Apart from the fact that they are all portable, what do the iPhone, PSP, and DS all have in common? It’s definitely not touchscreens. Nor is it their media capabilities. Could it be their storage medium? Obviously not. Give up?
The connection, for now anyway, is that collectively they are each responsible (some more than others) for ushering in handheld gaming’s most recent buzz term – “snackable gaming”. The term “casual gaming” has finally been superseded, oddly, by a new trend that ultimately appears to be the same thing.
Though there’s clearly money to be made selling copy after copy of Flight Control or Fieldrunners, what of the million sellers that exist on each platform that are far from snackable, or casual for that matter?
Dragon’s Quest on the DS is hardly a game that has been tailored towards quick, bite-size sessions of play, yet it sold by the metric ton. Similarly, the PSP’s enormously popular Monster Hunter franchise is not exactly light on marathon quests. Even on the iPhone, EA’s premium priced FIFA 10 shot straight in at number 1 on the App Store just hours after release.
The advent of games that are cheap and that can be consumed in convenient strings of ten minute sessions is not a bad thing, but please, let’s not make snackable titles the be all and end all of handheld gaming. The portability of handheld consoles affords gaming sessions that take place not just on the move, but on the couch or the bedroom while the TV is tied up by other household members.
Snackable/casual gaming, whatever you want to call it, has its place, but there are some portable gaming appetites that can only be satiated by a three or four hour marathon, where a ten minute bout will leave you feeling more than hungry.
Just as the DS ushered in more virtual horses than anyone had the stables for, the iPhone, PSP and DSi are currently in danger of over-subscribing on the snackable front, with endless revisions of line-drawing and tower defense games.
Perhaps part of the issue is that many of the games that appear on the App Store, DSiWare or PSP Minis range are from first time developers, happy for the opportunity to get their wares into the hands of today’s gamers and eager to pander to the tastes of the perceived zeitgeist.
But shouldn’t the fewer barriers to entry that face modern developers in the handheld realm encourage fledgling companies to be more, rather than less, ambitious with their first releases?
Perhaps that is a little unfair – slow and steady wins the race after all. But larger companies have no excuse for not catering to the hardcore players who own one of the current crop of portable consoles.
The point is, we’re glad Minigore made it onto the PSP Minis range, but we also want God of War: Chains of Olympus II, or even, heaven forbid, a new and exciting hardcore IP. We’re delighted Flight Control is heading for DSi Ware, but we also want a DS version of Metroid Prime: Other M. We’re happy to hear that World of Goo is coming to the iPhone too, but would it kill Bethesda to make good with an announcement of what it has planned for the App Store?
Are we alone here? Hello, out there… is anyone listening?
Pocket Gamer is Europe’s leading source of news, opinion and reviews on mobile and handheld gaming.