Handheld Consoles – Soon to Be a Thing of the Past?
Handheld gaming has been a fixed part of our society since the rise of Nintendo’s first handheld, the Game Boy, in the late 1980s (International Business Times, 2014). This form of game play was mainly dominated by Nintendo with their handhelds holding strong from the 1990s to the present day. This was due to the success of the their very first handheld, the Game Boy, which dominated the market for nearly a decade and introduced a new generation of gamers to portable gaming. The success that Nintendo saw encouraged them to release more handhelds which included the Game Boy Color which was the successor of the original Game Boy and as the name suggests held a colour screen instead of the originals 2-bit 4 shades of grey screen which went from light grey to a dark olive green (Nintendo of Europe GmbH, 2016). These two consoles were highly successful with combined sales of 118.69 million units sold worldwide (Nintendo, 2016). After these, the final project in the Game Boy line was released in 2001, the Game Boy Advance. This also harnessed great success with 81.51 million units sold worldwide (Nintendo, 2016). After years of the Game Boy becoming know worldwide Nintendo decided to scrap the brand with the release of the Nintendo DS in 2004 (Wikipedia, 2016). This was very well received as it was the only handheld console at the time to have two screens and even more interestingly a touch screen on one of them. However, it seems that Nintendo’s innovation has somewhat plateaued since the release of the DS as while they have released upgraded designs to the DS such as the DS Lite, DSi, 2DS, and 3DS it seems they are just adding gimmicks such as a camera and 3D capibilities to the same design that is over a decade old. While this was acceptable with their original console in the 1990s, it seems that with technology constantly evolving that Nintendo are slipping to the wayside.
While Nintendo has had a strong foothold in the world of handheld gaming, the same cannot really be said for other gaming giants such as Sony. In its time, Sony has released 3 handheld consoles, the PlayStation Portable (or PSP), the PSP Go, and the PS Vita. While all got good reviews upon their initial release they all seemed to get discontinued after approximately a 3-4 year period while Sony revealed an updated version of their handheld. The PSP had 5 iterations including the PSP Go over a 7 year period (Wikipedia, 2016). This constant need for updates over such a short time period leads one to believe that Sony almost had to fight to stay in the portable gaming market as they did not have the same appeal as their contenders over at Nintendo. While Sony fought to stay in the handheld gaming market their other competition over at Microsoft chose to stay out of the world of portable gaming and instead focused on their main Xbox console market.
In recent times, Sony has released the PS Vita which had generally good reviews upon release but after a year or so it seemed that its high price was a huge let down with lots of people struggling to justify buying it especially with smartphones with gaming capabilities hitting the market (MarketWatch, 2012). Nintendo held strong with their most recent in the line of DS’, the 3DS. This has held strong within the handheld gaming world but never really became a must have gadget for people to buy with only 61.57 million units as of 30 September 2016 being sold since its initial release in 2011 (Nintendo, 2016). Nintendo has recently announced it’s new console which is a hybrid between a handheld and a typical stationary console called the Nintendo Switch. After its initial announcement, Nintendo stocks fell 7% but it is yet to be seen if this is any indication on whether the console will be a success or not (Alexander, 2016). It is yet to be seen whether handheld gaming will become a thing of the past but at this moment in time Nintendo are fighting to keep it alive.
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