Opinion: Goodbye dedicated game systems; we’ll miss you when you’re gone

Opinion-Goodbye-dedicated-game-systems;-we’ll-miss-you-when-you’re-gone

On Wednesday, Sony’s long-awaited PlayStation Vita goes on sale in North America. Our impressions of some of the initial games ranged from outstanding(Super Stardust Delta scored a 9.5), to dismal(Michael Jackson: The Experience HDgot stamped with a 4). The rest mostly hovered around 7. Not bad for a first batch, but with gaming getting better in smartphones, tablets, and TVs, I’m wondering how long before these standalone system become obsolete.

Now, the Vita isn’t perfect. We gave it an 8.5 out of 10, dinging it for hidden costs, a limited browser, and poor battery life, but for gaming it is better by far than any smartphone. So while I think we are seeing the end of this class, I’m going to argue that that this shouldn’t be the case.

Death of the unitasker

The PDA and the two-way pager no longer exist, having been absorbed into the feature and smartphone space years ago.But these were communications applications, and phones are a communications platform, so it was relatively easy for them to become aggregated into the new form factor. As these devices became obsolete, they drag companies with them. Palm had trouble with the migration, and that company no longer exists. Research In Motion (RIM) is currently on death watch.

So there is clearly a precedent for one device eating up everything similar, but I’m not convinced this should happen with games yet.

Gaming: It’s in the controller

Casual games are clearly fine on a smartphone, but if you’ve ever played an arcade-style game or a shooter, the touch screen really starts to suck as a control element.Having physical controls makes these games far less aggravating because you can actually feel the button move, and you can hit several controls at once and not confuse the device.Yes, the phone is more convenient, but systems like the PlayStation Vita are just more fun. I seem to have a vastly lower tendency, after playing a fast game, to need to through the device into a wall out of frustration.

Video-Game-Controllers

In addition, unlike two-way paging and PDA functions, you play games for hours.It isn’t atypical to find your phone completely dead after playing games for just a few hours on an airplane, meaning you have no power to call your ride when you land and get picked up.If you kill the hand-held game system, you still have your phone to fall back on.

Granted, the Vita only has five hours of batterylife, about half of what I’d think was ideal, but think of this as five extra hours for your phone, which could be a life saver if you need to call for help.Given the power-intensive nature of gaming coupled with the need for a dedicated physical controller for anything above casual gaming, I think the hand-held gaming segment has some potential life left in it.But perceptions may kill it anyway.

The problem with perceptions

Perceptions drive our reality. That’s a problem for both Sony and Nintendo, which are currently perceived as redundant beside smartphones.Given what happened to Palm and RIM, there is clearly a broad foundation for that perception, and gaming developers have been flocking to iOS and Android for some time now.

So the problem isn’t whether gaming systems should be absorbed by smartphones, the problem is that people believe that to be the logical outcome.Sales and demand are well off the ideal for this class of product as a result.

First handhelds, then consoles

If hand-held gaming systems become obsolete, can console gaming be far behind?We’ve seen both Microsoft and Sony move their platforms aggressively towards other uses like streaming video, but smartTVs continue to advance, and at some point they may make standalone consoles obsolete.I think this is the bigger risk, because OnLive has demonstrated that it can provide a rich TV gaming experience on a current-generation smart TV. TVs aren’t battery operated, nor do they require 3G service for networking support, suggesting a vastly faster and easier path for them to replace consoles than for smartphones to replace hand-held gaming systems.

Long road to obsolescence

The difference between the outlook for hand-held gaming systems and consoles really lies in the network connection.TVs can increasingly assure access to a high-speed network, enabling OnLive to replace console gaming on TVs. But 3G data remains expensive, and hand-held games are generally better played individually, not over the Web.This means that ultimately, systems like the Vita likely have a better long-term defense against being gobbled up by a smartphone than a console system like the PlayStation 3 has against being cannibalized by TVs.

In the end, both are on a path to eventually be replaced either by smartphones or TVs. But, particularly in the case of hand-held gaming systems, I think we’ll regret this move once it’s done.

Image Credit: jcjgphotography/Shutterstock

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Product Review

Nintendo's Switch changes how you play games, and may change how you see them

The Nintendo Switch delivers on more new and interesting features than any console in recent memory. In many ways, it's the most inventive gaming device in recent memory, and it may be the best-designed console Nintendo has ever built…
Home Theater

Don’t wake the baby! How to connect headphones to a TV

Do you need to connect a pair of headphones to your TV? Our handy guide will show you how to hook up your headphones in a variety of ways, whether you're using wired headphones, wireless headphones, or gaming headsets.
Gaming

How to sync and troubleshoot your PS4's DualShock 4 controllers

Sony's Bluetooth-enabled DualShock 4 controllers for PlayStation 4 are some of the best on the market, but connection issues aren't unheard of. Here's how to sync them to your console, un- and re-pair them if they drop signal, and reset…
Movies & TV

Do you have questions about Hulu and Hulu with Live TV? We've got answers

Not sure which Hulu subscription is right for you? We're here to help. This is your complete guide to Hulu and Hulu with Live TV, including content offerings for each service, pricing, internet requirements, and more.
Home Theater

Here’s how to mirror your smartphone or tablet onto your TV

A vast arsenal of devices exists to allow casting of anything on your mobile device to your TV. If you're wondering how to mirror content from your smartphone or tablet to a bigger screen, we've got an in-depth guide.
Gaming

One game console is better than the rest, and we're not afraid to say it

We've seen a relatively large influx of new consoles in the last year, including the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One X, so we've updated our recommendations for the best dedicated game hardware.
Computing

Microsoft is digging itself a hole by giving away free Surface Docks

Microsoft is giving away a free Surface Dock with the purchase of a Surface Book 2 or a Surface Laptop. If you have a Surface Book 2 15-inch, however, that free gift might turn you off.
Mobile

What is Android? All your questions about the operating system answered

Despite being on more than 2 billion phones, it's still possible to be unsure about parts of Android. What is stock Android, what's Oreo, and should you know about Android Go? We've got your answers.
Smart Home

GE’s scan-to-cook microwave comes with a bonus Amazon Dot for a limited time

The Alexa-aware GE Smart Countertop Microwave takes the mystery out of cooking by scanning food packaging barcodes the for correct settings. For a limited time, GE is bundling an Amazon Echo Dot with the new microwave.
Gaming

The best Xbox One games

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Middle-Earth: Shadow of War,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Are there reasons to own a projector when big TVs are so cheap? Glad you asked

Since no aspect of your home theater setup is more important than your display, we weigh in on the projectors vs. TVs debate. We've put together this comprehensive guide to help you find the right option for your lifestyle.
Gaming

Want to play Minecraft with friends? Here's how to start your own server

Whether you're hosting a server for a few friends or launching a massive effort to recreate your favorite show's world, you've got options for hosting your own Minecraft Server.
Mobile

Visual snapshots on Google Assistant provides your day at a glance

Google's artificially intelligent bot, Google Assistant, is available on smart home speakers, smart home devices, iOS and Android phones, and it can do a whole lot of work on your behalf. Here are all of its features.
Gaming

Xbox One S vs. Xbox One X: Is the costly upgrade worth the money?

The Xbox One X is officially here and pretty much everything rumored about it was true. Is the higher price point worth it, or does it put it out of reach for most consumers? Here's how it matches up to the Xbox One S.
Virtual Reality

Got a Gear VR headset? These are the apps and games you've got to try

Before you put on your new Gear VR headset, you should know which apps and games are worth downloading. Whether you're a fan of documentaries or arcade games, here's a list of the best Gear VR apps and games to be had.
Gaming

Zombie campaigns in ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ to support local split-screen play

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 may have ditched its campaign this year, but the game will still support local cooperative play in its popular Zombies campaigns. Three will be available at launch.
Gaming

Take notes in style with Moleskine’s old-school Mario-themed books

Moleskine has unveiled a new line of Mario-themed notebooks so you can go to class or work in style. Several different types are available, including notebooks that resemble the NES and Game Boy.
Gaming

‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ zombie story brings back fan favorites

Activision and Treyarch have released the story trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's "Blood of the Dead" zombies campaign. It stars some classic Zombies characters and takes place in Alcatraz.
Gaming

Everything you need to know about ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’

Ubisoft will release Assassin's Creed Odyssey in October for consoles and PC. Here is everything you need to know about the next chapter of Assassin's Creed, including the story and setting.
Gaming

The best PlayStation 4 games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Computing

VR is in a tailspin, and the sales numbers prove it

VR is the future! Except if you look at the data. Sales of the biggest VR headsets, including the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Oculus Go, are all declining. What does it mean for the state of VR, and where do we go from here?
Gaming

343 writer says ‘Halo Infinite’ won’t have Battle Royale, and that’s dumb

On a community livestream hosted by 343 Industries, writer Jeff Easterling said that Halo Infinite Battle Royale won't happen. It's a disappointing dismissal of a popular game mode fans want, and the game needs.