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The Great Pokemon Extinction Event

Pokemon Black/White 2 comes out on Sunday and while I will most likely pick it up, I fear that it will confirm something that I’ve known for quite some time now, namely that I don’t really give a crap about handheld gaming any more.

It’s a difficult realization to come to. Handheld gaming has been a big part of my life for years now, but over the past 18 months or so, things have shifted and I find myself less and less enthused about the hobby’s diminutive offerings. Pokemon Black/White 2 may end up being the last handheld game I ever buy.

Cue the hyperbole machine!

I’ve gone to two E3s now where I have been absolutely and completely unimpressed with the handheld offerings for the 3DS. The first E3 that showed off 3DS games displayed mostly remakes of existing N64 titles, with a smattering of new games that still haven’t seen the light of day. Luigi’s Mansion 2, I’m looking at you. Hell, this past E3, they didn’t even have a set place to see 3DS games. You had to flag down a Nintendo rep and play the 3DS attached to her belt. Let me tell you how much that’s not going to happen.

Sony’s booth fared much better when it came to presenting Vita games, but at the same time, did I see anything there that really made me get excited for the platform? Not really. Sure, Sly 4 looks cool, and the cross play feature is a nice sell, but nice enough to hold on to the unit, especially after Barnes put that bug in my ear about selling it? Probably not.

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Sure, you can blame the iPad, my go to source for mobile gaming at the moment, but just like in any situation, if you point one finger at something, there are four fingers pointing back at you. Only in this case, the four fingers are pointing back at Sony and Nintendo. Yes, iPad games look better than the 3DS, but they’re not better than the Vita. Sure, they’re cheaper, but sometimes, wading through which games are actually cheaper and which ones are just cheap storefronts for in-app purchases makes the cost comparison moot.

The reality is this: the latest and future offerings for both handheld systems interest me only barely. Pokemon Black/White 2 is a slam dunk, as is the new Professor Layton, but what beyond that? Assassins Creed: Liberation could be good, but good enough to pay $40 for? I doubt it. What beyond that? I read the list of upcoming games for both platforms and not only do I not see anything that strikes my fancy, but I’m not really bothered by the fact, something which speaks more to my state of mind than anything else.

There was a time where I would look forward to the upcoming handheld releases, planning out my time with the games so that I always had something to play. Nintendo and Sony both saw to making that impossible, with such a cruddy trickle of releases for both systems, and as a result, I stopped playing and stopped caring. Now, I couldn’t tell you when things are coming out and furthermore, I have on interest in looking. Hell, it took me by surprise that Pokemon Black/White 2 comes out on Sunday.

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In the space vacated by Nintendo and Sony, I find myself playing games on my iPad, reading digital comics and, surprise of surprises, playing games on my PC. I don’t see the PC replacing my 3DS or Vita to the same degree that my iPad has, simply because of the portability factor, but more often these days, when I want something to play at night, I turn to Steam and the small collection of inexpensive, indie RPGs and adventure games I’ve amassed over the past few months. Hell, I’m seriously considering buying Torchlight 2, with the excessive heat generated by my laptop as the only limiting factor. $20 may be a lot for a game I’m not sure of (although I’m finding the demo to be delightful) but it’s half the price of games for the Vita or the 3DS and it’s on a platform that isn’t going anywhere.

It’s possible that things will change, but I would be surprised if they did. I think I’ve been away from traditional handhelds too long and as a result, I can no longer see the wisdom in paying $40 for something that isn’t that much better than games to be had at a fraction of the price. I’m still looking forward to revisiting Unova and playing the new Layton later in the fall, but these games may end up being the final notes of a song that’s been over a decade in the making. They look to be pretty good games to go out to, but at the same time, I can’t help but be a little sad. It’s been a long, great relationship. I just wish Sony and Nintendo had been as interested in keeping it going as I was.

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Brandon

Brandon loves games, which shouldn't be a surprise given where you're reading this. He has written for GameShark, The Escapist and G4, and made them all less relevant as a result.

7 thoughts to “The Great Pokemon Extinction Event”

  1. I’m thinking this might be afflicting me as well, but I am not ready to bail out just yet.

    I have worked to transfer a lot of my residual love from the DS to the 3DS and while it has not been completely successful it is helping.

    I am going back to the DS era to play Aliens: Infestation soon (14 bucks!) and then Tales of the Abyss. Down the pipe we have a 5th Ace Attorney, Professor Layton, Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney (I own my 3DS largely for this), and I am cautiously optimistic for the new Paper Mario. Resident Evil Revelations and Mario 3D were great too.

    Oh, and Zero Escape is out in a couple. I was one of the few who played/loved 999, so I must have the sequel.

    No, there is nothing to make the average gamer stick it out. It just happens that all these things are in my wheelhouse so the system stays for now. I will have no trouble getting my money out of it, which is also the reason I don’t have a Vita; aside from Gravity Rush I have more I’d like to try on the PSP.

    Also I think Pushmo nearly makes the 3DS worth every penny.

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