Sony And Nintendo's Key To Beating Apple: Built-In Cell Phones For Vita And 3DS

Sony’s announcement that PlayStation Vita would include 3G support wasn’t much of a surprise. The fact that its feature packed handheld lacked cell phone support, well, wasn’t much of a surprise either. That doesn’t mean it’s a great decision.

For years, tech publishers have preached the benefits of an all-on-one device, the gadget that cuts down on the number of things the average consumer needs to carry, including cell phone, digital camera, MP3 player, video recorder and video game system.

Nokia attempted (and failed miserably) to do this with the 2003 release of the ill-fated N-Gage, the infamously taco shaped portable that never had the quality games and other components necessary to compete with the likes of Sony and Nintendo.

Yeah, the rear touch pad is cool, but can we order pizza with Vita? With this in mind, those aforementioned companies were set to dominate the handheld gaming market until Apple released the first generation iPhone in 2007 and most importantly, the immensely successful App Store in 2008, which delivered quality games at budget prices. That, combined with high quality video (iPhone 4), iTunes and a host of other desired features helped the eggheads in Cupertino slowly chip away at a market defined by the Game Boy, DS and PSP.

Part of the reason why the iPhone has been so successful (iPod Touch aside) is just that. It’s a phone, but not just any phone. A phone that satisfies every desire. Unless you eat, sleep, and breathe Nintendo and/or Sony, there’s little reason to carry something else. This brings us back to PlayStation Vita and its 3G support through AT&T.

Clearly, the concept of surfing the web and downloading content makes the handheld semi-desirable to a select group of people, but we feel Sony should have gone that extra mile and just shoehorned cell phone technology into the system.

Nintendo will probably never incorporate a cell phone into the 3DS. Too risky with so many children using it. Why? Because the publisher will never compete with Apple (or Android, for that matter) with a system missing the most important ingredient. The same holds true with Nintendo, which has already struggled to duplicate those impressive DS sales with 3DS. Previously, the goal was to get the DS or PSP out of a kid’s hands.

These days, we see less of these systems in the wild. Now, parents hand their children cell phones, and why not? It’s cheaper to shell out $200 for an iPhone 4 and 10 $0.99 games instead of $250 for a 3DS/Vita and titles that range from $29.99-$39.99 a piece.

At the end of the day, consumers (casual gamers especially, the supposed holy grail of the gaming industry) don’t want to juggle multiple devices at once. On that note, the winner of this and the next generation of portables will do so with a small device (the iPhone 5, perhaps) that satisfies every whim. Most importantly, it’ll be a phone.

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