Are handheld consoles doomed?

23:35, Nov 19 2012

Are the days of the dedicated handheld games player numbered?

It's fair to say that Sony's PS Vita hasn't been the success the company had expected: sales haven't been up to much - according to a few websites the Vita had sold just 2.2 million consoles to the end of June and it's being outsold by the Nintendo 3DS - and the flood of must-have games haven't emerged. I can probably recommend two or three games worth having.

Unfortunately for Sony, the Vita seems to be stuck in limbo at the moment - and games like Call of Duty: Declassified, a game that arrived with very little fan fare and isn't very good - aren't going to help shift handhelds. 

But is that because gamers just don't need a dedicated handheld games consoles any more like they used to or is it because the killer software for the Vita isn't there? Or is it because people can play games on their smart phones now. I think it's a bit of all three.

To be honest, I hardly use the PS Vita I have regularly, unless it's for review purposes. I think it's a wonderful piece of hardware that has been let down by a lack of must-have games. As we all know, software sells hardware and the Vita is lacking in strong games.

But things might change with the next firmware update which is said to promise PS Plus membership on the device at no extra charge and four free games each month using the Instant Game Collection scheme. This should make PS Vita owners very, very happy and may convince gamers to look at buying a Vita but I think there needs to be a price drop, too.

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When Nintendo dropped the price of the 3DS sales started growing, so Sony needs to do the same - or offer good-priced bundles such as those offered in the US last week as part of the country's Black Friday sales. If Sony wants to move more units it has to offer deals like that in all markets, including in NZ.

Another reason why I think Vita sales - and perhaps handheld sales in general - are in decline is that in markets like New Zealand there aren't a lot of people who commute long distances like they do in much bigger countries. I can't speak for commuters in cities like Auckland or Wellington but certainly in Christchurch I don't see a lot of people commuting in public transport for hours on end. We have no rail network for a start.

Also, when I'm at home I want to play games on my consoles connected to the big TV or on my computer: not on a small screen. But do you think handheld gaming is on the decline? And what does Sony need to do to convince you that the PS Vita is worth buying?  

Other stuff you might be interested in: Game Junkie is on Twitter and you can email him here. He'll even answer your emails, not get some smart robot to do it. He also has another gaming blog here, which was actually updated recently. You should check it out.