Why Everyone Is Jumping On Handheld Gaming Bandwagon

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Handhelds Are The Future Of Gaming!

Story Highlights
  • Handheld consoles have returned to the mainstream gaming market in the last decade.
  • New hardware like the Steam Deck and Rog Ally can run AAA games, marking a significant breakthrough in hardware limitations.
  • With cloud streaming still not there yet, the industry is shifting towards more handheld consoles.

Gaming is more versatile than ever, whether through physical hardware or cloud streaming. Since the latter is still not too popular, consoles and PCs continue to dominate the industry.

However, portable gaming has made incredible strides in the last decade. Just a few years ago, options for gamers who wanted to play on the go were quite limited, with the choices being the Nintendo Switch or cloud streaming.

The recent debut of hardware like the Steam Deck or Asus ROG Ally has changed everything. For this reason, I also believe that handheld consoles are the future of gaming.

Why it matters: Handhelds were eventually phased out after the failure of PS Vita, with Nintendo being the only competitor in the market. However, nearly everybody seems to be participating in portable gaming today.

Nintendo Leading The Way

Steam Deck
PC Gaming Can Be Taken On The Go With The Steam Deck

The gaming market for handheld consoles has been different from others, offering much smaller-scale games.

This was due to several reasons, such as different selling points, which often translated to gimmicks like the dual screens of the DS or the 3D visuals of its successor. However, much of the difference was simply due to hardware limitations.

Handheld consoles offered proprietary games, which often boiled down to spin-offs of famous existing IPs. Games like God of War: Chains of Olympus and Mario Kart DS come to mind as famous examples.

Nintendo completely flipped this concept on its head in 2017. Following the introduction of the incredibly successful Nintendo Switch, AAA gaming on handhelds was a real possibility, even if it had obvious drawbacks.

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Consider a game like Doom Eternal. This was a fully-fledged single-player shooter from id Software that could be played on the tiny Nintendo Switch Lite. Throughout its lifespan, the console saw a slew of impressive ports.

These included games like Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, The Witcher 3, and even Hogwarts Legacy. While many ports, including Batman Arkham Knight, were far from perfect, they paved the way for other manufacturers to try their hand at handheld gaming.

Following the Nintendo Switch, perhaps the Steam Deck was the biggest game-changer. Not only was this handheld much more powerful but it was also backed by Valve’s incredible software support.

Valve practically invited every other PC gaming manufacturers into the market. The Asus ROG Ally, Lenovo Legion GO, MSI Claw, and more were created as a direct result of Valve’s success.

Nintendo Switch 2
Nintendo’s Ambitions May Be Key To The Future of Handhelds

Technology Hitting Its Limitations & The Future

One major reason behind the current handheld appeal is the fact that consoles are no longer as far ahead of their handheld counterparts.

Sure, the Steam Deck and Asus ROG Ally are noticeably worse than the PS5 or Xbox Series X, but they can provide decent experiences in AAA games like Elden Ring or Spider-Man.

For the target audience, the compromises needed to achieve portable gaming are more than worth it. This is why I believe handheld gaming will grow even more popular in the future.

Cloud gaming projects like Google Stadia have failed miserably, so I no longer have much faith in this technology. There is still potential in streaming, but handhelds seem to be realizing their potential much quicker.

For anybody looking to try handheld gaming, the Steam Deck OLED is a great starting point. The Nintendo Switch Lite is perhaps the most budget-friendly option and offers just enough value to last a year or two.

Nintendo is expected to launch the Switch 2 next year. Xbox is also rumored to be working on its own handheld, and Valve has confirmed intentions to launch another Steam Deck eventually.

Therefore, this market is evolving rapidly, with no telling how fast it will grow.

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