2017 is looking to be a very interesting year in the portable gaming scene. Nintendo has a ground-breaking new system coming out, and it’s sure to shake up the industry.
But does that mean you should buy it? Or are other portable consoles still viable? We sifted through a lot of information, speculation, and down-right guessing to find out.
The Next Big Thing: Nintendo Switch
The portable console on everyone’s mind right now is the Nintendo Switch. Its hybrid nature mean it’s both portable and viable as a home console. It’s a unique device, from the detachable controllers to the docking station. And it’s going to be very popular. Nintendo has mastered the art of making light games that have wide appeal.
Zelda, Mario Kart, and Splatoon are going to be popular among gamers (though Zelda will likely pack a more robust gaming experience than the others). Pokemon, Super Smash Brothers, and Mario Party are other great examples of this genre. They’re quick, fun, and not intimidating. Of course, there are a variety of games planned — some heavier RPGs like Skyrim and I Am Setsuna will also show up.
Nintendo hasn’t been big into shooters since Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, so you won’t see much of that. Strategy games, too, are likely to be few. Stardew Valley and World of Goo are likely the heavier end of the strategy section of Switch games. If you’re okay with giving these games up, the Switch might be a good choice for you.
All that being said, the Switch does seem like a pretty sure bet. If you like the types of games that the Switch is likely to have a lot of, like the idea of a sort of Wii/3DS mashup, or like to try things that are really new, the Switch will be a great choice.
An Uncertain Future: Nintendo 3DS
When a new console comes out, it’s always a bit nerve-wracking for fans of (newly) last-generation consoles. Now that Nintendo will be placing a lot of focus on the Switch, what will happen to the 3DS? Nintendo hasn’t made any specific statements, but they have noted that the intention was for the Switch to be more of a home console. That leaves the 3DS as the king of their portable department. Which means you can expect further support and development.
It’s hard to predict what developers will do, though. Many big names have declared their support for the Switch, including Konami, Bethesda, Sega, and Ubisoft. If Nintendo is right and the Switch doesn’t replace the 3DS for portable gaming, there’s a good chance developers will be motivated to continue making 3DS games.
There are certainly some promising games scheduled for this year, including Mario Sports Superstars and a new Fire Emblem game. And because Nintendo will continue their support of the system, there’s a good chance developers will, too. Nintendo is closely involved with game development for their systems. This is especially true for Mario and Pokemon games, so fans of these titles shouldn’t be worried. And there are lots of great games out that are still worth playing, like these strategy titles and these epic games.
The Switch will almost certainly bring the price of the 3DS down, which is good for gamers interested in trying out the console. And the 3DS beats the Switch hands-down for portability. The new system isn’t huge, but it’s comparable to a small tablet, while the 3DS is pocket-sized. If you want portability, and believe Nintendo when they say the 3DS will be around for a while, it’s a great choice.
Buy the Nintendo 3DS ($200)
(Nearly) Dead in the Water: PlayStation Vita
Although Sony places a stronger emphasis on home console gaming, the Vita has some strong upsides. And if you’re looking for more combat-focused games, it has a strong edge on the 3DS. Borderlands, Killzone, and Call of Duty all have Vita entries, and the graphics for those games and other blow away the graphics on Nintendo’s portable.
The problem with the Vita is that Sony has basically left it for dead. Most of the games that are being developed for it are coming out of Japan (though the lack of region restrictions makes this less of an issue). Sony is spending more effort marketing it as a PS4 accessory and hyping Remote Play than trying to convince people to game on it. That combined with strange choices like making the memory expansions proprietary mean that the Vita has had a rough time.
However, many people are very happy with the Japanese games that have been coming out of late. Danganronpa, Persona, and Final Fantasy X/X-2 have all gotten solid reviews (own own Dave Leclair was very impressed by Persona 4) . The graphics are still very impressive. And there’s something great about using twin joysticks on a portable.
Developers are still putting out games for the Vita, and you can bet that they’ll continue for at least a couple years. It might only be Japanese developers, but many would argue that’s where the console’s strength lies. Sony has made remarks suggesting that the climate isn’t right for a Vita 2 release, so don’t expect them to be replacing this anytime soon.
All in all, the Vita is a bit of a risky purchase at the moment. If there are a lot of JRPGs you’d like to play on the go, though, and you can get a good price on the Vita, it’s probably not a bad way to go.
The Outsider: Nvidia Shield
Nintendo pretty much has the portable market cornered, and Sony has a little niche carved out for itself. But there’s a third option: Nvidia. The Shield Portable was basically a game controller with a flip-up screen built in. And while you can still find those, Nvidia doesn’t seem to be supporting them anymore. Which is too bad, because it was a really interesting idea. It seems they’re more focused on Shield TV, their media streaming device.
Now, however, the Shield tablet is their mobile solution. It’s an 8-inch Android tablet that works with the Shield controller and can play Android games as well as stream from the GeForce Now app. The app lets you stream PC games from GeForce’s servers to your tablet. You can stream games like Tomb Raider, Thief, Hitman, The Witcher 3, and Batman: Arkham Origins. The optional cover converts into a kickstand so you don’t have to prop the tablet up with whatever’s nearby. It’s a strange way to game… but if you want PC-type gaming on the go, it’s your best bet (other than a gaming laptop).
Possibly the greatest advantage of the Shield tablet is that it’s also a fully functional Android tablet. So you can use that for email, work, streaming video, or whatever else you’d use a tablet for. And while the Shield hasn’t made much headway into the mobile market, its unique form and ability to stream PC games will definitely appeal to desktop gamers.
What Will You Buy in 2017?
Nintendo looks to tighten its grip on the portable gaming scene this year, but there are options beyond the Switch. People are still buying the Vita, and it does have some great games. And the Shield certainly has potential. But with mobile games keeping most people’s attention while they’re on the go, the future of the portable gaming industry is very much in the air. So we want to hear from you.
Will you be buying a portable game console this year? Which ones are you considering? What types of games do you play? Are there any other viable portable consoles out there? Share your thoughts in the comments below!