When the beloved PlayStation Vita finally died, many blamed the rise of mobile gaming. “I think the PS Vita, despite its time in many ways … was launched at a market opportunity at the very wrong time,” former Sony marketing director John Koller said Limit against smartphones. But despite Vita’s death, dedicated gaming PDAs didn’t die – in fact, the space is undeniably as vibrant as ever.
Valve just announced Steam Deck, a thick laptop that looks like the Sega Game Gear parallel universe. It is designed to allow players to export Steam computer games on the go. Just a few hours later, pre-orders opened for the latest iteration of the Nintendo Switch, which doesn’t change much larger, brighter OLED display and a stand that does not suck. Meanwhile, Panic plans to release strange ball playdate this year, and analog build possibly the most beautiful Game Boy of all time With Pocket, which is also scheduled to launch in 2021.
Nintendo showed that there is still a market for such devices. Nearly five years ago, the company completely changed its approach to hardware with a machine that obscured the lines between the handheld and the home console, and Switch has since become a massive hit that moves more than 84 million copies. Perhaps most interesting, however, is that the two hardware versions since Switch’s debut in 2017 have both focused on the portable game. The first was hand-held Switch Lite onlyand now the OLED version; a better display doesn’t matter if you’re playing with the switch docked.
Steam Deck follows a similar approach. It’s basically a cheap computer with a screen so you can play on the go, but that can also be connected to an external monitor or TV if you want. It’s like a Switch without Nintendo games. Taking into account the history of Valve with building materials such as Steam controller and living room focused steam engines, it is likely that the Steam Deck is not the breakout hit that Switch had. It could open up a new type of PC gaming hardware or, much more likely, it could end up in a beloved niche. But its mere existence still shows that there is a market here.
Because playing smartphones didn’t kill the portable console. Mobile gaming remains a huge success; EA is not throw around billions of dollars in vain. But for the most part, games that have proven successful on a mobile phone are not the kind you would buy to play the device. The free game has completely improved the space, covering virtually all genres and major releases Pokémon Go that Call of Duty Mobile that Candy Crush Saga. At this point, unless your game is called Minecraft, it is unlikely to sell. Apple Arcade is a company bring things back to the early, exciting days of top iPhone gaming, but dedicated handhelds seem better suited for the niche.
The most interesting thing about the renaissance held in this hand is how different each machine is. The switch is such an incredible Nintendo, underpowered device that is still a must own because of it Zelda and Mario Kart. Steam Deck is a computer on the road. Analog’s first attempt at laptops – the company makes great retro consoles – solves a very important problem, namely letting people play original Game Boy cartridges on a beautiful, modern screen. Playdate is the weirdest of all: a small yellow box with a crank handle that lets you play black and white games like Keita Takahashi and Zach Gage.
In some ways, the year 2021 looks a lot like the palm market of previous years. You have Nintendo’s leading tip at the forefront, and many other companies – some big, others small – are trying to carve their own niche. In the past, these failed experiments have become beloved devices. I still keep the Vita, Game Boy Micro, and Neo Geo Pocket Color table in the box because I can’t let go. It may well happen here because none of these machines are guaranteed success. After years, Playdate may fill an empty space in that box. But one thing Is sure: I can’t wait to travel again with a trade show bag full of games.