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3DS and Vita Face Tough Battle Against Smartphones 138

An article at the Opposable Thumbs blog looks at the struggle between portable gaming devices and smartphones with access to a plethora of inexpensive games. "...most games simply have to be 'good enough' and convenient. If you already have a smartphone and an hour to kill, plenty of top-notch games can be downloaded in a minute for a dollar. With the 3DS or Vita, you're being asked to buy expensive hardware and then feed it with games that cost $40 and up. Smartphones also present a compelling deal for small, adventurous developers: it's inexpensive to create a game for these platforms, and developers don't have to worry about physical storefronts, packaging design, or cartridge manufacturing. Sony is now pushing for a digital platform that relies heavily on downloads with the Vita, but Nintendo still seems to believe the future rests with expensive, physical carts. Trying to buy one of the few digital games available on the 3DS via the system's e-shop is a slow, frustrating process."
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3DS and Vita Face Tough Battle Against Smartphones

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  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @04:03AM (#37104318)

    Maybe when 6 buttons and an analog stick are standard equipment for smart phones Nintendo might have something to be afraid of; multitouch implementations of buttons and dpads/sticks are terrible and take up screen real estate. Clip-on accessories are available for some phones, but most people don't have these, there's no standardization, and thus most games won't support these things; it also contradicts the premise that people are playing these smartphone games when they're bored and just have a few minutes: they aren't going to lug around the clip-on button pad all day every day just in case they're bored for a few minutes.

    Oh, and there's the fact that an unlocked smartphone costs more than a 3DS or PS Vita, and you need to pay a subscription for the ability to buy or redownload games. If you don't trust your kid to use a smartphone unsupervised, a dedicated games machine would be a better option.

    If you have a dumbphone and are still under contract, then you don't have a smartphone laying around. If you're not technically apt, you don't have a smartphone laying around. If you have an Android/Blackberry and you want an iOS game, you're SOL. If you have an iPod touch, the CPU is too crappy to run the more complex games at full framerate.

    Then there's different markets. If you're 40+ and never owned a games machine before, you might download Angry Birds to see what the fuss is about. If you check IGN every day, chances are you'll realize that different systems get different games and there are games that interest you on every platform -- this means you will be interested in games that are only on the 3DS, even if you hate the hardware and have an iPhone.

    Analysts seem to be repeating this argument ad nauseum, because they see portable gaming systems as less convenient than mobile phones. This is true, but missing the point. I bought a DS not because I wanted to play games when I'm out that happen to be new, it's that games I'm interested in playing happened to be released on a portable system.

    The real question is, why would developers make games for the 3DS instead of smartphone only? The answer has to be: because that's where the gamers are -- the gamers willing to pay $40 per game. That means high production values and budgets, and high-quality games made by large teams for 18+ months. It could also be that something they REALLY want to make requires an analog stick or buttons, but that's less likely.

    Personally I appreciate these high-quality large games that aren't just ports of home console games, but are things that wouldn't be released on any other system -- they're too large for a smartphone and too small for a home console.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982