The Future Of Handheld Gaming

As head admin of Handheld Gaming Network (Facebook and Instagram) I wanted to write about my thoughts on handheld gaming’s future.

I opened the group nearly two years ago with just a few members and that has reached over three thousand to date. Handheld gaming was very popular then and I didn’t see a suitable group for all handheld gaming, so I created one. The majority of gamers own several devices.

It has been a pleasure to meet so many handheld gaming fans and share our passion.

2018 is fast approaching and I have been giving a lot of thought to handheld gaming’s future and indeed the groups future. New releases are starting to dwindle for PSVita and 3DS. Although we have had some big games release for them this year such as Tokyo Xanadu, Danganronpa V3, Monster Hunter Stories and Pokémon Ultra etc.

Vita to continue with digital games only?

Some 3rd party companies have announced that any future PSVita releases will be digital only from next year, and many are opting to release their titles on PS4 only. Not great news since memory cards are so expensive but I am glad it still has a little life left. Sony have been saying for a while there is no future in handheld gaming and we likely wont see a successor.

Yet, I feel if they hadn’t abandoned it so early in its life it could’ve been extremely successful, not just in Japan. It is one of my favourite consoles with some quirky titles you just cant find on other handhelds. It is always a handheld that I keep coming back to.

Will Nintendo stick with the 3DS?

Nintendo have said they will keep supporting the 3DS but some feel that’s not true with closures of Miiverse and Flipnote Studios(next year). Although I feel they may be coming up with something better to replace Miiverse. And the large gaps between their releases isn’t helping either, with not much news on what’s coming next year. They also haven’t made a game that uses the 3D feature in a while and are just advertising mainly the 2DS XL.

I don’t use the 3D anyway and I love how lightweight the console is. But I know some people are disappointed about this. It is sad to think its coming to the end of its lifespan, but over 6 years is a good time to move on from it. It has been a big part of gamers lives and opened me up to some fun, well made games that will stick with me for a long time. Of course I will still be playing it for years to come, and not just because of the huge backlog of games I have…

Is mobile gaming the future?

Mobile gaming (IOS/ANDROID) has also become very popular over the last few years. Nintendo and Sony have jumped on the bandwagon more recently. Which wasn’t surprising as mobile gaming is very popular in Japan, and becoming more popular in the west, particularly with younger gamers.

We’ve seen games such Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing Pocket Camp release and were well received. I myself only really play mobile games in short bursts. I am aware there are some fantastic titles out there but it is not my preferred way to play. If the game is also available on 3DS for example, I will purchase that version despite it costing more. But I acknowledge mobile gaming has its place and many people get a lot of enjoyment from it. It is also a very convenient way to game.

Is the Switch an example of the future of Handheld Gaming?

Of course I must talk about the Nintendo Switch, released in March this year and has gone from strength to strength, despite minor issues and bigger issues regarding stock. I got this hybrid console on release day and absolutely love it. Many people don’t  see it as a handheld. And it isn’t, it is a hybrid console with a handheld option. Nevertheless it has its place in handheld gaming and indeed my group.

A lot of indie mobile games have been ported to it along with big name titles of course, and I prefer to play those on the Switch rather than a mobile phone. This hybrid console could mean this is how we play handheld gaming in the future. Will there be more hybrid consoles in the future from Nintendo and other companies? It is just amazing to play games like Breath Of The Wild and Skyrim in handheld mode. Nintendo made this hybrid to try to cater to how many of us play our games these days, we are always on the go and it is great to be able to play on a TV and then take it with you.

Switch, Zelda,

I think HGN will be around for a while yet, many of us still play retro handhelds for example and we have some passionate loyal members. I can’t wait to see what future we have and handheld gaming as a whole. What do you think? Will we see any dedicated handhelds again or are hybrid consoles the future? Leave a comment!

Thanks for reading! Vic (HGN)



  1. I can’t see Nintendo continuing 2 devices which are both portable, not after Iwata merged their handheld and console divisions- remember that? They no longer have separate gaming divisions, and 3DS’s era was during Wii U. Nintendo’s not going to be stupid and say- yeah, we’re stopping 3DS, so here’s Switch, they’ll probably piss off too many. Instead, what they’re doing- and you’re already seeing this, they’re phasing it out slowly, like they did with the GBA. They didn’t come right out and say DS was replacing GBA, but ultimately, what happened? Now, Nintendo isn’t going to have just one device, like mentioned, they have mobile now. When mobile’s revenue surpasses 3DS’s (may come as early as next year), it’ll be a safe bet that the 3DS is done. Even Pokemon makers have now said they’re done with the 3DS, and those are the 3DS’s highest selling games, so without that series, the 3DS is really dead. Don’t expect to keep seeing it in Nintendo’s financial reports beyond next year, in 2019 it’ll be all Switch (possibly even a Switch: Lite to fully replace 3DS) and mobile, because those will contribute virtually all to Nintendo’s profits, they won’t need 3DS anymore- really, they don’t need it now, but it’s working as a bridge from mobile to Switch until another version of Switch can come out to fully replace 3DS, because again, Nintendo no longer has a handheld division of its company.

  2. Personally, I can’t see mobile phones taking over anything. There is a _huge_ market of people who will shell out large sums of money for console games – it is a several billion dollar a year industry. While mobile phones also churn out those kind of numbers, they typically target the casual player who isn’t spending hours a day playing games. Perhaps 10-15 minutes per day while waiting for a bus or something out that nature. I call them “candy crushers” because they wouldn’t consider themselves gamers, so why should I?

    It’s different demographics, and I think Sony’s mishandling of the Vita in the west has brought about this dreadful feeling of impending handheld gaming apocalypse. But if that’s so true, then why did the console do so well in Japan, where everyone is also constantly on their phone?

    The issue is that Nintendo simply does a fantastic job of handhelds, and they know it. Sony knows it. Sony would need an amazing lineup to compete with Nintendo and rather than tell the shareholders, “sorry shareholders, we suck and Nintendo is better,” it’s more shareholder-friendly to blame something else. This is 2017 – no company has ever or will ever admit to screwing up. Proprietary memory cards and too high a cost is why the Vita failed, make no mistake. Serious gamers want an actual gaming system.

    The 3DS will continue to trickle along but the goal for the past few years was to merge the console and handheld teams anyway – we see now (with the Switch) why this came to be all along.

    I’d like to see some competition in the handheld ring from Microsoft and Sony, although Microsoft seems preoccupied trying to get users to download as many 18GB patches as possible every time they turn on their water heater-sized systems, and Sony, while doing a great job with the PS4, is still seemingly having a blast ignoring the existence of the Vita outside of Japan.

    In other words, going up against Nintendo with handhelds is bad business and won’t happen until the tech gets cheaper.

    The Switch has been massively successful and I think that in itself proves that a portable console is what the people want. We’re a world of people constantly on the go – and we can now enjoy console-quality games on the go, thanks to the Nintendo Switch. People will remember that.

  3. Great article vic. This really is a unique point in hand held gamings history. I personally don’t see mobile games take over the market entirely. There aren’t enough quality titles, in my opinion, to convert everyone to that platform. Also, I think it might be difficult for all game devs to design games just for the mobile market. I think it has to do with the programming languages used to develop for ios and java. Some game types might just function better when written using different software so I think that might present a limitation.

  4. Great article! I think the Switch hybrid concept is interesting, and I’m intrigued to see how console developers respond to Nintendo’s success. I think it’s hard to sell dedicated handheld devices these days, particularly due to the popularity of mobile app gaming, but Switch fits into the category of home/handheld device, and that seems to have filled the void that satisfies both dedicated home, handheld, and even mobile gamer.

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