Mobile gaming: battle of the gadgets
One thing to rule them all?
Nintendo 3Ds vs PS Vita (vs tablets)
Which leads me nicely on to the clash of the hardcore titans. Nintendo and Sony have staked hundreds of millions of dollars gambling on the viability of dedicated handhelds in the tablet era. It's one gamble they'll be lucky to break even from.
There's nothing inherently wrong with either the 3DS or PS Vita. In fact, I'm the proud owner of both. It's simply that they already look anachronistic – as unaware of their impending fate as Cretaceous-era dinosaurs or 32-bit arcade machines.
The price still ain't right: 3DS and the Nintendo 'difference'
Nintendo has long been immune to progress, of course. No matter how much the tech landscape evolved around it, it always managed to thrive on the 'Nintendo Difference' - that inimitable ability to rinse and repeat iconic IPs through successive generations. But its handhelds have never faced such compelling competition.
For many years, simple processors and interfaces meant rudimentary phone games like Snake stood no chance against Mario et al. That's all changed now. The 3DS already looks dated compared to the average smartphone, but it's nowhere near as dated as Nintendo's pricing structure. At a rigid £35 for 3DS titles, that Nintendo Difference seems exorbitant in the sub-dollar world of tablet and phone gaming.
Vita: tablet touches meet console controls
Sony seems equally optimistic on pricing, with some Vita launch titles priced at £40. But it's adopting a more flexible approach than Nintendo, allowing developers to set their own price for retail or digital games. The PS Vita also has other advantages that should, in the short term at least, ensure its survival.
Its quad-core tech and OLED screen are a generational leap over the 3DS, ensuring it parity with smartphones over the next two years. And then there's those control schemes: twin-sticks for hardcore gaming and touchscreens for attracting smartphone ports. Vita's most intriguing advantage, however, is PS3 interoperability through Cross-Play and, most excitingly, Remote Play, making full PS3 titles playable on Vita through Wi-Fi streaming.
Given Vita's impressive versatility, it's understandable that Sony has succumbed to hubris. Just days ago, it predicted a five-to-ten year life expectancy for Vita. That's historically been the case for consoles, but seems remarkably optimistic given the pace of tablet technology.
A gaming-focused phone or small tablet with twin-sticks and buttons, quad-core processors and major development support is hardly the stuff of fantasy. Windows 8 devices will likely lead the charge. And with a market fast approaching $20bn up for grabs, how long before Apple and Google make their move? It's not a case of when Vita and 3DS will encounter indomitable competition, but just how soon. ®