The Times They Are A Changin’: The New Class of Gaming Consoles

2012 should be an interesting year for gamers and gaming consoles. The pending release of handheld systems from Nintendo and PlayStation might represent a sea of change in the way gamers interact with the medium. The Xbox 360 and PS3 are both getting to the point where they are actually older than some of the whippersnappers who enjoy the diversions they provide (the 360 is seven years old, the PS3 is almost 6). So will handheld devices be the future of gaming? Let’s take a look at the popular new handhelds and see what their popularity will mean for the future of gaming.

The Nintendo U is going to be the most interesting gaming device released this year, but if it wants to achieve any level of success, it has an uphill battle. First of all, the device has been lumped in with other upcoming handhelds like the PlayStation Vita, but how hand holdable is it? It can only be used in conjunction with the primary unit (a console that looks very much like the old Nintendo Wii). This means you won’t have much range to take the Wii U’s touchscreen controller far out of the living room or wherever the console is located.

Also, Nintendo is already working hard to erase the perception that the Wii is mainly used by casual gamers. The company hopes to attract more of the hardcore fans by releasing titles from big names like Batman: Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed. The merits of the Wii U as a home-gaming console are definitely there, but much of the Wii U’s success will depend on how it is marketed and what sorts of titles are available with the unit.

The Playstation Vita will be a truly handheld device that promises to deliver an incredible gaming experience. The device will be available in the United States for $249 and with 3G connectivity for $299. Initial sales reports from Japan, where the unit was released in December, are not encouraging. About 72,000 units were sold in its second week of release and only 4 of the device’s games made the Top 40 list compiled by gaming analysis company Media Creates. These numbers could be deceiving. Most analysts agree things will change once the device receives a wider release.

The Vita features a 5-inch screen that lands it somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet. The device’s design is very streamlined, and those in charge of its user interface clearly took some cues from the iPhone. It is easy to navigate but one drawback is that its large size has stretched the definition of portable and created some difficulty in transporting it (putting it in your pocket is next to impossible unless you’re wearing JNCOs or parachute pants). The battery for the Vita might be an issue depending on your proximity to an electrical outlet. Four and a half hours might be more than enough battery life if you’re killing time between classes, but if you’re in the car on a road trip you might wish you could double that amount.

The future of gaming is hard to predict, but 2012 promises to be an interesting year. The success of these two handhelds probably depends largely on a number of factors like marketing and game offerings on each system, not to mention the news of any competition in the handheld market from a company like Microsoft.

Author’s Bio: Margot is a guest contributor and enjoys writing about technology, gaming and how to use an HP coupon to save money on a new PC. She also enjoys contributing to her main blog, the Blog Content Guild.

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