The Pocket Gamer Report: 2009 in Review


We’re not going to say it was an eventful year, because saying so is tedious and unimaginative. Of course it was an eventful year – every year is eventful. Twelve months is just too long a period of time for nothing to happen in. What we will say is that 2009 was a controversial year for every major front on the pocket gaming battlefield.

First off, the DSi. Announced in October 2008, the DSi was met with a mix of surprise and confusion, but little in the way of optimism. Many were baffled as to what they would need a camera for, particularly one with such a dodgy resolution. It also dampened hopes of a proper successor to the console emerging any time soon.

However, it brought a memory card slot and hence DSiWare with it too, which stand as milestone events in Nintendo’s history. The initial skepticism seems to have done no harm to the console, as in just over six months, it’s shifted nearly 11 million units.

A couple of months later, the iPhone 3GS was announced and released in June. Keeping the 3G’s form factor, Apple chose to give its handset’s guts an overhaul, beefing up its gaming potential considerably. This ruffled feathers, as many saw the arrival of device fragmentation on the App Store as a big potential problem.

So far, only a handful of games have taken full advantage of that extra wriggle room on the App Store. With roughly 22 million handsets now sold, it won’t be long until 3GS-only games start to make financial sense for developers.

But both of those events are mere teacup storms in comparison to Sony’s 2009, which heralded the much maligned PSPgo. The leaks about the device were controversial enough, but the device itself started a debate about digital delivery that’s still reverberating throughout the industry.

The console has been widely criticized for offering reduced functionality at an increased price. Given it’s only been available since November, there’s no telling what its sales figures are going to look like, but it’s unlikely it will match either the DSi’s or 3GS’s impressive numbers.

The last of 2009’s big splashes was the surprise announcement of the DSi XL. It won’t be possible to own the console in the West until early next year, but it’s hard to imagine how it’s going to be received when gamers get their hands on it.

There’s little doubt it’s going to be a nice piece of hardware to play with, but are bigger screens and a chunkier stylus really necessary? We’ll know all about it soon enough.

But what else will 2010 bring? Will Sony be forced to reduce the prices of its digital wares? Will Nintendo make a serious play for the e-book market, taking the DSi XL head to head with Amazon’s Kindle? Will Apple introduce a games only iPod? Will the Zune HD take a punt at the handheld games market?

See you back here next year.

Pocket Gamer is Europe’s leading source of news, opinion and reviews on mobile and handheld gaming.

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