Is Console Gaming about to go Portable?



If there isn’t another big home console for a few years, and the Vita delivers the roughly PS3 level hardware performance that Sony is claiming, why would people stick with home systems?

Console gaming is the last non-portable holdout in the entire consumer electronics industry. Years ago, desktop computer users swore they would never trade in their desktops for laptops because they were so accustomed to laptops being so much worse than desktops. But as soon as laptops were good enough, desktop users did exactly that and made the switch.

In the past and the present, portable consoles have been dramatically worse for most types of games than home consoles. Most people view them as completely separate industries where people play completely different types of games. Today, home console gamers play tons of FPS/TPS type games, and while those games exist for portables, they are basically garbage that almost no one plays. The Vita seems like it will be the first device to really change this dynamic and you will actually be able to play the same types of games at nearly the same quality that you would play on a non-portable system.

A big trend is the rise of smartphone and tablet devices. While some gaming is definitely going in that direction, particularly games that work well with touchscreen/tilt controls and don’t need cutting edge technology, there is still a need for dedicated gaming hardware. Some games really benefit from gaming-centric controls (analog sticks, face and shoulder buttons, d-pad, motion wands, and soon VR type head tracking). Additionally, gaming centric hardware provides higher gaming optimized performance at mass market price points and has less fragmentation than the smartphone/tablet space does. But with the Vita, you have the benefits of a dedicated gaming platform, but also the portability that consumers want.

If Vita really does let you play the big console games of 2012 at roughly the same quality that you would experience on a home console, why wouldn’t consumers migrate towards the portable option?


Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Jay on August 17th, 2011 [ 83111 Points ]

    If handhelds came standard with HDMI Out with at least 1080P capabilities, large storage space (500GB or more), the ability to decode things like High Definition audio, etc, handhelds won’t ever take place of a home console. I’d much rather play games on a large screen without having to look down at my hands for extended periods of play.

    EDIT: Not to mention the battery life needed for something even more powerful than the PS3. I don’t think PS4-worhty specs will be possible as an affordable handheld any time soon

  2. #2 by FooBear408 on August 17th, 2011 [ 17244 Points ]

    i’m sticking with my pspgo.

    do something.

  3. #3 by EdEN on August 17th, 2011 [ 139781 Points ]

    Wii U is doing some of that. Vita is following the same path as the PSP vs DS… wonder if it will work for them this time. If we et more games like Escape Plan and Alien Spidy then I’ll be happy.

    @Jay: Can a HDMI cable carry a current and would it be able to power up said future portable?

  4. #4 by ZFM12 on August 17th, 2011 [ 1495 Points ]

    Very Nice Article Darrin. I’m not really of a Portable Gamer but the Vita is sparking my interest more and more. Just hope it’s worth all the talk

  5. #5 by Nikazio on August 17th, 2011 [ 69 Points ]

    I think with games like “angry birds” or “cut the rope”, we will see a growth of that part of the industry, that doesn’t necessarily means it will weaken the console gaming, i think as this industry grows there will be enugh attention from the public for everyone since that kind of social gaming is new and doesn’t aim at the same public.
    Sorry if my english is not too good.

  6. #6 by Darrin on August 17th, 2011 [ 17143 Points ]

    @Jay, you sound exactly like the crusty desktop users who swore they would never switch to laptops that I mentioned.

    @Eden, If the next big Xbox or PS4 comes out in 2012 and become’s the obsession of the gaming world like it did in 2005, then you are right. The PSP launched the same year that the 360 did and gamers were *obsessed* with “next gen”. People ignored high quality games on the PS2 and obsessed over launch title crap that was “next gen”. The PSP immediately became crap. Right now people aren’t expecting another home console (other than the Wii U which isn’t a PS2->PS3 type of 5-10x jump) until at least 2014. In the meantime, Vita will be a completely portable option with parity to the predominant home systems. That is completely unlike what we’ve seen before.

    @ZFM12, thanks!

  7. #7 by xDeFcoN_2FasT4Ux on August 17th, 2011 [ 2160 Points ]

    Yea lol it would be nice to have portable gaming all the time. I hate having to get off a game just cause someone else wants to watch tV

  8. #8 by EdEN on August 17th, 2011 [ 139781 Points ]

    @Darrin: Yep, to PS3 an 360 is not that huge of a jump (maybe Dreamcast like as was the case at its time), but from the Wii to Wii U it iS a 5x increase. Now for the Vita, it has to compete with the DS, the 3DS and, analysts say, the iOS phones/MP3 player/huge not phones but not MP3 players but expensive and cool devices from Apple (how come no one mentions Android devices?). I’ll wait a couple of years for the Vita as my gaming budget for 2012 is set for Wii U and 3DS and PS3 releases.

  9. #9 by Oly on August 18th, 2011 [ 132140 Points ]

    Instead of retyping exactly what Jay said, I’ll just say read his comment. Plus, I’d have to buy 4 so my kids can all play with me. It will never replace the home system. Unless of course it is the whole system, ie. 4 controllers can connect to it and it can be played thru the big screen.

  10. #10 by Eddie on August 18th, 2011 [ 44542 Points ]

    I’ll be sticking to both as long as their are unique games one each.

  11. #11 by premiersoupir on August 18th, 2011 [ 17020 Points ]

    Put me firmly in the luddite camp. I don’t want my games to follow me; that’s what books are for. For now, I’ll stick to gaming on my couch, on my big screen, with my surround sound.

  12. #12 by BLOODYICECREAM on August 18th, 2011 [ 374 Points ]

    I’ve always played portable games…not because they’re portable, but because they’re good. The Gameboy gave us Pokemon, the PSP gave us Peace Walker, and now the Vita will give us Uncharted…among other awesome games. I’ll end up buying the Vita in order to play said awesome games…and I’ll probably be sitting in my bed with the device plugged in while I play those games…just like I always have. So if anyone out there is like me…then it’s not about portability or gimmicky awesomeness…it’s about just wanting to play genuinely good games…the ability to take those games with me is a bonus.

  13. #13 by Nikazio on August 18th, 2011 [ 69 Points ]

    I agree that gaming WILL become portable eventually (just like laptops evolved from pc) i just don’t think it’s “about to” happen.
    I think we have at least 10 more years of tradicional console gaming.

  14. #14 by EdEN on August 18th, 2011 [ 139781 Points ]

    Yep, BLODDYICREAM really nailed this one. As long as portables provide us with fun, new and innovative experiences then all systems can co-exist.

  15. #15 by Pedro on August 18th, 2011 [ 39949 Points ]

    Personally I’ve made the change from desktop to laptop but I think they’re a lot more similar than the PS Vita and the PS3. I do not have to sacrifice screen size, power or hold it differently.

    The Vita does not offer a decent size screen, and i do not like the way we have to hold it (however, i haven’t tried for myself), finally a point Eddie made, both consoles have completely different titles and i would not want to play one over the other.

  16. #16 by Darrin on August 18th, 2011 [ 17143 Points ]

    @Eden,
    “from the Wii to Wii U it iS a 5x increase”. But the Wii U is not a 5x increase from PS3/360.

    @icecream, sure, PSP definitely has some genuinely great games, but they are a rarity next to the greats on home systems.

    @Pedro, “I do not have to sacrifice screen size, power or hold it differently [with a laptop vs a desktop].”. Wrong, wrong, and wrong! Pedro, this is ridiculously wrong. Desktop monitors are almost always bigger than laptop screens, desktops are absolutely more powerful than laptops, and most people find non-portable mice/keyboards/standalone display more comfortable than laptops with their cramped keyboards, touch pads, and integrated screens.

  17. #17 by Jay on August 18th, 2011 [ 83111 Points ]

    Darrin: @Jay, you sound exactly like the crusty desktop users who swore they would never switch to laptops that I mentioned.

    Well, desktops are still around, and are usually more powerful than laptops anyway. For a dedicated gaming machine, I’d much rather have a desktop because of these downsides of a laptop:

    Darrin: Desktop monitors are almost always bigger than laptop screens, desktops are absolutely more powerful than laptops, and most people find non-portable mice/keyboards/standalone display more comfortable than laptops with their cramped keyboards, touch pads, and integrated screens

    Going by that, I am right in my assumption, as the difference between a laptop and a desktop is grayer than the difference between a portable and a dedicated home console, whose differences are more like night and day. A lot of computer monitors, unless you connect them to a TV, are usually around 24 inches or less, and laptops are like 17 inches. Not too much of a difference. Going from, say, 55 inches down to less than 7? Come on! Sure the Vita will have a somewhat high definition screen, but it’s still not even 720P, doesn’t have an HDMI out, doesn’t decode high definition audio, etc. Do I still want a Vita? Of course. But I don’t want a handheld to replace home consoles which have more capabilities.

  18. #18 by Jason on August 18th, 2011 [ 25926 Points ]

    Why would I force myself to sit in uncomfortable position with a device that is obviously designed for a woman’s hands. Concole for me.

  19. #19 by Darrin on August 18th, 2011 [ 17143 Points ]

    @Jay, your assertion is that the Vita is far below PS3 level hardware and that the Vita/PS3 gap is larger than the laptop/desktop gap. OK, that’s a debate of technical merits, and if you’re right, and there’s still a huge capability gap, then people won’t migrate to portable devices. However, I’m not convinced the Vita will be so underpowered. The screen is way smaller than a big screen, and the resolution is less than 720p (it’s a hair under the iPhone 4 resolution which is very high pixel density for the screen size), but this actually has more RAM than a PS3. We shall see.

  20. #20 by Pedro on August 18th, 2011 [ 39949 Points ]

    Sorry Darrin, but I don’t think I’m “wrong, wrong, wrong”. I can get a 17 inches Intel Core i7 Quad-Core 2,2GHz, 8GB RAM, 750GB 7200 rpm, AMD Radeon HD 6750M 1GB GDDR5 macbook pro and that gives me enough power. Ok, I agree it’s not the same as an iMac with nearly double that, but it’s already a pretty powerful notebook that could handle various games on high settings.

    As Jay said, the difference between a 17″ screen and a 23″ isn’t anywhere as big as the difference between a 7″ and 42″ and that’s assuming everyone uses screens that big, at work I use a 19″ screen.

    I can honestly say that any notebook with at least 14″ offers you a decent keyboard that doesn’t suck that much and while not ideal you don’t need to use a portable mouse, I don’t, I have a very big one and I don’t care, I just don’t carry it around. Track pad is ok after you get used to it.

    Using a handheld never get’s comfortable, I have big hands and even the DS3 feels small at times. I find looking at a small screen really tiring as well. I have those issues, but I don’t mind using a notebook, hell, I haven’t used a desktop (for personal use) in years… I actually prefer it. I’m not saying the Vita sucks, it doesn’t and I’ll probably get it, but I’ll never switch to a handheld and leave home consoles behind.

  21. #21 by Darrin on August 18th, 2011 [ 17143 Points ]

    @Pedro, I agree with your revised statement. Most people are satisfied with the power they get from a laptop, the additional power of a desktop is overkill, and the convenience of a laptop outweighs the sacrifices that they make. I completely agree and I am claiming that this same dynamic applies to home/portable console gaming.

  22. #22 by Eddie on August 18th, 2011 [ 44542 Points ]

    A lot of the RAM is going to be used for multi-tasking as you can see in some of the new videos and slides I posted in the forums. However Sony did say textures and vertex’s can live in that RAM pool.

    The resolution is great. Most games are natively around 544p anyways and upscaled to 720p (MW2 for example).

    To the topic at hand though, if we have to ask the question of whether portables will phase out consoles or not, then we already know the answer and that is they both will continue on until we don’t have to ask this question anymore.

  23. #23 by Jay on August 18th, 2011 [ 83111 Points ]

    Darrin: @Jay, your assertion is that the Vita is far below PS3 level hardware and that the Vita/PS3 gap is larger than the laptop/desktop gap. OK, that’s a debate of technical merits, and if you’re right, and there’s still a huge capability gap, then people won’t migrate to portable devices. However, I’m not convinced the Vita will be so underpowered. The screen is way smaller than a big screen, and the resolution is less than 720p (it’s a hair under the iPhone 4 resolution which is very high pixel density for the screen size), but this actually has more RAM than a PS3. We shall see.  

    That’s not what I am saying. I am saying that PS4-level specs will not be possible on a handheld device and that handheld devices will still be limited compared to the things a home console can do. Both have their advantages, but a handheld will still never be able to replace a home console and the advantages that provides.

  24. #24 by Kev-o on August 19th, 2011 [ 0 Points ]

    Vita is just a product for people that aren’t always around there 42′ tvs.. It will definitely be popular but not revolutionary.. There are soo many people playing on there iphone/itouch’s, but has the console sells/online percent of users gone down? I’d say a tad but not noticeable.


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