And why we need to take the gaming press with a grain of salt.
Handhelds are dead. I have heard that phrase uttered on far too many a podcast in the wake of this E3's press conferences to not vent somewhere about it. Just last year, the Nintendo DS sold seven million units in the United States alone, surpassing any records for annual home console or handheld sales to date. To date, the Nintendo DS has sold nearly triple the amount of hardware as the Xbox 360. Yet many vocal and respected members of the gaming press insist that handhelds are dead.
Each time I hear predictions that the 3DS will be a wild failure, I cringe. Largely, these predictions are spoken from the mouths of career game critics and journalists who would like you to believe that dedicated handheld gaming consoles are a thing of the distant past. Often, the points raised are that a console like the DS doesn't fit into anyone's lifestyle, and that a phone is much more convenient for gaming.
One could simply fling sales data back at them to debunk their claim that handhelds are a thing of the past, but their claims are more rooted in their personal lives and their apparent inability to see what a small portion of the population they represent. The career game critic has time built in to their work week to enjoy gaming. More often than not, sites put a priority on covering the large console games. Naturally, someone who needs to play games on a television for their job will tend to do so, but this isn't the average person. For the most part, their gaming habits are reflective of someone in high school or their early college years.
Many adult gamers share televisions, and only have the time to game after working hours. For a large portion of us, this means handheld games are a great companion to the small amount of time games are played on the big screen. Even if there is a separate television, some people just prefer sitting in the same room as other humans and don't constantly need alone time with the latest console release. Handheld games are a fantastic way for many to be near their friends and family, engage with them, and still have a bit of gaming.
Let's not forget the kids either. Plenty of new gamers start with the handhelds, and the thing about humans is that there are always new ones being made. Why is it that gaming press members constantly neglect that a significant portion of the games market is populated by young gamers?
Yes, more people are playing games on their phone during the tiny breaks in their days. But handheld gaming isn't just for when one is out of the house. Systems like the DS and PSP afford deeper experiences, with the benefits of physical control that can be played without the need of a television.
The Wii U looks to further cement the idea that the television is often a shared commodity, and that gaming near family and friends whether or not they are participating is a thing of value. Will the press attack the streaming video as a useless feature? Or will they embrace it, and never realize that, all the while, handhelds have been supplying gamers with a similar solution.