— This article is an opinion piece written by Akia Rahming and does not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the entire Nintendo Enthusiast staff. —
For decades now, the console sector of the video-game industry has been separated by the fine line between home and handheld consoles. From the days of the SEGA Genesis & Game Gear, and the SNES & Gameboy, to the current times of the PS4 & PS Vita and the Wii U & 3DS. These pairs have ran alongside each other for quite some time, with each possessing its own unique ecosystem. However, as of late, handhelds have had a lot less breathing space.
In the past half-decade, smartphones and tablets have seen a massive increase in popularity. They’re so commonplace that even children as young as 5 have their own tablets. With the rise in both popularity and processing power of these devices, several game companies have flocked to the virtual marketplaces and have brought a wide variety of games which has proven to be quite successful on several occasions. With that being the case, the appeal of dedicated handheld game consoles has continued to drop.
Looking at this generation, the connection between handheld consoles and their home-based counterparts has been quite strong. Many titles have been simultaneously released on both variations, some even possessing the feature of cross-saving; the ability to transfer save data between the two systems. The PS Vita even has the ability to perform Remote Play — in which it can stream games directly from a PS4 system through an Internet connection. Both the 3DS and the Vita have even functioned as controllers for games on their home-based counterparts.
With new-found abilities such as these, it’s no doubt proved to be convenient to have a handheld system not just as its own platform, but also as a neat add-on to a home console. That leads one to wonder — how great would it be if they were even more connected?
Looking at how the past two handhelds have flirted with their console counterparts, a system that combines both ideas only seems to make sense.
While it’s true that some games are better suited for the bigger screens of home consoles, and other titles are better played on the go, this can still be voided by having a hybrid system. The home unit will act essentially as the ‘hub’. It can have a dedicated controller and all, but at the same time, it can also feature a device that’s modeled after the average handheld system. This too can function as a controller, and act as an un-tethered extension to the home-based ‘hub’.
While on the go, it can stream all the content from the ‘hub’, or maybe even download a local copy so that it doesn’t have to rely solely on having a constant Internet connection. It can then synchronize the save data with the ‘hub’, allowing one to start a game at home and then finish it while they’re away. The handheld-extension can also be its own thing as well, having its own specific library of games — there’s no harm in that.
I believe an idea like this would work because of the lifestyles of the average person. Some can only game when they have an occasional bit of free time, or they may even sacrifice something important (i.e. finishing a project, family time, etc.), just to get some gaming done. However, there are periods throughout the day when they really aren’t doing anything, but aren’t at home to hop onto their consoles either.
By having an inter-connected handheld, those free spots throughout the day can be exploited, such as taking a bus ride or waiting in line — the same instances that people are using handheld systems for now. It could even be used over very long-distances, such as when travelling on vacation. Usually, I’ll bring my Wii U along with me (yes, I’m serious) but it is a pretty daunting task to travel along with it, considering the weight of the system and the size of the box. Having a handheld like this would basically be a huge game-changer (literally), as there are many occasions while on vacation, where I’ve had some serious downtime.
There are many instances where handheld devices come in handy. A hybrid handheld could easily fit in these scenarios, and offer an even better experience.
Despite the fact that mobile devices have greatly increased in processing power and availability, they still have yet to achieve the same experience as dedicated gaming systems. While there’s been a few ‘gaming tablets’ that have been released, not even they convey the exact same feelings as a traditional console. To add to that, the majority of the games found in these devices aren’t nearly as broad as the ones on consoles. They’re usually a lot more simplistic, and are really meant to be time-killers and distractions during boring situations.
You wouldn’t mind spending a 4-hour plane ride on Pokemon or Mario, but would you do the same with Candy Crush or Temple Run? While these devices may be more popular than traditional handhelds, it’ll still be a while before they can truly be considered worthy successors.
To be honest, it would be rather nice if the next generation of handhelds do the same thing to tablets and smartphones, that tablets and smartphones did to them. What do I mean?
Well, these mobile devices have tried to adopt the characteristics of handheld systems, so how about a vice-versa? A future handheld, continuing with the hybrid-scheme, could possibly incorporate the social features of mobile devices. This means being able to make calls and/or connect to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Having these features, combined with the game-oriented networks, would be quite the package. Add that to being inter-connected to the home-based hub and you have yourself a perfect ecosystem.
While this all sounds relatively straight-forward in worded form, the actual design may not be all that simple. Nevertheless, it would be nice if this is the new direction that gaming took. While Nintendo is a huge superpower in the handheld sector, there’s no denying that the rise of the mobile industry has dealt a notable blow to them. Hopefully, something like this could remedy the problem.