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Are Handheld Games Consoles In Decline?

With games in this console generation being almost entirely relegated to the XBox One, PS4, Wii U and PC, a lot of us are wondering just where the handheld fits in anymore. Graphics on the Xbox One and PS4 have pushed out the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect from  games, plus the PC is going so far in terms of pretty looking graphics that developers are delaying titles in order to focus on the looks.

Back in  the olden days we were content with the DS and Game Boy platforms, but obviously these were all dominated by Nintendo and affiliated Japanese game companies. Mainstream gaming of late has come to handheld through mobile operating systems for phone and tab let, and up until recently the PS Vita.

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But since Sony have been winding down the Vita, we’ve been wondering if the 3DS will soon be the only option for dedicated handheld gamers on the go. The thing about the Vita was that unlike a tablet it was built for gaming, with two analog sticks and all the required buttons. First person shooters, including Borderlands 2, were playable on the Vita with equal ease to a console gamepad.

On top of this the oft-unconsidered Vita could get apps, and had close functionality to some of the more basic tablets. Skype and Facebook both still work on the platform, and it also boasts media file playback and basic microphone and front and rear cameras. With tablets on the rise and climbing in complexity, touchscreen gaming is definitely blowing up, but we are still wondering if there’s room for a gaming dedicated handheld with stick layout and portability.

The PSP was somewhat of a crazy leap forward into a multimedia handheld gaming world. You put discs into it, but with some fiddling you could go on the internet and run home brewed apps.

Of course the style of the gaming handheld is inimitable – prominently featuring a rectangular profile, in portable pocket size, with a decent screen for close encounters and enough buttons for the job. We think it’s a shame that such a device no longer exists with the type of functionality close to what’s seen on a modern tablet. But is there still hope for the format?

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Nintendo’s NX project console has been rumored to merge the functionality of the DS and the Wii console series. Admittedly the Wii U screen controller is unmistakably of the old school handheld format, and it has all the buttons and a touch screen to do the job. But other than that there is little rumor, or hope for the type of device similar to what Sony pioneered with the PSP and the Vita – a mini computer, with apps, in a handheld’s guise.

People all over the web are seeing this, and have noticed the decline. Similar articles around tech blogs have been noticing the trend (see the article at CNET below). Of course, there are new companies entering the handheld world every day, such as Nvidia with Shield, but it’s still not easy to license big games unless you’re Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo.

As such, we believe the niche still exists for these multi use gaming machines for two hands, and we’re going to hold out and hope something comes around in the future. We’ll stay reporting anything that comes our way.

See more on the handheld topic @ CNET

Handheld Console History @ Wikipedia