STIR: Portable Gaming

Welcome back for another week of Platform Nation stirring the pot on various topics in the gaming world. This week’s topic: portable gaming.

To be honest, I really didn’t think that there were very many handheld consoles out there, but after taking a look at this link, I have been convinced that there have been quite a few, but not many have had the right combination of consumer base, features, and well, software to warrant bothering with them. Before we stir, here’s a little history lesson for you. There are several cases to point to from the old guard (and the new), but I will stick to a few that you just might have heard of (wink).

It began here

Nintendo Gameboy (released 1989 in Japan, NA; 1990 in EU)

This is, and will always be, the first thought that comes to your mind when it comes to handheld gaming. I owned one, along with over 25 million others by the mid-90’s.

When Minoru Arakawa (CEO of Nintendo at the time) saw a demo of a little game called Tetris in 1988, the rights to the game were purchased SPECIFICALLY for this device. No more needs to be said. The birth of handheld gaming started here.

Too little, too late

SEGA Gamegear (1990 Japan; 1991 NA/EU)

Never had a chance. Sorry SEGA, but you showed up late to the party. By the time the Gamegear was out, Nintendo’s install case was of mammoth proportions and not looking back.

Rest of the Pack (pre-1995): Atari Lynx, TurboExpress, Bitcorp Gamate, Watara Supervision, Hartung Game Master

Due mostly to price and destroyed by the behemoth that was Nintendo’s marketing plan for the Gameboy, these barely hit the market, much less made a dent. Most boasted better technology than Gameboy, but with that came a higher price point.

Newer-but-still-older Guard:

Color time

Nintendo Gameboy Color (1998 globally)

Almost ( came out beforehand) over before it started. No really. Before GBC hit shelves, Nintendo couldn’t keep up with the demand, from both sides. Developers wanted better hardware (GB and GB Pocket were putting constraints on what developers could do) and consumers wanted better games for their mobile companion (cell phones and mp3 players were a LONG way away). Nine (9) years after launching the original GB, Nintendo doubled the CPU and RAM, added a bigger screen (w/ COLOR this time), and basically strengthened its choke-hold on the handheld market.

Rest of the pack (1995-early 2000’s):, Neo-Geo Pocket Color, Wonderswan Color

Semi-old-but-getting-closer-to-current Guard:

Power up to Advanced

Nintendo Gameboy Advance, GBA SP, GB Micro (2001, 2003, 2005, respectively)

At this point, it was way passed child’s play. The cat had killed the mouse. More or less, endgame. This line gave a larger screen by moving the D-pad and buttons to the side and increased the power. Four (4) things is all you need to know: Final Fantasy, Zelda, Metroid, Sonic. Game. Over. Competition.

Enough with history, though. Wake up. I know it was boring, but humor me, would you? Had to visit the roots before we can discuss what’s going on in today’s landscape.

Console graphics in your hands, on the go

Now that you’re awake and paying attention, noticing a trend here? Good, because it doesn’t really start to get interesting until Sony enters the picture with their first-generation PSP. Some would say that Sony has barely made a dent, given the over-arching success that has been the Nintendo DS line of devices. I would be inclined to agree with them as well. Since it’s inception in 2004, the Nintendo DS (in its many iterations) has LEAD THE MARKET in devices sold. That’s 6 straight years (and primed to be 7 with this season’s 3DS).

2.3 out now; 3.0 coming...

Now that the mobile computing market is in full swing (Apple, Android, and WP7 all have games available on their respective marketplaces), the competition is actually fierce on the mobile gaming landscape.

Will Nintendo hold strong due to it’s killer hardware sales? Can we count smartphone purchases towards hardware gaming revenue? Will Apple parlay its success in the mp3 market into a true ‘media empire’ and dethrone Nintendo? Do Sony and Microsoft even have a chance?

All very pertinent questions. The crew from Platform Nation has thrown down with their thoughts and opinions on this topic. Here’s…


Chris Forbis | MensaDadTwitter |

3D Pokemon in your hands

I do some portable gaming on a DS – but not a lot.  I do see that changing soon.  I’m sold on the 3DS plus they recently announced that NetFlix will be available via the unit.  Oddly – that was the deal closer for me.  Now it not a matter of IF I get a 3DS but WHEN I get a 3DS.

Justin Keplinger | NinjaGabe | Twitter |

I love portable gaming, my first “system” was the original Gameboy, the brick, as it was better known. It was originally purchased for my mother to play Tetris, however once my father was convinced to buy Mario it was all over. Me and my sister would compete all the time to see who could get the furthest without a restart.
That began my love affair with portable gaming and some of my fondest gaming memories comes from portable games. There is something great about games that can still be fun, simple and yet extremely addictive without requiring a large learning curve.

King of the mountain

I currently own both the Nintendo DS and the PSP and they both get frequent use. I am as of this moment playing Golden Sun – Dark Dawn on the DS and plan on picking up God Eater Burst for the PSP when it comes out. I think it’s safe to say that will always try to own new portable systems, simply to be able to keep getting the games I love, however the verdict is out on the new Nintendo 3DS, and I have no idea what to think about the new PSP.

I’m not sure I want to “upgrade” the same systems for that amount of money, however I’m sure that all the new must play titles will be exclusive to the latest versions, thus forcing me to eventually fork over the cash. In summary, I love hand held systems and I don’t see that changing anytime in the future.

Stewart Loosemore | Stigweird85Twitter |

I have tried portable gaming systems and have used several over the years (Gameboy, Gameboy Colour, GBA, DS, Gamegear and PSP) While some have been used longer than others(the Gamegear and GBA) they all eventually suffered the same fate, which is to sit unused and unloved gathering dust. The problem for me is that developers have forgotten the idea of “portable” in a portable games system. Games need to be able to be played in short bursts or have frequent save points, I want to be able to play games on the bus or train between stops, so anything that delays actual game play is a downside for me.


Another problem is that there is too much emphasis on trying to recreate the experience of a home console on a handheld. While I appreciate have some version available to play of the game I don’t want a simple downgraded port(Gun for example).Taking Gun as an example again, I loved the game on the PS2, but on the PSP is was near unplayable as it required two thumb sticks and it wasn’t the only game that suffered from the problem. The biggest design flaw on the PSP was the single thumb stick and I’m glad Sony learned their lesson with the NGP

Portable gaming as I knew it is dying, the 3DS and the NGP will sell, but I doubt either will be as successful as the DS (and I still don’t understand how that is still selling hundreds of thousands of units on a monthly basis, surely everyone that wants one has one) The future lies in the Smartphone, fewer people are going to carry around an extra device for games if they game play similar quality games on something they already carry. Add to that the average app price of $2-$3 compared to $40-$60 for a 3DS or NGP titles and the worldwide financial instability and suddenly the portable gaming system doesn’t seem so attractive.

Mike Murphy | Chibi_Mike | Twitter |

Work that brain

Here’s the thing about portable gaming for me: ultimately, I personally have no use for it. I have a DS Lite, and I love it, but I work at home. When I have some free time for gaming, it’s almost always going to be on my tv. The most use my DS gets is when I wind down in bed before going to sleep. Usually with Tetris or Mr. Driller. Don’t get me wrong though- it’s a great device. Touch Detective, GTA: Chinatown Wars, Layton, Dragon Quest… the past few years have seen some amazing titles exclusive to it.

Used to have a PSP. Sold it. Like the Wii, it just wasn’t for me. Never got any use out of it.

As for the new systems about to drop into our laps, I can’t say they hold much interest for me. I’m sure two years from now when there’s a better, cheaper, nicer-designed 3DS, I’ll pick one up. And I’ll never use the 3D. The NGP? Nah. I won’t use it for the same reason I never used the PSP… if I’m going to play a game better suited for a TV and console, I’ll play one on a TV and console.

I’ve been portable gaming for years. I started out with a Sega Game Gear, moved to the Gameboy Advance, and enjoyed the Nintendo DS for several years. Recently, I’ve played on the iPhone. While I think the iPhone has brought some great innovation to the mobile gaming space, for every Angry Birds there are 10,000 awful games created for no other reason than to trick you out of your dollar.

Can WP7 stick?

Most recently I switched to the new Windows Phone 7 platform, due partly because of the integration of Xbox LIVE. The thought of having my gamertag on the go, no matter how rudimentary, was an enticing feature. Since making the switch, I have tried nearly all of the Xbox LIVE enabled games on the platform. Some are bad, and some have been a lot of fun. And while you pay a little extra for the ability to unlock achievements on the go, the try before you buy feature they’ve carried over from the XBLA has kept me from making any bad buying decisions so far.

WP7 may never catch up to the sheer quantity of what is in iTunes, but Apple’s Gamecenter will never be able to compete with Xbox LIVE when it comes to integration and achievement hunting. I’ve enjoyed being an early adopter of the platform and continuing my mobile gaming career. I hope Microsoft can bring more games to WP7, along with new features like multiplayer into the mix. The potential is there. Hopefully this won’t be the next Game Gear.

Sent from my Windows Phone<—Left in for emphasis 🙂

Ross Wigg | LostPoetB24Twitter |

Brings back memories

Portable gaming has changed so much since it first came around. I remember back in high school using the graphing calculators to play games that was what my portable gaming experience was. Yes I had a game boy too but never realized the true power of on the go gaming. When I bought my first PSP I was in love with being able to travel and game it was like heaven. Gaming on the Ipod touch was an odd concept the first time I tried it but quickly was easy to fall in love with it. New games that are coming out are incredible in both game play and graphics. Now with the soon releasing NGP and the 3DS portable gaming can only go up. New technology is going to push portable gaming higher towards being able to re-create graphics once thought to be capable only on gaming computers. I personally can’t wait to see how well the portable market comes to be in the near future.

Mark Withers | PN MarkwithersTwitter |

The PSP for me was my dream handheld, finally I could have home console quality on the go, but it never got the support that its potential had. The NGP has me excited in the same way and I just hope Sony really throw money behind making this a success. The Nintendo DS just never appealed to me and I really tried to like it. Apple for me are the winners with portable gaming and not becasue I think they offer the better system or even better games, they simply have the larger audience and the acessibility is ideal for most consumers.

My ideal portable gaming device will allow me to play a game at home on my console, then when I have to leave I can save it and simply pick up where I left on the portable device.

Jim Magers | jimmagers |

Complete domination?

Apple will take over portable gaming with $1 games. I look foward to seeing what Nintendo and Sony will do with the Nintendo DS and PSP respectively. Unless they make some big changes they might just lose this war. You can already play online FPS, RTS, and RPG games on the iPhone. Compare that to what Sony and Nintendo offer and it’s obviously they are far behind.

Sent from my iPhone<—Again, left in for emphasis 🙂

Mitchel Broussard | a long way downTwitter

How angry are they?

I’ve loved portable devices since the Sega Genesis handheld game system (Sonic was my life). I’ve had every iteration of the Gameboy, the DS and dabbled in the PSP when it first came out. I have fond memories of all the Pokemon games that came out with each Nintendo system, and using those confusing cables to battle and trade with my friends on the old Gameboys. Of course nowadays it’s much more streamlined: Angry Birds for $4.99 on my iPad has given me just as much, if not more, playtime and satisfaction as any of those shovelware titles I no doubt bought in my youth naivete. And with the advent of the 3DS, portable gaming is really starting to rocket into new frontiers. I can’t wait for the Marios and Zeldas in 3D but, honestly, I’m most excited for Animal Crossing and the inevitable 3D Pokemon game. Ten years later and I still feel that itch every couple of years to catch em all, and in 3D? Sign me up.

Cayci Phillips | Meridian |

Whoa boy. When I saw this week’s STIR topic, I took a deep breath, stretched my fingers and thought “Where oh where do I begin?” So prepare yourself, this may be a lengthy rant. There have been two drastic changes in the gaming industry that make me extremely nervous, and that is the introduction to social and mobile gaming. I know mobile platforms such as the PSP or Nintendo DS have been out for a while, and despite the fact that I don’t own either one I think they’re great. I also think games like Angry Birds for mobile phones are great, because they’re nice for that time and place when we can’t access other platforms. However, I don’t like the idea of releasing triple A titles on cell phones (i.e. Infinity Blade, Final Fantasy) or incorporating controllers and touch pads into future mobile phones, like Sony’s NGP. Don’t get me wrong, the technology the NGP possesses is fantastic and impressive. But I fear that developers will start to focus too much attention on this new found fad, thus hindering the quality of bigger console games. I know I know, I’m over exaggerating and overlooking the situation far too much I’m sure. But this economy isn’t getting any better and consumers are drawn to cheaper price points, which mobile (and social) gaming do have. I suppose my concern stems from owning a low quality smartphone. These high powered games that are being released are way too much to handle for a simple phone like mine, especially on top of wi-fi capabilities and a handful of apps. And I can’t help to ponder: If this mobile gaming gimmick keeps up, better and therefore more expensive phones are going to be produced. And I’d rather spend $20-$60 for games to play on my console at home than shell out $400-$500 every year on a brand new phone just to keep up with games. But, I suppose were left seeing where the mobile brand heads. And like I said, maybe I’m just being silly and I should just let it go. This trend can’t last forever, right?

Sent from my PearPhone©<— not sure what a PearPhone is, but also left in for emphasis 🙂


Patrick Talbert | AzraelPCTwitter |

To be honest, I love my WP7. No desire for anything with that evil white fruit on it (always hated Apple in general because of their high prices). I ended up getting my WP7 for free (thank you, and!). I owned an original Gameboy, but only remember playing Tetris on it, which was a blast. I actually remember finishing the highest level on it, which made me feel special *sigh*.

I was considering getting the Samsung Captivate from AT&T with Android on it, but then I  read about how Microsoft was rebuilding their mobile operating system from scratch (completely true, by the way). Completely redone. Throw out all of your previous thoughts and reservations about Microsoft from a mobile-computing standpoint. I haven’t had a chance to try as many XBL games on WP7, but I’m looking forward to it.

Here’s what it comes down to: my schedule. I wake up at 5:45 am. Leave the house by 6:45 am. I carpool with my wife, and we talk, so no time to game. No time to game at work (I’m not being paid to play games). Leave work at 5 pm. On the way home with my wife, we eat dinner out most of the time. More quality time, so no game time. Arrive home at roughly 6 or 6:30 pm. Then it’s playtime for our dogs, who have been confined to the kitchen all day and need to run around. So no game time.

Basically I get from 7-ish PM until I go to bed (anywhere from 9:30pm to 11pm, depending on how I feel, so between 1.5 and 4 hours each day) to do what I want. I watch sports. I surf the web and play fantasy sports on ESPN. Leaves me with very little game time. The little time that I game, it’s on my Xbox 360 and new 1080p 120Hz TV.

I will say this about mobile gaming. When I’m using the bathroom, Flowerz and ilomilo (Flowerz is free and ilomilo was free when WP7 launched) pass the time really well. Sorry for the TMI, there. 😉


I pick a topic and ask the Platform Nation writers, editors and staff to send me their opinions.  Thanks go out to all the Platform Nation writers who contributed to Stir this week.  They are all part of the best writing team in the industry and I couldn’t do this without them.

Now, drop down into the comment box below and let us know how you feel about your the portable systems that you enjoy or your overall perspective on portable gaming in general.

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  • Nice, STIR, sir.

    I tend to get much of my mobile gaming done on my hour lunch at work or when I’m bathing my son. I let him play for a bit while I crank out a level in a game on my phone. Now that Microsoft is doing a deal of the week on WP7, I’m hard pressed to resist. Frogger and Star Wars Battle for Hoth have been on sale so far, and I bought them both. $2.99 is a far cry from the $.99 sales on the iPhone, but the iPhone doesn’t unlock achievements.

    I just wish EA would hurry up and get on the WP7 bandwagon. I would like to try some NBA or even Madden on my phone. I know they did NFS Undercover and the Sims, but where’s my sports?