When the popular Playstation Vita died out, many people blamed the growth of mobile gaming. However, despite the PS Vita’s demise, gaming handhelds didn’t get traced out of the market. In fact, this gaming is still vibrant as ever, despite people embracing mobile gaming and using their smartphones to play real money online poker from anywhere in the world.
Valve recently announced the Steam Deck, a large portable PC that resembles the Sega Game Gear. The Steam Deck is designed to let players take the Steam library while on the go, and a few hours later the preorders for the latest offering of Nintendo Switch opened. The new Nintendo Switch hasn’t changed much besides a bigger OLED screen and an impressive kickstand.
Panic is also planning to release their oddball Playdate earlier this year, and Analogue is also building the most attractive Game Boy ever slated to unveil this year. Nintendo has proven there’s still a market for this type of device, after completely transforming their approach towards gaming hardware almost half a century ago by blurring the lines between a home console and handheld devices. Today, the Switch has become a huge success, selling over 84 million units.
Nintendo has unveiled two hardware revisions since the debut of Switch in 2017, both focusing on portable play. The company started with the handheld-only Switch Lite and then the OLED version, which offers a better screen even when playing the Switch docked. The Stream Deck also takes a similar approach, basically making it a cheaper PC with a large screen to play while on the go and you can also connect it with a TV or an external monitor. That makes it like a Switch without the Nintendo games.
Considering Valve’s history in creating gaming hardware like the Steam Controller and home-based Steam Machines, there’s a big chance that the Steam Deck won’t be the huge success that Switch was. However, it might usher in a new dawn for PC gaming hardware or end up as a loved niche. Nonetheless, its existence proves there’s still a market for dedicated handheld gaming devices.
Because mobile gaming hasn’t killed the portable console market, companies including EA are still investing billions of dollars in the industry. However, the type of games that are proving successful on smartphones is not the kind you’d need a dedicated device to play.
Free-to-play games have also completely upended the scene, covering almost every major release and genre from Pokemon Go to Candy Crush Saga. That shows that any game will probably sell on the current market unless its title is Minecraft. However, Apple Arcade is attempting to bring back those early entertaining days of iPhone games although dedicated handhelds seem to be better suited for this niche.
In several ways, the current industry looks like the handheld device market of previous years. Nintendo is leading the way, with lots of other big and small companies trying to establish a niche of their own. Fortunately, most failed experiences in the past have blossomed into beloved devices like Game Boy Micro, Vita, and Neo Geo Pocket color that some players can’t get over.