposite of that. It's a cool device but no where near the PSP or DS in terms of gaming.

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