So I’ve been very interested in the history and evolution of video games as a medium lately, in particular Nintendo, my first love. And as I started thinking about the Switch itself, now that Super Mario Odyssey is out and I can’t play it, I’ve reached a somber conclusion.
I think the era of handheld gaming is coming to a close.
To start with, let’s be honest with ourselves. It’s always lived or died based on Nintendo. No other company ever came close to the success of the GameBoy and DS line. Sony certainly made an effort, and the PlayStation Portable was by no means a flop, but it didn’t capture the audience the GameBoy Advance and DS did. Most of the really worthwhile games remained in Japan. And the PlayStation Vita, much as I love it, is a complete joke that Sony’s been all too happy to forget about.
So what’s making me think it’s done, then?
Several things, really. With the Switch’s portability and Nintendo’s growing interest in mobile games, is there really a place for a dedicated handheld now? The New Nintendo 3DS isn’t a true successor, too.
Not to mention a few significant games arriving in the Switch’s future: Pokemon, Fire Emblem, and Shin Megami Tensei.
SMT is a third party game but it’s interesting because from what I’ve seen, the main series has been handheld-only for awhile? Persona is not included here. So it’s interesting to see this announced for a home console.
Same with Fire Emblem, a proper Nintendo franchise. Handhelds have been its home for the longest time, as its console entries underperformed in spite of quality. And of course, it took Awakening to bring it back from the brink, anyway. So one can certainly argue its presence on Switch is just Nintendo’s newly found confidence speaking. Still worth mentioning.
And finally, the big one: Pokemon. This isn’t a spinoff like Colosseum or Pokepark. This is the actual mainline series developed by GameFreak. On a home console. The dream… realized.
Surely, if Nintendo had a new handheld in development, this wouldn’t be happening. It’s such a significant break from tradition. Pokemon has always made handhelds sell.
So I can only make one conclusion.
Handheld gaming is being absorbed by the Switch and the microtransactioned maw of mobile gaming.
A significant piece of my childhood is dying a slow death.
I’m not sure how to feel.