When Nintendo and Sony (particularly Sony) announced it was planning to re-enter the handheld market I openly poured scorn on the idea. Why? Why would you do that. Why would you force me to carry two more goddamn devices. Why? My wallet is full. I have to sit on it. It is painfully uncomfortable. These things do not fit well into my pocket. They just don't.
I don't need these bloody things any more.
I said these words to myself. I may have even said them out loud.
The year was 2012. I had just bought a tablet. A Nexus 7 to be precise. The screen was large, it was crisp. It was a device that did so much, a device I could easily tailor to my everyday needs. I'd check my email, read books, watch movies, read manga. Even write or edit my own work.
I'd play games. Good games. Very good games in fact. Rayman Jungle Run was one of my favourite games of 2012. Why would I need a handheld? Why did I need two more devices lunking around in my pocket or bag. What was the point even? Who would still buy these things.
My reasoning was relatively unsophisticated. I only have room/time in my life for one device and If I can only fit one device into my pocket/bag/purse/whatever, that device is going to be a mobile phone or a tablet. That device would never be a dedicated games console.
Besides, the potential of mobile gaming, at that particular point in time, felt stratospheric. We had smaller games perfectly suited to quick bursts of play. Games that worked brilliantly on touch screens. Mobile hardware was evolving constantly, evolving rapidly.
Two years later, the situation feels markedly different.
The 3DS, obviously, has sold in droves. Massively successful. The PS Vita hasn't garnered the same commercial success but every single person who owns a PlayStation Vita understands what it is, they understand its value. There is a respect for the niche it has carved into their lifestyles.P
I was wrong about handheld consoles. I was wrong about a lot of things.
I was wrong about mobile games. I had assumed that 2012 was the tip of the iceberg in terms of the quality and production quality of mobile games. I assumed that by 2014 we'd be playing mobile games that could match the scope and quality of, say, A Link Between Worlds on my Nexus 7 or the iPad. I assumed that trajectory would rise exponentially. It hasn't. The harsh truth is this: it has plateaued and I find myself ignoring the vast majority of mobile games being released right now.
Handheld consoles adapted. The 3DS and the Vita both found their niche. The Vita: slick, indie games on the move. The in-case-you-missed-it machine. The 3DS: home to brilliantly produced Nintendo experiences with a twist. Has Nintendo ever been as bold and inventive as it has on the 3DS? The device seems to have inspired a new lease of ideas and innovation within existing franchises. Think Super Mario 3D Land. Think A Link Between Worlds.
At one point handhelds seemed doomed to obscurity. Now, today, they feel more relevant than ever. I was wrong about handhelds. Very wrong.
The ultimate success of handhelds (both commercially- the 3DS is the highest and fastest selling system of the generation- and critically- both the Vita and 3DS have the best libraries of the generation, and last year's Game of the Year was a 3DS game) should shut any and all handheld naysayers up.
What happens to them in the future is anyone's guess. But as of right now, they are viable and they are awesome.