Top 5: Reasons Dedicated Gaming Handhelds Are Still Better Than Mobile Gaming

5. Most mobile games are still…mobile games

There are exceptions, but by and large it seems like the types of games people play on mobile are smaller, bite-sized experiences. See: the colossal success of games like Flappy Birds and Candy Crush. People want games they can play for five minute chunks while they’re standing in line somewhere, or sitting on the toilet (yeah yeah, you’ve done it too, judgey). Which is fine, but think about some of history’s great handheld games: Link’s Awakening. Pokemon. Even Tetris is a game that isn’t really designed to just be played for small stretches of time, which is part of the addictiveness of Tetris, seeing how long you can last (and you weren’t limited to how many times a day you could play before being asked for more money, either). When mobile does try to do something big and epic, it typically is still something suited for mobile. Infinity Blade is fantastic, but let’s face it – it’s not the deepest game in the world gameplay-wise, and the entire experience is based around playing the exact same hour of gameplay over and over and over again. All of that is all well and good, but they still don’t hold a candle to the types of gaming experiences that a gaming handheld is capable of, a lot of which is also due to #2 (and no, I’m not talking about going to the bathroom again. I mean #2 on this list).

4. There are way too many platforms and hardware versions to splinter the market

Sure, you can develop a game that only works with the best mobile device currently on the market…if you want to only sell your game to 10% of the player base. So what ends up happening is, you buy this shiny new phone or tablet, and yet the vast majority of games still look like games that were released for the iPod Touch in 2007. And that’s assuming you even have the right platform to begin with. Hey, Android is pretty big, and I’m not really a big fan of iOS, so I’m going to get the newest Galaxy Note. But oh yeah, there’s still all of these games that are only on iTunes. So glad I’m forgotten about just because I chose to be in one of the two biggest mobile markets. It’s not like I bought a Windows Phone or something (sorry Windows Phone people. I was once one of you…briefly). Sure, there is sometimes more than one gaming handheld, and their hardware gets old after a few years just like a phone’s does. But typically, at any point in the last 25 years, if you bought the current Nintendo handheld you didn’t miss out on too many essential games, and especially with the last couple of them, the games were still looking pretty great at the end of their lifespan. I’ll put a DS game that came out 5 years into the system’s life next to any game that still looks great (comparatively speaking) and plays flawlessly on a five year old mobile device. Also, most gaming handhelds never cost more than $250 (or they drop to that price very quickly), and when you get one, you’re good. You’re lucky to get out the door with a brand new phone (a truly new one, not three years ago’s model) for only that much when all is said and done…and how long is that even going to last you, ultimately?

3. There are too many distractions on mobile devices.

Hang on, I got a text. Hang on, I got a call. Hang on, I got an email. Hang on, I got a Facebook notification. Hang on, I was going to watch that thing on YouTube. Hang on, I haven’t looked at Buzzfeed in 90 seconds. Hang on…wasn’t I playing a game?

2. Virtual controls don’t work – and motion control and swiping is too limited.

There is a reason why even the advanced new-gen systems still have mostly traditional controllers with buttons, analog sticks, and a d-pad – because that’s what works best for gaming. Remember how the controller for the Steambox was going to just have two touchpads instead of d-pad or analog sticks and buttons? Yeah, that idea didn’t last long, did it? Remember how early DS games had all these touchscreen controls, and then they eventually just started using the second screen mostly for maps and inventory screens? Because, again, everyone wised up and realized that there’s no replacing hard buttons. Of course, I don’t need to sell you on this if you’ve ever tried playing a game on a mobile device via a virtual d-pad and buttons. So the other option is to use swipe controls and tilts, which again work fine for your [Insert adjective here] Birds and [Insert name of animal here] Rescue Sagas, but not for all, or even most, types of games. I for one am not ready to only play the types of games that can just be controlled with a swipe here and a tilt there. And neither are most gamers – otherwise, we’d all still be talking about how much fun we’re having with Kinect and Move.

1. Nintendo

A mobile gaming world without Nintendo games and properties is a sad one indeed. Nintendo is of course one of the greatest game makers on the planet in general, but they certainly “get” handheld gaming like few other companies do. Just Pokemon alone basically kept the company alive through some of their less-successful years in the 90’s, and there are no current mobile games that can hold a candle to Nintendo’s classic handheld games like Metroid Fusion and Zero Mission, Super Mario Land 2 and 3D Land, the Wario Land series, all those great Zelda games, and on and on. Sure, you can play all the new indie games that are nods to those games – with their awful virtual controls – or just play the superior originals. What’s that, you say? Won’t Nintendo have to make mobile games after the 3DS, certainly their final gaming handheld? If you believe that, you don’t know Nintendo very well. And anyway, if you think a first-party company that goes third-party still continues to make the same quality of games and keep all of their same talent, then you don’t know Sega very well.

One last thing…the “e-word”

A lot of people’s go-to argument in favor of mobile is emulation. Well first of all, I don’t believe that pirating games should be a legitimate facet of any debate, but in the effort of covering all of the bases in this argument, I will just say that people have pirated the hell out of both the DS and the PSP, and once again, what would you rather use to play retro games: a real d-pad and real buttons, or virtual ones? Yeah, I thought so.