The Future of Handheld Gaming

Throughout its history, the gaming business has been marked by fierce competition for control of the primary platforms via which gamers receive content. As the handheld gaming access environment continues to evolve, we are entering a new era in the console warfare. Companies like Nintendo, PlayStation, Valve, Microsoft (via Logitech), ASUS, Lenovo, and Qualcomm are all releasing new handheld devices that are either devoted to gaming or are designed to work with existing consoles. The competitive, social, and casual gaming communities are all growing, and with them comes a greater need for portability. The portable market is the next battleground for the attention of consumers, which is being fought for by some of the most powerful businesses in the game industry (hardware and software).

Despite the fact that more people are playing games now than ever before, customers are more drawn to mobile games due to their convenience and portability. Consumers now expect to be able to play their games wherever and whenever they like.

The processing power of smartphones is largely responsible for the current state of mobile gaming. Because of this restriction, the market is ripe for handhelds with powerful hardware designed just for gaming, allowing players to enjoy more robust games while on the go.

With the gaming industry shifting towards increasingly powerful handhelds, parallels to the console wars of the early 2000s seem inevitable. Given this historical history, it’s possible that, in the future, gamers may settle on just two or three handheld systems. Meanwhile, two or three niche players may emerge.

There are a variety of methods for attracting customers to buy hardware (access), but the content available to them is always going to be the deciding factor. Following the content, people are more likely to invest in devices that are widely used among their social circles. Most businesses fail at the first hurdle, providing easy access to content. Companies like Sega (32x, Dreamcast), Atari (5200, Jaguar, Lynx, VCS), Apple (Pippin), and even Nintendo (Commodore 64 Games System, 64DD, Wii U) all had significant flops when it came to the early days of the console wars because they did not have strong content offerings compelling enough to justify the high initial purchase price.

At this time, Nintendo (Switch), Sony (PlayStation), and Microsoft (Xbox) hold 100% of the market share for gaming consoles. We anticipate a similar path of consolidation in the handheld sector, with only two or three dominant players remaining.

Which team do you think will win, and why?

firms are racing to develop the next big thing in portable gaming, but in the end, it will be consumers (not the firms that spend the most money on advertising) who will decide which products succeed. If the mobile industry follows the same trajectory as the console wars, the winners will be the companies who provide the best content (especially unique content) for the varied mobile experiences that consumers want. Here is a rundown of some of the best portable gaming consoles currently available:

To play your favorite PC games wherever, anytime, the Steam Deck is the finest option. The Steam Deck is one of the most powerful portable devices available, allowing users to play games from their Steam library (>10k compatible games). Valve has a leg up on the competition thanks to its superior computer power and collection of high-quality titles. This shows that Valve thinks gamers (at least diehard PC gamers) want to play their favorite games even while they’re away from their PC gaming setup, as their method is the most direct attempt to make traditional PC games accessible on the move.

Sony: In November of this year, Sony will release their PlayStation Portal handheld device, which will allow you to stream PlayStation games directly to your Portal. All of a user’s PlayStation 5 games and apps will now be available through the Portal. Having to play on a local network using a PlayStation 5 as the actual hardware operating the game is Sony’s largest challenge, but the library is promising and may be enough to encourage uptake. Sony is taking a gamble that its customers won’t want to play their games while on the road, preferring instead to do so in a more relaxed location (like their bedroom or living room) and via a local network.

Nintendo: Nintendo is a frontrunner in the portable gaming market, since the company has already outdone themselves with the Nintendo Switch and is expected to do it again with the Switch 2 when it is released later this year. Nintendo has produced an exclusive content library for the Nintendo Switch that competes with and in some cases surpasses that of the world’s major games publishers, and its lifetime sales have already surpassed 125 million units. Compared to Valve and Sony, Nintendo’s library is limited in the number of AAA-quality games it offers, but one could argue that these games are better suited to portable play.

For the future, supporting cast: There does not appear to be an obvious new entrant in the market that could become a mainstay as of right now. Logitech’s (with their Logitech G Cloud Gaming Handheld) and ASUS’s (with their ROG Ally) products stand out as possible outliers. Both have Microsoft’s support, giving them a leg up in the portable gaming market. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer has claimed on multiple occasions (The Verge) that the company is not planning to release an Xbox portable device developed in-house.

When it comes to gaming, Logitech has prioritized making a device optimized for the cloud, while ASUS has prioritized making a computer optimized for Windows. Both of these options include subscriptions to Microsoft services, such as xCloud and Game Pass. The success of cloud-based capabilities or the development of an engaging mobile PC will have a significant impact on which company, if either, can survive.

The popularity of the Nintendo Switch (and, more recently, the Steam Deck) has shown consumers and businesses the potential of handheld gaming. This has pushed huge corporates to invest in the potential of being part of this emerging sector in gaming. The difficulty is that gaming has shown to be a market dependent on devotion to content first and foremost, which we anticipate will compel major consolidation and drive huge investment in content exclusivity. Many would-be applicants without a distinguishing piece of content will likely be left on the outside looking in. We believe that the firms with the most content available (Nintendo, Valve, and Sony) have a significant advantage in this industry.

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