Ready for portable gaming’s evolution?

by Shane Dillon

WITH the inexorable rise of mobile gaming into mass culture, you might expect to see dedicated handheld consoles enjoying a resurgent popularity, following in the notable footsteps left by the likes of Nintendo’s 3DS, or Sony’s PlayStation Vita.
However, the opposite now seems to be true – the ever-increasing rise in mobile gaming makes it increasingly less likely that new gaming handhelds will appear. Why, you may ask?
Speaking in Birmingham at the just concluded EGX 2015 – the UK’s biggest gaming event – Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, was asked about developing a sequel platform to the Vita.
He said: “People have mobile phones and it’s so easy to play games on smartphones. And many games on smartphones are free, or free to start.
“I myself am a huge fan of PlayStation Vita and we worked really hard on designing every aspect. Touch-based games are fun – there are many games with really good design. But having sticks and buttons make things totally different.
“So I hope, like many of you, that this culture of playing portable games continues, but the climate [for dedicated handheld platforms] is not healthy for now because of the huge dominance of mobile gaming.”
In other words: “Sure, mobile gaming is going through the roof, but the problem is that everyone’s playing games on their phones or tablets, rather than on a dedicated console. As such, the era of walking into a games shop to pick up a game for a handheld console – or the consoles – is as dead as a dodo.”
The only thing that seems likely is that, from 2016 onwards, a dedicated handheld that’s specifically controlled and curated by a single corporation simply won’t happen.
The major studios and publishers alike are being forced to evolve, facing an evolutionary battle that has already seen a number of gaming giants toppled in 2015, unable to keep pace with smaller and more agile developers nipping about their heels.
To echo Yoshida: “It’s so easy to play games on smartphones.” This pragmatic statement is almost certain to see itself implemented by the gaming gods porting their biggest names and franchises into the new all-digital frontier, rather than clinging to traditional mobile gaming hardware models.

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