By Frank Ling
If you want to see some sparks fly among dedicated gamers and smartphone users, just mention that smartphones are as good as handheld game consoles for gaming---you’ll witness some intense debates on the subject and in some cases, perhaps a bit of yelling, too.
To clear the air, we’ll try to give a general overview of the two types of devices and make a determination on which one wins in terms of being the best portable mobile video game platform.
Handheld game consoles
When it comes to these types of gaming machines, Nintendo rules the pack as far as the selection of different models. They range from the standard versions such as the DS Lite to Nintendo’s crowning achievement, the 3DS, which offers three-dimensional graphics that pop right out of the screen without wearing special glasses.
Sony offers three handheld gaming machines; the Sony PSP ( PlayStation Portable) that allows gamers to play from Sony’s library of old and new games; the PSP Go, a smaller edition of the PSP; and the recently launched Sony Vita that sports a quad-core processor, super-fast performance, 3G connectivity, and other upgrades.
Smartphones and games
During the infancy of mobile phones, you’d be really riding high if you could play the game Tetris on your device. But with today's smartphones armed with dual and quad-core processors, games have become deeper, and more complex.
Smartphones not only allow you to enjoy a pretty decent gaming experience, (not at work of course, wink-wink) but they also multitask and can be used to make phone calls, surf the Internet, watch streaming content, shop, listen to music, and of course, text your friends.
The big dogs for manufacturing smartphones are from Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and HTC. These phones are further distinguished by the operating systems they run on: Apple uses their proprietary iOS, while the other companies use Android or Windows Phone.
If you want an exceptional game experience that is similar to full-blown game consoles, you need not look any further than a dedicated handheld game machine. These devices provide top performance, excellent graphics, and a deep entertainment experience for gamers who demand the best.
The controller interface for handhelds is optimized for playing games because of the joystick and d-pad layout gamers are so familiar with.
On the flip side, handhelds can take a big chunk of change out of your wallet or purse over the long run because game titles usually start at $29.99 and up. Buying the machine itself can cost $170 to $300, which is the equivalent of buying a full-sized game console. Accessories such as memory cards will also add to the price of ownership. Ouch!
Smartphones have become the magic-utility-electronic-device for many people because they can do so much. Also added to this multitasking marvel is its ability to play games on them.
The majority of smartphone games cost between $.99 and $3.00, with many that are free of charge. The selection of game titles for smartphones is huge so there is always something for everyone.
But because smartphones are multitasking devices and not solely geared towards the purpose of playing games, quality and depth of these titles are sometimes not as complex as handheld games.
And the winner is
It can’t be denied that smartphones have evolved into devices that are overtaking the field that was once the exclusive territory of handheld game machines.
Games offered on mobile devices are highly entertaining and cost effective. Just buy any of the Angry Birds titles to see an example of this new breed. These types of games can be easily downloaded and are ready to play in just minutes. Some of them may not have the same visual strength as handheld console games, but they’re highly addicting, fun, and reach a wider audience of people.
Handhelds are great, but game manufacturers still haven’t adopted the successful game business model used by mobile phone game companies; sell games that are inexpensive and entertaining.
It can be argued that handheld game machines are superior in graphics and performance when compared to mobile phone games, but when you consider the overall fun factor, value, and huge game selection of titles, mobile games and smartphones are a combination that is hard to beat.
Frank Ling is the SF Gadgets Examiner and has been a writer, professional photographer, video producer, video game QA trainer, and video editor.