It's been both an exciting and tiring week, with the world's biggest gaming expo E3 opening its doors to multitudes of game announcements and console surprises.
Here at Pocket Gamer, we had our sights firmly fixed on Sony's upcoming handheld offering - now confirmed to be called the PlayStation Vita - and Nintendo's future 3DS offerings.
There were plenty of whoops and hurrahs in the Pocket Gamer office as an exciting year was laid out before us, but also numerous grumbles and headshakes as we learnt about not-so-exciting times to come.
Now that both Sony and Nintendo have brought all their forthcoming plans into view, Pocket Gamer's handheld editor Mike Rose sat down with PocketGamer.biz news editor Keith Andrew and Pocket Gamer writer Chris Schilling to discuss the impact this year's expo has had on the handheld gaming world.
Mike Rose: Let's talk about the PlayStation Vita first then. What do we think about that name? Chris Schilling: I don't have a problem with the name. I think in a week which has shown us that going with a familiar brand name isn't necessarily the best idea, PS Vita shows that while the new console might look like a PSP, it certainly isn't one. Naturally, the marketing will do the rest of the work.
Keith Andrew: Yeah, this week has demonstrated that, actually, the name isn't important. I didn't particularly mind NGP as a moniker, and calling it PS Vita certainly isn't going to stop me buying it.
In fact, I'm genuinely surprised by how eager I am to get one - Sony has really got the balance right between taking on iOS and Android, but still offering a set-up familiar to PSP players. The social elements look really promising, and I think Vita could shift serious units. Which really wasn't something I expected to say at the start of the week.
Chris: I think the price came as a very pleasant surprise to some. I know it instantly made me consider a console I'd previously thought might be too expensive, given that I didn't get an awful lot of use out of my PSP.
The EU price - and potential delay - was disappointing, but it's still very competitively priced considering the quality of the hardware.
Keith: That was the big surprise, yeah. They've clearly looked at the iPod touch and the 3DS, and thought there's little to be gained by trying to offer a price premium over those two. It shows they've genuinely learned something from PSP.
Mike: I found myself completely surprised at how excited it's got me. The PSP didn't really do anything for me, and my brain had told me that Vita was just going to be PSP 2, and therefore wouldn't really appeal to me. But honestly, I've been looking at my 3DS in a different, slightly dampened light since the Vita unveiling.
I think it's the lineup of games that's doing it for me, and those graphics. Uncharted, Super Stardust, Wipeout, Sound Shapes... it's all looking a bit tasty.
Chris: It's all about Dragon's Crown and Gravity for me.
Mike: Yeah, Gravity in particular looks pretty epic.
Chris: I know what you mean, though. As much as Nintendo's first-party 3DS lineup looked great - Luigi's Mansion 2 was a very pleasant surprise - the third-party content is already pretty thin on the ground. And that's not something that it seems Sony will have a problem with.
Keith: PS Vita didn't interest me in the slightest, either. I had already written this off as PSP 2, too, but the combination of the games and a closer look at the form factor make it really attractive to me. It seems at home in a post-iPad world, and I can really imagine myself buying one, whereas 3DS has absolutely no appeal for me.
As Chris said, the lack of third-party support was really worrying, and Nintendo really didn't do a good job of covering that up. For me, though, the first-party support is also somewhat lacking.
Each of the five games announced will, of course, have fans, but there were no real surprises. As a couple of people said on my Twitter feed, it was a case of Nintendo asking people to buy the likes of Mario Kart for a fifth or sixth time. Games like that will appeal to existing 3DS owners, but it's unlikely to convince DS owners to make the upgrade.
If 3D really is a valid part of 3DS's makeup, Nintendo needs more unique, exclusive games that put it at their heart, and I think E3 showed they're still some way off convincing consumers that 3DS is the future.
Mike: See, I completely agree that the lack of third-party games is troubling, and definitely a worrying sign of things to come - but at the same time, I found myself pretty excited about Nintendo's contributions.
I mean, how many first-party publishers do you see support their own hardware that heavily - we're looking at over half a dozen releases in 6 months! And each one of them looks like it's going to be worth the punt.
Chris: I'm with Mike. Super Mario 3D looks excellent, Kid Icarus is something we've not seen for a long time, and Luigi's Mansion should turn the (fairly slight) original into a genuine classic. As Mike rightly points out, few other publishers would release so many big-name franchises in such a short space of time.
Keith: It's a high number of titles, I guess. I just don't think there was anything there that surprised. We all know every Nintendo format under the sun is going to have its own Mario, Mario Kart, etc.
My point is, if you're one of the casual consumers that picked up a DS for its versions of those seminal titles - perhaps even as recently as a year or two ago - I don't think you'll be all that inspired to part with another couple of hundred quid to get another game in the same series on a new console. What it needs is something that really proves that 3D is important.
In the same way that Wii Sports showed even the harshest of critics that there was something to this motion control thing. At the mo, the 3DS doesn't have that.
Mike: Conversely, though, it's not like the Vita is getting that many new IPs, either - you've got a new Uncharted, a new Wipeout, a new Super Stardust, Tekken, yet another LittleBigPlanet...
Keith: That's true. And, actually, I'm more excited about the potential of Vita than I am most of the announced games. But I think what Sony has recognised is that the handheld market has been undermined by touchscreen smartphones, and it's taken steps to accommodate that.
It's really the hardware behind Vita that gets me juiced, and the social elements Sony looks to be weaving into its setup. It feels very smartphone-y, in short.
Chris: Miyamoto has said that the extra dimension in Mario makes 3D platforming easier because it's so much simpler to judge depth. If you look at previous 3D Mario games, they've gone away from the template of the 2D titles, with less emphasis on 'pure' platforming. This new Mario game very deliberately harks back to Super Mario Bros. 3, with tighter, more focused level design.
I agree that perhaps that's still not a significant enough showcase for 3D, but then I'm not sure 3D is necessarily 'important', more a nice luxury option to have.
Keith: I've no doubt there are advantages to using 3D in 3DS games, but I think if you said to the average consumer, "Woah, you've got to get a 3DS. The 3D is amazing - it makes playing Mario SLIGHTLY easier!", they're unlikely to be convinced.
I have to be honest here - I'm still very much of the belief that 3D is a gimmick on 3DS, and E3 didn't really change my view on that. It was also striking that Nintendo followed up 3DS's limp display with Wii U, which blew many - but not all - people away. Made 3DS look even less inspired as a concept.
Mike: Although let's be honest, most of what we saw at E3 from all of the 'big three' was gimmicky - but that's perhaps a debate for another time!
Chris: Even so, I think those games hold enough appeal for a core market to sell well. And the expanded audience is familiar enough with Mario Kart - and Super Mario - to want to buy a new game in those series with fresh content and better graphics. As Reggie said when speaking to Geoff Keighley, it's those games that drive install base.
Mike: I think by the time Christmas rolls around, the Nintendo 3DS is going to look so much more inviting, especially to the more casual player. You'll have a new Mario, Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, etc.
Comsumers in general don't see it as a first-party / third-party divide - they see either good games to buy or not.
Keith: It's going to sell well, of course, but I don't think 3DS is anything but a stopgap. As Nintendo discovered with N64, and later GameCube, if all you do is offer the same franchises over and again, sales fall generation after generation.
It took something revolutionary with the Wii to breathe life back into those big hitters, and I think 3DS is more GameCube than it is Wii, if you catch my drift. There just doesn't seem to be much new going on there, and Nintendo is a victim of its success on that score: we've come to expect the weird and wonderful of them of late - as Wii U is evidence of - and in that context, 3DS feels a bit tame.
I take the point that Vita isn't revolutionary either, but I think Sony has subtly shifted its handheld position towards the smartphone and tablet market, and that's rather clever.
Mike: For me personally, the most surprising and underwhelming part of Nintendo's E3 showing is the complete lack of support for the eShop, especially considering it was released on the 3DS on the very same day as Nintendo's keynote.
The only mention of it during the conference was to say that an old Zelda game has launched on it...and that was it. And Nintendo only has two upcoming games for the platform as well, while we barely heard anything from third-parties.
The eShop itself is clearly miles better than the DSiWare store ever was, but the main problem with DSiWare was that it didn't have any games - and it seems like Nintendo hasn't learnt from its mistakes in that department.
Keith: I still think it's bizarre they didn't have it ready for day one. However good it is or isn't now, the fact it wasn't ready suggests it was something of a last-minute move.
Chris: Apart from Pokédex 3D - which is a very nice freebie - the whole eShop launch has been a real damp squib. All the time taken over it, and apart from a slicker interface and faster loading than the DSi store, it's not nearly as good as it should be.
Nintendo hasn't learned from a lot of its mistakes. It sees the eStore as a sideline, when it should be more of a focus.
Mike: How does Nintendo expect to compete with the various app stores and marketplaces with a total of 6 launch games and nothing interesting on the horizon?
Chris: I think it's trying to avoid direct comparisons with Apple. It thinks if it can focus on retail, then that's where it's going to offer the kind of experience you can't get on iOS.
The difference between Nintendo's approach and Sony's is that the latter is looking at both markets. Some might say it's hedging its bets, but to me it just looks more inclusive.