The Handheld War

We have a new handheld war on our hands and just because one has been out of the gate for about 5 months and the other is not set to come out until next year, that doesn't mean it is too early to compare! So let's start off with the specs of each system.

3DS Spec PS Vita Specs
CPU Nintendo 266 MHz Dual Core ARM11 ARM® Cortex™- A9 core (4 core)
GPU PICA200 by Digital Media Professionals SGX543MP4+
Top / Front Screen Wide-screen LCD display, enabling 3D view, 16.77 million colors. 3.53 inches, 800 x 240 pixel resolution. 400 pixels are allocated to each eye to enable 3D viewing. 5 inches (16:9), 960 x 544, Approx. 16 million colors, OLED Multi touch screen (capacitive type)
Bottom / Rear Screen LCD touch screen, 16.77 million colors. 3.02 inches, 320 x 240 pixel resolution. Multi touch pad (capacitive type)
Camera One inner camera and two outer cameras. Resolutions are 640 x 480 for each camera. Lens are single focus and uses the CMOS capture element. The active pixel count is approximately 300,000 pixels. Front camera, Rear camera
Sound Stereo speakers positioned to the left and right of the top screen (supports virtual surround sound). Built-in stereo speakers Built-in microphone
Controls A/B/X/Y Button, +Control Pad, L/R Button, START/SELECT
Circle Pad (enabling 360-degree analog input)
Touch screen
Embedded microphone
Motion sensor
Gyro sensor
PS button
Power button
Directional buttons (Up/Down/Right/Left)
Action buttons (Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square)
Shoulder buttons (Right/Left)
Right stick,
Left stick
START button,
SELECT button
Volume buttons (+/-)
Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope,three-axis accelerometer)
Three-axis electronic compass
Location N/A Built-in GPS Wi-Fi location service support
Communication 2.4 GHz. Enabling local wireless communication among multiple Nintendo 3DS systems for game play and StreetPass. Enabling access to the Internet through wireless LAN access points (supports IEEE802.11 b/g with the WPA™/WPA2™ security feature) Mobile network connectivity (3G) IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1x1)(Wi-Fi)(Infrastructure mode/Ad-hoc mode) Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP/HSP)

Ok, so now you have the specs of the two handhelds, but what does it mean? Well let's start with the 3DS. It has slightly improved abilities compared to its predecessor. The graphics are a bit better, but with the new hardware we don't really have anything to show for it after 5 months. The launch lineup was pathetic. The only must have game out now is a remake of a game from the N64. Then we have the Vita which is rumoured to give us gameplay equal to what is found on the PS3. This is something I can see too with a quad core processor in the system, but we have been promised much in the past and have been let down.

Both systems have touch screens, but are they used in a meaningful way? The 3DS seems to have used it as a gimmick, an inventory screen, or for casual games. While the lower touch screen can be neat, it seems that there is no purpose for it. Is this going to happen to the Vita? Yes, it probably will. People that play hardcore games want to use a more tactile interface. This makes the touch screen less desired by an audience that may play games for longer times in a single sitting. Since we are talking tactile interfaces lets talk buttons. The 3DS did a good job adding an analog stick to the system. It allows 3D games to be implemented in a much more user friendly space. But there is only one stick. This is what PSP owners complained about for years, which the Vita has fixed. The Vita has two analog sticks. This means we can control our characters on the handheld the same way we do on the console. Even if we do not get innovative use of the two touch screens on the Vita we can still have good games as developers do not have to recreate the wheel.

So now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about the network part of these systems. The Vita has two models, a 3G version that will be supported by AT&T that requires a contract and a WiFi only model. The 3DS only has a WiFi model available.  I don't view this as an issue. Infact I think this is more a boon to Nintendo. Instead of setting up 3G they setup WiFi hotspots for gamers to connect to all over the place. This turns a normal solitary past time into a social experiment, and helps the businesses that have them setup by bringing people into the stores. Sure, they may come in to leech a network connection, but they could leave with a drink or snack. Heck, you can even watch Netflix on the 3DS, and soon they will have 3D movies (whoopdie doo). And best of all there is no contract. Something no one needs. And seriously, if someone is getting a Vita they should have a phone that is capable of a hotspot. If you must have a network connection on your Vita just add the hotspot to your phone. It has to be cheaper and keeps you from being stuck with AT&T.

This also asks the question, what does a handheld need a GPS for? Do we really have that bad a sense of direction? Do we really need to broadcast our location with another device? Again these people should already have a smart phone telling them where they are, so it seems pointless to me.

Now if you play a lot of casual games you might notice something is missing from the above graph, the iPhone / iPad / Android. There are reasons for this. The first is these are not gaming systems per se. They are portable multifunction devices. The second is the games for these devices are more casual in nature. Most games you play on a smart phone are going to be quick and something you play while waiting on someone. This may take a small bite out of the 3DS, but Nintendo still has their first party games, and that has usually been their money makers anyway. Third, I did not care.

So there you have it. We have two main handheld systems (even though one is not out yet). Do we have a clear cut winner, hell no. To have that we to actually need to have games to play. And since one system is not out and the other only has maybe 2 games we cannot decide on that yet. Sure the Vita is more powerful, but the 3DS has a much larger social base setup. And with the recent price drop it became much more accessible. Overall the battle looks much more close fought this time around, which means we, the gamers can only look to benefit from it.