Handheld Gaming Systems: Not Dead

Handheld Gaming Systems: Not Dead

With the constant declarations from mobile phone and tablet companies about how the age of the dedicated handhed gaming device is supposedly “over,” you would think that one of them would have the courtesy to send a carrier pigeon to Nintendo. Despite the doom and gloom and the prophecies of destruction, the company that made the Game Boy is still sitting in its chair, slowly putting together game after game and handheld after handheld.

LG is the latest mobile phone company to ping a pebble against Nintendo’s finish with the claim that its smartphone, the LG Optimus 3D, will take a bite out of the 3DS’s market share. “The era of dedicated handheld gaming platform is over. Today’s smartphones have the horsepower to compete with the best portable gaming devices and LG Optimus 3D is our proof,” said LG CEO Dr. Jong-seok Park when the Optimus 3D went on sale in Korea earlier in July. “We think 3D is the natural next step in portable entertainment and LG is eager to throw its hat in the ring with the Optimus 3D and Gameloft’s ‘must-be-seen-to-be-believed’ titles.”

A revised statement was later released by LG that retracted Dr. Jong-seok Park’s remark about the end of the dedicated handheld gaming system, though the statement did retain Dr. Jong-seok Park’s sentiments about smartphones (the Optimus 3D in particular) having the necessary muscle to compete with the Nintendo 3DS and, presumably, the PS Vita.

LG’s retraction of Dr. Jong-seok Park’s statement is a good move on the company’s part, because claiming that smartphones like the Optimus 3D are going to flatline handheld systems frankly paints LG as a company that doesn’t understand the handheld market it’s looking to conquer. For instance, though the Optimus 3D boasts a 3D screen, it’s not 3D visuals that core gamers necessarily want to see from smartphones: It’s a control alternative besides virtual analogue sticks situated on a touchscreen. And even the inclusion of a real d-pad does not make for a guaranteed smartphone sell, as the slow adoption rate of Sony’s Xperia Play demonstrates.

Then there’s the matter of games. The Optimus 3D comes pre-loaded with some Gameloft titles, including 3D adaptations of Asphalt 6: Adrenaline (a racing game), N.O.V.A. (a shooter) and Let’s Golf! 2 (a horror game about aliens breeding and harvesting human flesh–kidding). These are all decent games, and Gameloft does solid work, but let’s face it, the company isn’t known for its fresh and original takes on old genres. Smartphones, especially smartphones marketed outside of Apple’s walls, have yet to tempt core gamers with killer apps, something the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita can accomplish with the likes of games featuring Mario, Link, and Nathan Drake.

Dr. Jong-seok Park wasn’t totally off the mark. There is a war between handheld game systems and smartphones, but it’s not about who has the best 3D display. It’s about coaxing casual gamers with low game prices, netting kids with free-to-play games versus encouraging them to pay for costlier, meatier fare, and comparing the value of a do-it-all smartphone with a specialized system.

Though to be fair, if the Optimus 3D could change into a palm-sized robot that is capable of conjuring up a trailer out of nowhere, LG would win the portable wars in a second flat.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

Leave a Reply