TL;DR: Battery life and touch screen on 3DS sucks. I think handhelds are dying out and are going to be replaced with more generic devices, probably not phones, but probably tablets.
A report from Arstechnica about the battery life of the 3DS confirms my worst fears. The 3-4 hours was not a conservative estimate, apparently if you turn off 3D WiFi and sound you get a whopping 5 hours, assuming the game you are playing doesn’t require these features.
Contrast this with the DS’ battery life, of 10 Hours (Wikipedia), it’s just not good enough. If your handheld can’t keep a child occupied playing Pokemon for most of a trans-Atlantic flight then there is little point in it being a handheld.
Also having tried out the 3DS the 3D aspect of it wasn’t much to write home about, sure it looked cool, but I’m not sure how much it adds to game-play, I’m one of those people who doesn’t like 3D movies, so I may be a little biased, but it strikes me that the addition of 3D has hamstrung the console by taking away one of the core advantages that Nintendo handhelds have always had; battery life.
Game Boy Vs. Game Gear, DS Vs. PSP, GBA Vs. Well there was no viable competition for the GBA… Nintendo have always had the edge when it came to battery life, and they’ve just sacrificed that edge for a gimmick.
The DS’ other novel feature the touch screen seems to have been ignored in the 3DS, I had a go at using the 3DS at a Nintendo open day and the touch screen was terrible, it’s a resistive touch screen, so you have to use the stylus. While this may have been acceptable when the DS was released in 2004 it’s not acceptable now. Everyone and their monkey has a touch screen smartphone with a capacitive screen, meaning you can use your fingers, the 3DS feels like a step back after using that.
As far as I’m concerned the jury is still out with regards to whether the Sony NGP will be the clear winner in the handheld battle, it certainly has every feature under the sun… But it’ll probably come with a price to match. I’m starting to think that the hype about smartphones and tablets usurping the handheld gaming market might be true, for one thing they can be subsidised by phone contracts so it feels like they cost less, and for another they seem to have the raw power that handhelds lack.
The issue fails back to battery life though, my Android smartphone barely lasts a day if I use it for texting, calls, and checking Twitter. Add gaming to that and I’ll need an extra battery.
The iPad manages 10 hours of use, and if you do deplete the battery you aren’t cutting your self off from the world, which is why I think there is a market for tablets in gaming. The processor is powerful, the screen is huge and the battery life is awesome. Plus you can do other things on it like browse the web, check social networks etc…. You may be locked into Apple’s walled garden but what a garden!
There is the option of Android tablets, I’ve yet to try one aside from playing with a Galaxy Tab in a shop, I wasn’t impressed. I am impressed with Honeycomb, or at least the videos I’ve seen of it online, but I’ve not had a chance to play with it yet and I’m going to wait till I do before I formulate an opinion.
This is turning into a rant…