Christmas may be a time of sharing and togetherness,but Christmas morning for gamers is a time to load up the latest gaming wares and get down to some serious solo thumb time.
This year’s festive line-up offers a dizzying number of new titles, encompassing almost every genre. There’s Uncharted 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Forza Motorsport 3, Tekken 6, Assassin’s Creed II, New Super Mario Bros Wii and, of course, the ubiquitous Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Has anyone spotted what’s missing?
For those looking to spend December 25th curled up with a glass of port, a wedge of Christmas cake and their favorite chunk of pocket plastic, the options are conspicuously thin.
On the DS, there is the hotly anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, a near guaranteed triple-A release and something to justify many a DSi sale, too. On the PSP, there’s the slightly more complicated LittleBigPlanet. It, too, is an assured hit for Sony, but due to its availability both in UMD format and as a download on the PSP Store, it may not find itself under quite so many trees.
That makes two by our count.
Maybe we’re behaving a little spoiled here and admit that there are a handful of other handheld titles that some will no doubt be hoping to unwrap on Christmas morning. However, the simple fact of the matter is that, though seldom in parity with home consoles, the number of big name, big budget handheld releases this year is unusually limited.
The simultaneous rise of digital delivery and the snackable model could be something to do with it. There’s a trend at the moment in the handheld space towards more releases, more often, rather than interspersed flurries of triple-A appearances.
The direct upshot of that is, though services like the PSP Store, DSiWare and enfant terrible, the App Store, do make for more compelling handheld offerings overall, sales of the current crop of portable gaming machines may well suffer this festive season at the hands of a home console line-up that’s as plump as a Christmas turkey.
Yet there’s another potential pitfall to consider: Digital distribution is all fine and dandy to the tech savvy kids of today, but what of all the doting family members looking to buy gaming presents for their kin?
The PSPgo and iPod touch are both reasonably complicated offerings for the non-gaming consumer software-wise, and their lack of accompanying stocking fillers (i.e. the latest games) may see the DS dominate the handheld space for yet another Christmas.
Perhaps all this doom mongering isn’t warranted. After all, when it comes to fighting it out with the consoles, the DSi, PSP and iPod touch do all have price on their side, and if there’s one thing consumers do understand at this time of year, irrespective of their level of tech savvy, it’s value for money.
I suppose we’ll just have to be patient like all the other excited kids out there to see what’s waiting for us after Santa’s visited. Have you been good this year?
Pocket Gamer is Europe’s leading source of news, opinion and reviews on mobile and handheld gaming.