I like video games. Between juggling a couple of different jobs, classes, and parenting, the amount of free time I have available is few and far in between. However, on the rare occasion that it does happen, I find that I am drawn to the allure of forgetting the stresses of real life by picking up a sword in some fantastical virtual land, killing some baddies, and saving some princesses. I can pick up and leave off as I please, and it's a convenient hobby for my current lifestyle. What makes it even more convenient is that I have a huge selection of games to play right from my smartphone.
Recently I've noticed a shift in the mobile industry to provide more quality games on our smartphones. Games have almost always been a small part of cell phones in general (Snake, anyone?) but this big shift makes sense given how powerful smartphones are becoming. Seeing as most people carry their phones around with them on the regular, the convenience factor is also undeniable here when it comes to gaming on-the-go. Handheld consoles have been around for over 25 years at this, with the Nintendo Game Boy being the pinnacle of handhelds. Nintendo still stands strong in the handheld gaming console market, with the Nintendo DS line of handhelds being immensely popular today.
However, rumors are starting to spread of Nintendo dabbling in Androidery as of late. Not only does the Japanese company plan to release unique mobile games, but there were recently rumors of Nintendo actually running Android on their next gen console, codenamed “NX”. Although Nintendo officially denied the allegations pertaining to the Android-operated console, it wouldn't necessarily be a surprise if it eventually happened. Mobile tech and the gaming industry seem to grow closer in camaraderie with each passing day; once upon a time, there was even a smartphone made specifically for mobile gaming by Sony, known as the Sony Xperia Play. This phone featured a slide-out game controller and exclusive titles made specifically with this device in mind.
Unfortunately, the Xperia Play is a prime example of “wrong place, wrong time”. The idea was actually fairly solid in my opinion, but with it running on a much earlier, buggier version of Android (and more importantly at a time when battery life wasn’t nearly as optimized for use as it is now), as well as carrier exclusivity, the Xperia Play never amounted to much.
But does one failed attempt mean it could never become a viable option? I think that a handheld console/smartphone hybrid device could actually work.
Although Nintendo claims that they won’t be running Android on their next console, who is to say that they won’t ever consider pulling a Sony at some point in time? Nintendo has already stated that they will be putting forth a great effort into the mobile market with their games over the next two years, claiming to have 5 new titles released for smartphones by 2017. The titles will be brand new content, because Nintendo wants the mobile experience to be something completely fresh and new. The hope is to draw people in with mobile games, and encourage them to look into Nintendo’s standalone gaming consoles.
This is a very exciting prospect, but something that would go great with great mobile games is a great smartphone for mobile gaming. Since Nintendo is no stranger to producing hardware, I would actually love to see them produce something similar to the Xperia Play. Alternatively, Sony could reconsider re-making the Xperia Play and I would be just as happy. The slide-out physical game controller was leagues better than the virtual keyboard that most mobile gamers use on smartphones today. For mobile games, using the screen as a virtual controller takes up precious screen real estate no matter how big your screen is.
Sure, smartphones can be connected to console controllers to play games, but it’s not nearly as convenient. Smartphones that double as a designated handheld gaming system is an untouched market at this point. I honestly think that if the battery life and performance issues that plagued the Xperia Play were fixed there would be a decent market out there for such a product. I know I would be interested.