September 30, 2022
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Friday, we’re discussing the handheld boom and what it means for mobile, the nascent cloud streaming market, and the holy grail of cross-platform gaming.
I just returned from a nearly two-week vacation on Monday, and it felt like an eternity had passed in gaming time. Even though I had my Switch, an iPhone, and an iPad, leaving my gaming PC and PS5 at home meant taking extended pauses from my growing Valorant addiction, my dedicated Destiny 2 clan, and the almost nightly hangouts I have with friends over Discord and PlayStation voice chat.
My experience highlighted a persistent problem in the game industry — taking all your games (and those games’ social connections and save files) with you as you go — that a growing number of device makers and platform owners have been trying to solve for years, some more admirably than others. The holy grail, in which almost every screen you own can play or stream any game you want, is still far off. But we’re starting to move toward that ideal, and announcements this week nudged us even closer.
The Android handheld boom is here. On Wednesday, gaming peripheral maker Razer joined the growing number of hardware makers intent on entering the handheld race to compete with the likes of the Nintendo Switch and Valve Steam Deck. The company’s new handheld will be unveiled next month in partnership with Verizon and Qualcomm.
The Switch and Steam Deck are to thank for our renewed handheld obsession. Portable gaming machines were pillars of the game industry throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s, with Nintendo’s dominant Game Boy and then DS and 3DS platforms inspiring plenty of doomed copycats.
Mobile platforms are ceding ground to dedicated devices. One might be inclined to wonder why, in the era of ubiquitous smartphones, we need handheld gaming at all. Didn’t the iPhone solve the portability problem more than a decade ago? Well, yes and no.
Handheld gaming doesn’t solve all of our issues with gaming on the go. For one, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to play Valorant without my gaming PC and a dedicated mouse and keyboard, and that goes for many other competitive shooters. And even if Sony gets its act together and figures out a more straightforward approach to subscription and cloud gaming, I’ll probably prefer playing the new God of War on my living room’s big-screen TV.
But a handheld screen with a built-in controller — when combined with fast internet and robust cloud gaming platforms — covers a lot of bases, and all of those pieces are getting better all the time. At some point, they could fit together into a cohesive, reliable and affordable package that rivals mobile gaming and stands toe-to-toe with consoles and PCs. Chances are it won't be a smartphone, but it will definitely be handheld.
— Nick Statt
Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.
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