Loose Threads: What will the handheld gaming market look like in 2012?

Different, very different...

Loose Threads: What will the handheld gaming market look like in 2012?

We've spent hours fondling our little crystal ball over the years, but this week’s topic has had us prodding it so much that the once proud globe now looks like a marble and dribbles.

Before it conked out, however, it churned out swathes of very interesting foresights. As did you lot, beginning with MrPlum:

“Well, Sony will probably have a PSP2 out. I’m not too sure how popular it will be, but I love the current PSP anyway. Nintendo, will probably be going far with a new DS, or even a completely new handheld.

"But I think the most popular will probably be a handheld from Microsoft, I hope Sony does the best however, so that Sony will be top in handhelds, home consoles, computers, everywhere!”

Much as we enjoy your participation in Loose Threads, Kaz Hirai, it would be nice if you left your company mantras at the door. Actually, it can’t be you - advocating a Microsoft handheld? That would never do.

Seriously though MrPlum, we never even considered the possibility of a Microsoft handheld (wonder if Argos will take back our thoroughly used but clearly faulty crystal ball).

Given how bad a year the Zune has just had, adding some sort of Xbox branded gaming functionality to the line could be a way for Microsoft to help boost its floundering pocket media player.

Then again, having stood back and witnessed the less than easy ride Sony has had in the portable gaming market, Microsoft might be reluctant to try its hand at a handheld. Still, it would be interesting if it did happen - handheld Halo anyone?

Next up, Klouud came up with his vision of the handheld gaming landscape circa 2012:

“Rumor has it that Apple is going to make a new iPhone with an Nvidia chip. I don’t know if this is going to happen, seeing as Apple wants to "make the best phone possible". Either way, I see Apple playing a huge role in the handheld market in 2012.

"Nintendo will have a large portion like it always does. Sony may or may not have a handheld and Microsoft is supposed to enter as well. We all know what that means! A handheld gaming machine with shooters only! Yeee-haw! and by that I mean it sarcastically.”

What? We’d be all for it! But then we are somewhat biased. Bringing the debate to a relatively premature close was Accelorata Jengold with a very lengthy post:

“By 2012 there will be a new Nintendo handheld, a new Sony handheld and an improved Apple handheld too. I reckon Nintendo will be the last to release a new device - the DS is still doing extremely well and I personally can't really imagine where Nintendo would take the hardware next. The DS is exactly fit to purpose as it is and I don't think improving the platform's graphical performance will be a priority.

"The PSP2 will almost certainly be a more powerful beast than the current device, but besides new interface options, I think Sony will look to other ways of improving its handheld offering. To be honest, I think it's the business model that's going to change more than the devices, I think we'll see both Sony and Nintendo adopt aggressive digital download strategies similar to the App Store.

"The benefit here is that both companies, unlike Apple, have a rich history of titles to sell on such services. For that reason, I expect both new Sony and Nintendo handhelds to have control systems that would make ports of PS2/Gamecube era titles easy to achieve (and hence ports for games on platforms prior to that era easy too).

"As for Apple, I think we might see a handheld that doubles as a home console in some way. Perhaps something that can interface with Apple TV wirelessly in order to deliver big screen gaming via a portable device. I don't know if going more powerful would be a good idea. Apple's current business model and hardware allow developers to create games on a reasonable budget quickly.

"Upping the scope for complicated in-game assets might strangle and slow down the development process and my money is on Apple adopting the strategy that allows them the quickest short-term growth in the games market.”

Wow, lots to consider there. Going the retro route would be great for existing gamers - but then, those all important first-time customers would presumably be left out of the loop.

That said, given how many emulators for older consoles exist for both the DS and PSP via homebrew, there's clearly a market for large libraries of retro games, but maybe delivering the games already packaged isn’t what code addicts are after.

Our money is on digital downloads and services like the App Store becoming more commonplace delivery methods, but not only that: new ways of fostering development will also be rolled out.

Nintendo doesn’t seem to have much trouble attracting third-party developers, but Sony could really do with a system that makes PSP game development both quicker and more cost effective.

Before we wrap this up and move onto next week’s topic, note the conspicuous absence of the any mentions of mobile gaming. Anybody care to prophesize on the future of Java?

And so, next week the topic shall be:

Is handheld gaming addicted to puzzlers?

Yep that’s right, we’re taking that one head on, stop us if you dare. Or alternatively, put us in our place for asking something so outrageous by heading to the forum (where you'll find more details) and making your thoughts known.

That’s it for now, remember to click ‘Track It!’ to be sure to pick up next week’s discussion as soon as it’s live - until then, happy posting.