The gaming industry was once dominated by portable consoles which allowed players to take their games on the go, but the influx of smartphones into the market has had an impact on their popularity. While just 20% of wireless users had a smartphone in 2009, they are now owned by more than three-quarters of the American population.
Additionally, the rise of the iPhone and Android app development agency has led to the creation of extremely popular mobile games, from Angry Birds to Pokemon Go!. Users no longer need to carry around a portable gaming system and a mobile phone; for the on-the-go gamer, the latter acts as both.
That said, there have been some incredible portable consoles over the years, and the Nintendo 3DS remains popular with lifetime sales of over 70 million. These are some of the most interesting and influential portable gaming consoles ever released.
If you haven’t heard of the PlayStation Vita, you’re not alone. Its sales failed to reach even 25% of what the 3DS accomplished, and the release schedule for new games was slowing down well before Sony decided to stop producing physical copies. On the other hand, the Vita contained a variety of intuitive and exciting features such as its OLED screen and rear touchpad, and a number of unique titles were released for the console during the first few years of its existence.
Released in 2013, the Vita faced an uphill battle as iPhones and Androids began to flood the market. But the few people who did purchase Vitas had the opportunity to play games from established series like Persona, Borderlands, and Uncharted in addition to lesser-known titles such as Tearaway, Gravity Rush, and Shovel Knight.
Nintendo DS and 3DS
Although the 3DS has become extremely popular in recent years, its predecessor remains the best-selling portable console and had a game library that rivaled that of many traditional consoles. In addition to versions of Nintendo classics such as Zelda (Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks), Mario (New Super Mario Bros.), and Pokemon (Pearl, Diamond, and more), DS owners could also access unique new experiences including The World Ends With You, Elite Beat Agents, and 999.
The 3DS may have lower overall sales, but it’s at least as impressive as the original DS, having had to compete against a much stronger mobile gaming market. It has continued to succeed despite facing that competition, and features games of all genres and for every gamer. While the recently released Nintendo Switch includes many features previously associated with portable consoles, Nintendo could still develop a successor to the 3DS.
Portable gaming may be threatened by the rise of mobile gaming, but it’s not going anywhere. Sony and Nintendo have explored the capabilities of portable consoles and demonstrated that there are features, games, and possibilities to be explored on a devoted gaming console that simply aren’t available on a smartphone.
That said, games designed for mobile devices are taking over more and more market share every year. While smartphones have made the industry’s future look grim, there could be new systems added to this list in the coming years if Sony, Nintendo, or a newcomer releases another portable console.