Another day, another weekly feature I’m trying to show off! Today is premiering Thinking Thursdays: A weekly opportunity for me to discuss some trends going on in the gaming world and to give a brief editorial. Today, I discuss the new portable systems that are due to be released in the context or portable gaming system history!(Photo: Courtesy Flickr user popculturegeek.com)
Do you remember the days when there was the Gameboy vs. the Gamegear? Gamegear was a huge, bulky thing with horrible battery life, but it was in color. Gameboy had a little better battery life, was also bulky, was in black and white (or green and off-green depending on your opinion for coloration. The point being it wasn’t in color) but it had Tetris! As seems to be the case with all things in life, Sega lost the console war and the Gameboy outsold the Gamegear by far. (Photo: Courtesy Flickr user liftarn)
That episode more or less set the climate for portable gaming systems from then on. Nintendo reigned supreme in the portable world with no real competition for many years. That last statement holds true unless you count the N-Gage, but I really don’t. No one should. Nintendo took this virtual monopoly as a chance to start experimenting with size, look, and having a system that flipped open. Does anyone remember the difference between the look of the GameBoy Color, GB Advanced, GBA SP, and the GB Micro? It’s okay if you don’t remember the Micro because it was rather quickly shown up by the DS.
In late 2004 the Nintendo DS was launched, and less than a month later a new contender threw its hat into the ring: The Sony Playstation Portable. A new portable console war was off. One again, it was the technically lacking Nintendo system up against a competitor with a higher list of hardware specs. How dit it fare? According to VGChartz, the Nintendo DS has has sold 54.26 million units in the Americas and 145.01 million units worldwide. The PSP sold 21.59 million units in the US and 65.88 million units worldwide.
Later on this year, we will be seeing two new systems come in. The Nintendo 3DS and the Sony Next Generation Portable. What can both companies learn from this data? Let’s examine. First let’s look at Sony since they are the obvious underdogs here. Sony, no matter how awesome your hardware is, it doesn’t make up for a bad game selection and bad UI. Sure, you have WiFi, but how good was your browser? Okay, your graphics are sweet and you have a video library, but you a game that isn’t fun to play isn’t going to sell better because of sweet graphics. Sure, it may as well be a portable PS3, but make sure your games and functionality make use of it and make everything worth it. The Gameboy beat the Gamegear because of Tetris. The DS beat the PSP because of… well everything, really. Mario games, a cool touch pad, and many other things. Also, it seems like you learned your lesson from the PSP Go. Retailers are your friends and not just middlemen. Honestly, it seems like you’ve got it going in the right direction. Keep it up. (Photo: Courtesy Flickr user Danny Choo)
Now onto Nintendo. Guys, I love you. I honestly do. I’ve been a fan of yours since the NES. That being said, stop with this gimmicky mini-game stuff! I understand you don’t want to go into a cold war over hardware, and that’s okay. I would just like to see some pretty fun graphics. Also, your touch screen turned out to be pretty sweet on the DS. Don’t rest on your laurels with the 3DS. Make sure what we’re getting from it is still impressive. I’m just nervous about your 3DS for fear of headaches and a function that I feel like I will never truly appreciate. Love the joystick with the D-pad, but Sony has two! Can you get enough awesome games to beat out the NGP? Can you? We’ll see. You’ve got a head start. Make it work.
To wrap this up, I would also just like to say that I have no idea where portable gaming is going to end up. Nintendo and Sony are heading in two completely opposite directions hardware and service-wise, yet they are still competitors. My Nintendo fanboy-ism used to lead me with confidence, but now I’m not so sure. It’s really going to come down to lineup, and I think that the NGP is winning there. History shows, however, that Nintendo will reign supreme. Can history change? Also it really depends on how willing we as consumers are to embrace 3D. What do you guys think? Is this proof that competition is best for the consumer?