Are We Moving Towards a “Portable Console” Era of Video Games?

Portability seems to be an ongoing topic in gaming today. Is this the future, or is it a trend? Valve, Nintendo, and Microsoft are playing significant roles in bringing the excitement of gaming anywhere you go. With Valve's Steam Deck, Nintendo's latest OLED Switch, and Microsoft's Cloud, portable console gaming is here.

Are We Moving Towards A Portable Console Era of Video Games Cover

Remember in the old days where you would come home from school and boot up the home console? I am happy to say that playing on the big screen at the house is still relevant today. However, there seems to be a new or re-emerging trend going on with gaming as of late. The “portable console” era appears to be in full swing. The video game industry is focusing on taking your gaming anywhere you go. Not only from the comfort of your own home but on a train, plane, park, coffee shop, or anywhere.

The Nintendo Switch introduced over four years ago broke barriers to high-quality games being in the palm of your hand. Since recently, Valve has announced the “Steam Deck,” a portable gaming PC. An innovative twist on PC gaming and could impact games moving forward. Not only that, Microsoft expanded its xCloud (cloud gaming) support to iOS using Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. So with all that, could this be a new era we are reaching with video games, or maybe it’s just a trend? Are we moving towards a “portable console” era of video games?

Handheld Is Not Dead, Just Reinvented

The idea of the handheld was all too familiar years ago. When Nintendo launched the GameBoy on April 21, 1989, it revolutionized “on the go” gaming. Later on, multiple versions of the GameBoy model from Color, Advance, SP, and Micro were released. Then, of course, there was the Game Gear from Sega. However, there was a shift in the handheld wars when Sony announced the PlayStation Portable or PSP. While Nintendo shifted more emphasis on portable gaming with the DS line-up and 3DS/2DS line-up, Sony faded away after the launch of the Vita.

Nintendo continues to evolve the reinvented handheld of the Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo continues to evolve the reinvented handheld of the Nintendo Switch.

Fast forward to the future, Nintendo reveals the Nintendo Switch, where you play on the go or on the TV. Microsoft is focusing on xCloud, which would allow you to stream Xbox quality games on your mobile device. Steam recently announces the Steam Deck, allowing Steam users to play their favorite PC games on the go. Along with the announcement of the OLED Switch, Nintendo is betting high on the future for portable gaming. Before, handheld consoles could never compare to the gaming experience at home. With the development of greater technology we have today, handheld (or portable) gaming is making a comeback. Making AAA titles look just as good as the “at home” console versions.

Could This Be the Next Direction Of The Games Industry?

Only time will tell how long this “portable console” trend will keep going. I say it’s worth pursuing with people who are more eager than ever to travel since the pandemic. The question is: What are people willing to give up to game anywhere? Graphics, processing power, latency, and other critical features for games and consoles are essential for many players. Playing anywhere wouldn’t be the most ideal condition for an online multiplayer game or MMO.

So, of course, the Steam Deck won’t fully replace a PC, but it doesn’t have to. Just like the Nintendo Switch primarily acts as a secondary console to the more powerful Xbox and PlayStation systems. The need for at-home consoles is still there, but portable gaming consoles are still experimental at best. We still need to see the capabilities of these portable consoles and how they stack up to traditional systems.

The Steam Deck may revolutionize PC Gaming. Will players move from the gaming chair to the outside patio?

The Steam Deck may revolutionize PC Gaming. Will players move from the gaming chair to the outside patio?

We could see this concept of “on the go” console gaming evolve. It would require a higher GPU, better screen resolution, and dependable online support to make games truly shine on the small screen. Not only that but factors such as battery usage, drifting, and performance issues could be troublesome for developers. Nintendo will continue to support the Switch in the future. Hopefully, we do get a pro version. Given Nintendo’s track record, we might see it soon. We could even possibly see Sony join this trend as well.

In contrast, the PS4 and Vita did have remote play. What Microsoft is doing with xCloud is truly remarkable in streaming your games anywhere. Sony could bring out its own version of xCloud. Smartphones are constantly evolving just as fast as the gaming industry. The Steam Deck is another step encouraging the “play anywhere” trend. 

Nintendo Switch (OLED model) - Announcement Trailer

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