Look, there’s no two ways about it: The DS and the PSP are gnarled, hunchbacked has-beens and, frankly, both are lucky to still be drawing breath as they shuffle about with their walkers, guzzling down prune juice and wearing obnoxious looking purple mohair cardigans.
They’re old. Their best years are behind them and all that’s left for them to do is watch reruns of “The Golden Girls” until they mercifully shuffle into the light.
Just this week, analyst Dave Cole stated that both the DS and the PSP are past their peak, whereas the iPhone isn’t.
As ever, though, the reality isn’t as simple as the headline suggests. Yes, the indisputable truth is that the DS and PSP are both five years old with combined worldwide sales of 160 million, compared with the iPhone’s two years and 20 million in sales. But is it not also true that the trends that have governed console cycles for the last 15 to 20 years have peaked too?
Look at Wii Motion Plus, the new PS3 and Xbox 360 motion controllers, the constant stream of feature updates via Xbox Live and PSN, the DSi, the PSPgo and the iPhone 3GS. The games industry is keener than ever on incremental evolutions over seismic, revolutionary shifts.
Indeed, we have already witnessed the birth of what is surely set to be one of the key elements of next-generation handheld consoles in PSP Minis and DSiWare. These digital download services are cornerstones of Sony and Nintendo’s ongoing strategies, mirroring the home console trend of multiple revenue channels and future backwards compatibility. Far from being past their peak, the DS and PSP are currently laying the groundwork for their successors.
Nintendo has proven with the Wii that you don’t need the shiniest rocks to sell the most consoles, and that goes double for handhelds. Do we really need our pocket games to be prettier than the frankly stunning Gran Turismo PSP? If the consumer trend is towards cheaper, more plentiful games, then Sony and Nintendo already have everything they need to march bravely forward.
Which begs the question: Do we need a new generation of handheld consoles at all? Obviously, we’re playing devil’s advocate – we’d never suggest the industry should stand still. But, false teeth or not, the PSP and DS still have a bit of bite left in them.
Pocket Gamer is Europe’s leading source of news, opinion and reviews on mobile and handheld gaming.