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Hand-to-Hand Combat by FullAuto Written on 2nd May 2005

I'll quite freely admit to not having even touched any handhelds since the original Game Boy. However, the upcoming contest between four different platforms should be a good 'un.

I always sidestep all the fanboy crap and pick up whatever I want, ignoring the PC vs. Console/Xbox vs. PS2 arguments because they're pointless. I just want games I'll enjoy. Anyway, the handheld situation at the moment is offering a lot more variety, but I doubt I'll be buying any of them, so I'm going to sit on the sidelines and watch the scrap.

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Briefcase design gone mad.
First up, the Nintendo DS. Clunky design, with a touch-screen interface as well as the normal buttons and D-pad, bit of a weak line up games-wise at launch, but should improve vastly. Nintendo have pledged a free online service available before the end of the year. Nintendo have a massive advantage, having a large in-house department used to dealing with handheld consoles and their games (£100).

Second, the Sony PSP. Stylish design, nice analogue slider, big screen (for a handheld) and a thin and predictable line up of games. No online service yet, but there's meant to be one already up. Doesn't bode well. It's got wifi compatibility, which could work out excellently. Skewed a bit more to the multimedia side, able to play music and films will be released on the UMD format. Time will tell how popular that is. I think it'll probably go the way of music releases on Minidisc (Price TBA but it sold for about £105 in Japan).

Thirdly, the Gizmondo plays games, music and films, also offering GPS, messaging and a camera. Games look a bit desperate, frankly, but there could be some innovative use of the GPS. Could be too multimedia and not specialised enough in one area to survive. (£230, or £129 with extra advertising).

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Knightrider loved his new style.
Last, and probably least, the Nokia N-Gage QD has lost it's radio, tri-band and MP3 player capabilities, but it's still a phone that you can play games on. Game line-up is surprisingly good, some dubious ports though. Nokia have already admitted it'll be better to play Java games with. Already got an online gaming community of over 100,000. Nokia are being a bit optimistic, I think (Free with contract, probably costs a bomb without).

Place your bets.

I think the DS and PSP will go the distance (no great insights there, but youíre not reading this article for them anyway), as Nintendo have the home advantage but Sony have a lot of weight to back up their console. The Gizmondo could take a hefty chunk of the market, certainly not as much as the DS or PSP but enough to keep it going for a few years at least. Itís only available in one shop in the entire world though, so theyíll have to speed up distribution a bit.

The N-Gage has enough extra features to its survival, but direct competition with the others isnít possible. Hard cheese, old chap. Better luck next time.

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Puberty hit Gameboy hard.
Looks are definitely much more of a factor with handhelds, because youíre going to be seen outside your home with them, and you donít want to look like a total tool (as if playing on a handheld could ever make you look cool). The PSP wins that battle hands-down. Nintendo have always been shit at designing consoles, theyíre always clunky pieces of plastic and their latest triumph, the GameCube, is fuck-ugly. The scary thing is, theyíll have paid thousands to get it looking like it is. Iím shit at drawing but Iíd gladly do some superior designs for a small fee, of course.

The DS isnít as bad, but itís not gorgeous either. However, I am betting on it having the best games. By far. The PSP will get all sorts of exclusive games, albeit anorexic pared down ones, but Iíve no doubt Nintendo will chuck out fun innovative games like thereís no tomorrow.

Sadly, the state of the industry being what it is, the PSP will win, because it looks cooler. Appearances matter more. Style over substance. Sony will market the Hell out of it. Nintendo will fail to capitalise on their lead and fall behind. Probably.

But if I was going to buy one, itíd be the DS.


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