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Cascade Arcade: Mobile gaming and the next generation portable

More than ever we find ourselves doing things on the go that we used to do at home. With the emergence of the cell phone as an all-in-one device, gaming has become one of those things. The Nintendo DS and the PlayStation Portable have also played key roles in the development of the industry, but mobile gaming will take another step forward with the release of the Nintendo 3DS on March 27 for $250 and the recently-announced PlayStation NGP (also referred to as the PSP2) coming in late 2011.

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By Joel Smart (Sports Editor) – Email

More than ever we find ourselves doing things on the go that we used to do at home. With the emergence of the cell phone as an all-in-one device, gaming has become one of those things. The Nintendo DS and the PlayStation Portable have also played key roles in the development of the industry, but mobile gaming will take another step forward with the release of the Nintendo 3DS on March 27 for $250 and the recently-announced PlayStation NGP (also referred to as the PSP2) coming in late 2011.

The incredible popularity of bite-sized mobile games, like last year’s smash hit Angry Birds, has showcased not only the public demand for this new form of gaming, but also a radical shift in the game variety that has accompanied it. Adult gamers often don’t have the hours and hours of free time they used to have when they first fell in love with Pac-man, Zelda, or Solid Snake; as a result, they have to squeeze in a few quality moments between classes or meetings or during the Sky-train ride on the way home from work. Not only is mobile gaming often done in short bursts, it is starting to incorporate more social networking functionality.

Even in the home console market, it is clear that these themes are beginning to drive the market. The Wii proved to the gaming world that having the best graphics doesn’t compare to innovative and entertaining new ways to play. Wii Sports has sold over 102 million copies and an 85-year-old man recently made the news after setting a world record: he has bowled over 3200 perfect rounds in the game.

Both the 3DS and the NGP (which stands for Next Generation Portable) stray from this emerging pattern, however, and it remains to be seen if consumers will be willing to invest. The 3DS is a fair margin more expensive than the previous handhelds released by Nintendo, largely because it features a high-tech screen capable of displaying images in 3D without the need to wear glasses. This will be used for games, movies, and even images taken with the 3D camera on the back of the device. The NGP, which is expected to be a fair bit more expensive than the 3DS, features a high resolution OLED five-inch touchscreen. It also features two analogue sticks, a 5-inch touch-sensitive panel on the back of the device, 3G connectivity, three motion sensors, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and GPS. Granted, many consumers have invested in the iPhone which is also expensive due to offering such impressive features, but in the case of a game-specific device, it may initially be too expensive if it doesn’t also function as a phone (it may offer Skype, though).

In Sony’s defense, they also announced a new initiative called PlayStation Suite, which will sell old PlayStation games to a large variety of mobile devices. Because this drastically increases the lifespan of PlayStation titles, it encourages developers to invest in new games for the platform. As well, PlayStation Suite will allow developers to sell games to NGP owners and other mobile devices at the same time.

Though both will feature social functions, the NGP will have a far more open system, even allowing players to track where they’ve played, what other gamers were in the area, what games they were playing, and allow the different gamers to communicate. It will also feature a facebook-newsfeed-like display of the recent activity and accomplishments of others on your PSN friends list.

It is likely that rather than opting to mostly feature longer or shorter games, these devices will expand to include both. Even if it takes a price drop or two, both devices promise to change the way we play away from home.

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