Building a Better Handheld
With all the hoopla surrounding the war between the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP, it's hard to imagine the future of this generation of handhelds, and even harder to imagine handhelds beyond that. Yet, somewhere down the road, the future is inevitable, and both the DS and PSP will be replaced by some, as of yet, unrevealed masterpiece. Whether it is developed by Sony, Nintendo, or dare we say Microsoft, each company is going to be faced with the decisions of what to include, as they set out on the journey of building a better handheld.
It's almost unnecessary to say that we, the consumer, will expect more from the next generation of handhelds. However, it is the type of growth that we choose most important that will determine the ultimate direction of the industry. Graphics? Innovation? Connectivity? The features of the next big handheld will surely be many, but which will we be yearning for when the sun finally sets on the current generation?
[subhead]The Future Touch[/subhead]
Nintendo laid down the law with the DS ... at least when it came to innovation. Touchscreen functionality was one of the largest selling points of the handheld, and the creativity behind it inspired developers as well as consumers. Naturally, the success of the DS phenomenon is undoubtedly making all leading companies look towards what they can offer gamers in the form of a touchscreen, but will the feature stand the test of time?
Even now we unfortunately have to take a look at the often gimmicky nature of the touchscreen, and fear that some developers might not be able to come to terms with an entire industry of handheld devices based on the feature. Would Grand Theft Auto work with a touchscreen? Do we want it to? Merging a touchscreen with a handheld that has more graphical power than the DS is going to be something Nintendo will surely be considering, and where Sony may consider releasing a handheld with the power of the Playstation 2, Nintendo could offer a handheld with the power of the PSP, but the features of the DS.
Even touchscreens themselves are going to be under the gun, and while it may still be a few generations down the road, the multi-touch interface is surely going to sweep the gaming industry just as the DS originally did. Early demonstrations of multi-touch interfaces show gamers exploring RTS capabilities of selection and unit movement, all without touching a keyboard of a mouse. Imagine using two styli on a DS game, at the same time, each doing a separate task. It may sound even stranger, but the potential inclusion of a multi-touch interface could remove buttons from handhelds altogether. If that doesn't cover Nintendo's desire to refresh the industry, I couldn't possible imagine what would.
[subhead]The Graphical Leap[/subhead]
The future handheld is obviously going to need to be able to power games that are more visually appealing. While this basically goes without saying, as every generation of console has been expected to do this, on a handheld the necessity is slightly different. While making the graphical leap is going to be of significance to any company, it's also very important that companies consider the cost at which pushing the best graphics comes.
There is no doubt that the Sony PSP offers graphics significantly stronger than the DS, yet the loading times of pushing the PSP to it's fullest capabilities hinder the portability of the system, and ultimately that is of the utmost importance. Therefore, leaping up to the next bracket in graphics is going to be something that the sages of platform creation need to weigh heavily. If a device in five years offers either A. The graphics of the current PSP, but a seamless experience with no loading times, or B. The graphics of the current Playstation 2, but an experience hindered by loading times on par with time spent on forming galaxies, the choice is pretty clear. Actually, undeniably clear.
[subhead]The Pizza Experience[/subhead]
Nokia may have blundered the N-gage to an outrageous extent, but that doesn't mean their ideas were necessarily wrong. The inclusion of outside features in a handheld is already the direction Sony and Microsoft are taking. Whether it is the capability to stream content, play movies or MP3's, or even having phone capabilities; handhelds with function are on the way up, well, as long as it isn't sidetalking ... or UMD's.
The idea of including outside features has extended even beyond hardware capabilities as well. Sony's Talkman software for the PSP is making their handheld a universal translator, and Nintendo has made the DS a massive collection of tutoring software. Cooking Navi has even transformed a gaming device into a virtual recipe book, and while disruptive software like this might not seem of importance to the standard gamer, this is the future of handhelds.
The device that can play a pizza creating simulation game, allow someone to listen to a song about pizza, check a recipe on pizza, hop on and make a Blog post about a great pizza parlor, and even order a pizza, is the device that will win the ensuing handheld war. Whether it has great games or not, bringing pizza to the world in that many ways, who could deny its success? No, seriously though, these features are going to be the bread and butter of the next generation, and gamers should look forward to an amazing, literally life-changing, experience as their handheld gaming device allows them the opportunity to connect their various endeavors.
[subhead]Got that Apple Style?[/subhead]
The last thing that consumers should expect from the handheld of the future is probably the vainest. What can I say? We like shiny things. Without a doubt, the next big handheld device is going to be looking at a glut of competition from devices that offer similar features, so one of the best ways to win the war is to look the best.
We can see the differences in the DS and the DS Lite, but it's even more noticeable when looking at the current MP3 player market, and the reigning champions of said market, Apple. There's virtually no difference in the countless other MP3 players on the market, yet Apple brings the pain when it comes to sales, and they do it, basically just through that Apple Style. Nintendo has already taken heed of what Apple has done to succeed, and their vision with the DS Lite and the Wii is noticeably based upon this. Sony, and (possibly) Microsoft will be next in line, and we'll be the ones to benefit from the battle. Each company is consistently going to outdo the other with the style of their future devices, and we'll be seeing the sleekest of the sleek find our way into our homes, and pockets.
Where the future of handhelds heads is obviously open to the random guesses of anyone, but these are no simple guesses. Being professionals makes us informed, and that makes these hypotheses, so we're kind of like scientists. The scientists of handhelds and pizza. Just think of eating that pizza, and the excellent direction handheld gaming will be heading in a few years, and well, you could be a scientist too. I don't know about that whole degree thing, that's for hacks.