The End (and Beginning) of Portable Gaming

There is a lot of conjecture coming out of various gaming publications about what we’ll see at E3 this year from the big portable gaming developers. There has also been quite a bit of talk about the end of portable gaming as we know it as people move towards all-in-one devices like iPod and iPad for their on-the-go gaming needs.

We want to set straight where we think portable games are going, and while we do think this is the end of portable gaming as we know it, we think it’s all for the better.

The way portable games are developed now is on a game-by-game basis. By that, we mean that a development studio takes on the task of creating a portable title from the beginning, with the goal of making a game to go. But with handhelds as powerful as the PlayStation Vita, our bet is on starting to see games that are nearly direct ports of their console counterparts.

Just how soon will we be playing this?

Having played MLB 12: The Show on both PlayStation 3 and the Vita, we were shocked by just how similar the games actually were. Sure, they needed to be because of the game’s CrossPlay functionality, but that just shows how close we’re getting to console-portable parity and why Sony might be pushing for that ten-year console life cycle after all.

Consider the revenue development companies pull in from portable titles. Sure, it isn’t nearly as much as what they see from their blockbuster hits on home consoles, but that is all about to change. In the previous development space, game companies would take on a portable title as a separate entity from its console counterpart, linked simply by storyline or smaller gameplay mechanics. Now, however, it seems that with a small increase in development cost, companies can put out a game for the Vita that is virtually identical and reap the benefits of either multiple game purchases from one user or by bringing in a user who has the portable console but not the home setup.

Call of Duty¬†is the biggest franchise that comes to mind right now. It is confirmed to be coming to the PlayStation Vita, and while all speculation leads us to believe that the game is going to be designed exclusively for the Vita, it wouldn’t surprise us at all if they revealed that the Vita game was, in fact, Black Ops II.

It might be a blatant Halo rip off, but it's making traditional portable titles look weak.

It might also be easy to discount this as only possible for PlayStation games, and while that may be true to get CrossPlay functionality out of the game, there is nothing stopping developers from releasing a game to the iOS App Store that is a full fledged portable title. We’ve seen games like Infinity Blade 2 and N.O.V.A 3 that are nothing short of stunning on non-gaming tablets, and it only stands to reason that they would in fact keep coming if the buyers are there. And the buyers, believe us, are there.

While we’re not totally convinced that Sony was brilliant enough to figure this all out at the beginning of the PlayStation 3, when they claimed a ten-year life cycle, but it does make all of that more realistic and bearable at this point. When the PlayStation 4 does come out, it will (or it should, at the very least), blow anything on the PlayStation Vita clean out of the water. With that logic, Sony won’t release anything new on the console front for a few more years if only to prove just how viable the Vita is as a legitimate platform.

Great start with games like Metal Gear and Resident Evil, but step up your quality game, Nintendo.

Of course, this also means Nintendo should think about stepping up its game, and Microsoft might want to consider entering the handheld market, if it hasn’t already come up with something we’re going to see at E3 (a long shot, we know). Nintendo’s 3DS is grossly underpowered when compared to the Vita, and at a very similar price – especially if the Vita’s price drops this year as expected – so Nintendo could use to give it, at the very least, a beefier processor and higher resolution screen.

We’ve always been portable gamers. We started with Nintendo’s Game Boy and Sega’s Game Gear before we ever had a home console, and while we’ve got everything under the sun now, portable games still make us smile more than console ones. It’s exciting to think that we will be seeing console-quality titles in our pockets in the near future, and hopefully they’re all going to be of the calibre of Call of Duty, GTA V, and Uncharted.