Handhelds from hell – Jungle fever

Have you noticed how many new handhelds are being released lately? I’m not talking only about Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, which were kinda of expected, since Nintendo has a long family tree in handhelds and Sony… Well, Sony had quite a profitable experience and a big market share with PlayStation [one and two], so it wouldn’t be wise not to do it.

What I’m really talking about is those new handhelds produced by companies that have never had any (good) experience with games and consoles or are absolutely new in business. I mean, there’s nothing wrong in starting a new business from scratch, but it really need to be such a huge deal like a console? A whole console? Why not start with something less pretentious [and less risky], like game designs? Sony did it with Nintendo before releasing the PS and we all know the knock out it was on Nintendo by that time.

Of course, there isn’t a law in this; at the same time Sony join-ventured with Nintendo, Phillips also did, and when Sony released the great PS1 based in that research, Phillips released the CD-1. And everybody know how shitty that was.  In case you were to young to know it, just watch the video below and take your own conclusions.

So, know-how is fundamental in designing a console, but so do research and understanding your public. When Nintendo started working with videogames, something between 1975 and 1980, they had few experience with electronics [the company produced game cards since 1889] and, even so, their products set them apart their competitors, mainly because their design.

That’s exactly my problem with this new generation of handhelds. They seemed to be only motivated by  the profitability of  Nintendo’s DS or PSP, show poor design or poor market study. We have already [shallowly] talked about Pandora, but there were also, Odroid (a open source hand held), Gizmondo, Zune HD and the this-week-announced Panasonic’s Jungle. Most of those, have failed or vanished into vaporware, but Panasonic believes that Jungle will stand up because of its online games and mobile function [N-gage, anyone?]. I’m really sorry for Panasonic, since Jungle seems to suffer from the same basic design flaw that doomed N-gage: it doesn’t fit quite well gaming and also it’s design don’t make it talking much easier.

Let me explain a little better: N-gage sucked as a game plataform since there was no good exclusive title, the graphics were lame for it’s time and playing with it was awkward. I can’t imagine Jungle being anything better in none of those things. Also, it’s  promised a strong MMO base, but the only title announced so far was no World of Warcraft or [at least] Rune Scape, but Battlestar Galactica Online. N-gage sucked even harder as a phone, since, as GameSpy put it, it was like talking with a Taco-phone. Look at Jungle: does it seem any easier to talk using two flaps?

Nintendo 3DS, by the other hand, is a example of a handheld perfectly designed for its audience. It has the great design of the old DSs good looking and really practical] plus this generation biggest fetish: 3D graphics. Also, as a Nintendo console, it will have a bunch of exclusive titles [most of which were already announced, increasing the hype].

I’m not saying that 3DS will be a instant hit and it is in all ways better than Jungle, that’s not my point. My point is that Nintendo 3DS was better researched, better designed and have more qualities that the public [at leasts, seems to] want. That’s no absolute true, and many things can change until both platforms release, but it all indicates that Nintendo creation is going to obliterate Panasonic’s. Maybe, in a alternative reality or in a parallel universe, Jungle could have a better fit for the market, but that’s not the reality/universe we live in.