Where has handheld gaming gone?

Mobile gaming has taken control and that's not a good thing.

As a kid, I picked up a GameBoy Color and played Pokémon as I patiently waited in the back of my mom's car to get to whatever destination she had planned. As a teenager, I picked up my Nintendo DS or my PSP and did the same. Nowadays, I have no reason to. There are a couple of good games for the PlayStation Vita, but nothing substantial. Nintendo's 3DS and 2DS aren't much better. There are a couple of good games, but, for the price of the console, it still isn't worth it. So why has handheld gaming declined?

Cellphones and the mobile gaming trend

One of the biggest culprits is mobile gaming. To pose a rhetorical question: Why would someone spend all this money on a new console and all the games for it when they can pull out their phones and play a free game that'll still provide entertainment?

Let me answer the question for you. They wouldn't and they don't. 

Despite the extravagant American lifestyle most strive for, we're still cheap individuals who don't like paying more than we have to. As a result, we've stuck to the cheap apps on phones we already own instead of paying $40 for one game on a console that is bound to cost at least $100. 

According to statista.com, in 2014, gamers spent 3% of their time on portable video game players, 21% of their time on mobile games, and 24% of their time on consoles. Mobile games are seriously on the rise and according to the same website, the mobile gaming industry was valued at 7.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2012. 

That is an amazing statistic. That mobile gaming has so far surpassed portable, handheld gaming and that it has almost surpassed console gaming shows it's here to stay. Mobile gaming is beginning to take over and the statistics prove it. Mobile gaming is now a huge industry, bigger than that of portable games, and will only continue to keep growing. 

Nintendo on the decline

How much do you hear about Nintendo anymore? You don't hear much at all. Nintendo releases a couple of new games that blow over and constant new version of old franchises (Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, Super Smash, etc.). Unless you're a Nintendo fanboy or fangirl, chances are Nintendo isn't getting your attention.

Think about how Nintendo is displayed, too. At GameStop, Nintendo only takes up a little corner. In Best Buy, Target, Walmart, or whatever other store sells electronics, Nintendo has a little space off to the side of Xbox and PlayStation. Even if the Nintendo section is large, it's covered with Amiibos and doesn't promote the handheld games at all. To be honest, it's a little depressing.

Consider how Nintendo is actually doing. Besides the success of some of their more recent games such as Splatoon and Super Mario Maker, the company is doing poorly. The 2DS had only sold 2.1 million copies in February 2014, and finding statistics for the 2DS nowadays is difficult, probably due to how few people are interested in the console and how few people are buying a new one. There has been an increase in 3DS sales due to the 3DS XL, but it is still minimal and hasn't made too much of an impact for the company.

Sony doesn't care anymore

About a month ago, Sony said they had no plans to make a second PS Vita because it wouldn't be profitable to them and mobile gaming was just too prolific:

"So I hope, like many of you, that this culture of playing portable games continues, but the climate is not healthy for now because of the huge dominance of mobile gaming."

About two weeks ago, Sony stated they were no longer making any first party Vita games as well. Frankly, that's a little depressing. It's even more of a giving up mentality regarding the PS Vita.

Xbox has never been a part of this trend

Microsoft has never tried to make a handheld console. While this isn't necessarily a bad or good thing, it still presents a bit of a problem. Microsoft is a big name in the video game industry; they're one of four big names (including Nintendo, Steam, and Sony).

Since Microsoft hasn't even tried a handheld console, it indicates a belief that a Microsoft handheld console would be doomed to fail before it even began. With such a mentality, it's harder to believe that handheld gaming is important. 

Microsoft didn't even have to make a handheld console; they could have just posed the idea to a news reporter to see how fans would react and if the console would go over well or not. But Microsoft didn't even attempt such a thing. Microsoft just ignored handheld gaming altogether, helping mobile gaming to win.

Honestly, if Microsoft were to release a handheld gaming device, chances are all the Microsoft fanboys would buy one and it would help sustain handheld gaming.

Why are you leaving me?

I want handheld gaming to make a comeback. I miss being able to play on my PS Vita; I don't just want to stare at it sitting in a corner waiting for a game to finally come out for it that I want to play.

Mobile gaming doesn't have to die, but it shouldn't just push out handheld gaming without a second thought. Gaming is evolving, but mobile games are not a part of that evolution; they're an offshoot. Handheld gaming needs to evolve on its own and not just die. Handheld games are a part of our culture. They helped build gaming into what it is today and don't deserve to be cast aside so easily.

Did I forget an important aspect to the decline of handheld gaming or do you disagree completely? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

[Image source 1, 2, 3, 4]

[Source 1, 2]

Published Nov. 11th 2015

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