Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Portable VS. Mobile: The Battle for Handheld King

Portable VS. Mobile: The Battle for Handheld King:
The Stakes:
The battle wages on as games on portable consoles square off against games on mobile devices. With the Nintendo 3DS already on the market and the PlayStation Vita hitting retailers in the U.S. the internets are once again asking which platform is king for handheld gaming.

While the handheld market used to be dominated by the biggest names in gaming, the mobile space has found new life with the onset of casual and social gaming. With cutting edge hardware that can do a lot more than make calls, mobile phones and even tablets have proven themselves to be worthy adversaries in gaming. These new contenders in the mobile space have opened up various app and game marketplaces and thus thrown their hats into the ring in hopes of gaining market share and snaring gamers of all types.

Mobile Contenders:

Apple- with iOS brings iPhone, iPad, and the iPod Touch to the mobile gaming space. Their hardware is designed for the user and is all built to cover just about every part of mobile entertainment. With a huge ecosystem of all-around entertainment and functionality, Apple brings not just gaming but the whole package to the table.

Android- with an “open” platform and rolling release schedule, hardware manufactures from all around the world have poked and prodded at Android to fit it on all types of hardware of varying specs, sizes, and intended uses. Being a modular system has its advantages, but Android must overcome the trend of being saddled upon sub par devices that don’t do the platform justice.  The most popular of designs are seen in the mobile phone and tablet space from manufacturers like Motorola,Toshiba, Asus, HTC, and Samsung; it is on these flagship devices that we see the best that Android has to offer for the gaming world.

Windows Phone (7/7.5 Mango)- having years of experience in the mobile space as an ideal platform for business, Microsoft is attempting to change the public perception with sleek new devices focused on an intuitive touch friendly interface and a unified experience between phones, computers and the Xbox brand.

Console Contenders:

Nintendo- the decorated veteran in portable gaming. With few missteps in their history Nintendo sets the bar on how to make, market and sell gaming consoles. Their newest iteration, the 3DS, is one of the first 3D gaming units and one of few glasses-free portable designs. With backwards compatibility to the previous generations, Nintendo brings an extensive library of classic, downloadable, and new 3D games for players on the go.

Sony PlayStation- with a well deserved reputation for designing top notch gaming console, PlayStation attempts to take the home experience on the go with their PlayStation Vita. With a set of cross-console games, 3G functionality, and a brand focused on quality, PlayStation has their sights on the hardcore gamers.

Mobile Pros:

Mobile devices; how we love you, let us count the ways…

You are cheap- pledging two years of service to the all mighty carriers opens the floodgates on various new mobile phones at that magic $99 price, or better yet, free! (Also, instant market saturation.)

You are quick – with bleeding edge technology, games exist at the touch of a button, and with short to no loading times games can start and stop in seconds. (Great for bus rides and dentist visits.)

Your games run on most of the devices out there- they can be cross-hardware and even cross-platform. Multiplayer mobile games know very little boundaries when bound to an operating system independent of hardware differences.

You allow us to be social- playing multiplayer games and following leaderboards is more fun when facebook is involved. Ok, maybe not. But it does give you bragging rights on the go.

You are diverse- there are thousands of games of to provide variety, everyone can find a few games to love.

You are always there for us. Even when we are roaming and the signal is bad, we feel empty when you’re not attached to our hips. Thank you phone, you bring us as much entertainment as your cell reception and battery can handle. You can even call and text.

Mobile Cons:

Unfortunately, a mobile lifestyle is not a perfect one.

Android and Apple have divided the mobile gaming space. When both platforms offer great experiences and great games consumers must take sides or buy into both. Windows Phone muscles in on the competition with their own set of high end games as the underdog, and with Xbox Live integration they tap into an existing user base the competition cant offer.

With all these new devices running high end games on bright vibrant screens AND maintaining a wifi or 3/4G connection they are all at the mercy of how long their batteries can hold out. Batteries get better every year, but it seems like as the tech gets faster and more powerful they can drain them just as quick. Making or receiving an important call will trump a session of angry birds when there is nearly no juice left.
Portable Console Pros:

Your home console on the go, Mr. Portable Console. From the biggest names in home console gaming we give you gaming on the go in a nice neat handheld form factor. Yay!
Built with hardware specifically designed to tackle games, the portable console brings you a dedicated quality experience. The 3DS and PSP/Vita both have backwards compatibility and can access a huge back catalog of older games as well as downloadable and classic titles. The 3DS comes from a long line of portable handhelds and has proven themselves with repeat success. Compared to Nintendo’ Gameboys, the PSP is relatively new to the market but has held down their place with more immersive games that tend to cater to more hardcore gamers. Both units allow for online play similar to their big screen-hogging home console counterparts, but can also offer a more personal face to face wireless play experience. Titles like Mario Kart and Wipeout offer a great competitive experience when you have a few friends together with their own units.
Console Cons:

Portable consoles provide tons of fun on the small screen wherever you want to take it, but it comes at a price. While the portable console provides fun at a fraction of the size of the traditional home console they tend to cost just as much. Not only does the hardware come at a cost close to that of their big screen counterparts, they require the same investment in additional games and accessories. They do suffer from the same battery limitations as mobile phones, but as a dedicated device you aren’t going to rely on it to make an emergency call. Over time good games and bad games come out, and it seems harder these days not to create a “pile of shame.” On the portable side there seems to be a lot more shovelware to avoid amongst the good titles.

So…. Who Wins?

So where does that leave us? Are you a die hard fanboy for Sony? Or maybe a hardcore Android enthusiast? I myself am more of the latter but for most it comes down to personal preference or having a previous investment to one particular set of brands. Sometimes its just a need for “New Shinys” and having a love for all things gaming. And some of use just have to have a little bit from each camp.

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