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18 most important handheld gaming systems

A look back over 30 years: the flops and the successes


Three decades have passed since the debut of Milton Bradley's Microvision - the first handheld gaming console. We look back and chart the highs and lows of handheld video consoles.

Sony PlayStation Portable (2004)

The PlayStation brand had ruled the home console market for over a decade, so it seemed inevitable that Sony would challenge Nintendo's handheld dominance.

Early in the battle of PlayStation Portable vs Nintendo DS, many critics figured that the PSP would win handily because of its impressive graphical, multimedia, and networking capabilities.

But that's not the way things have turned out. Instead, the DS has outsold the PSP by a ratio of roughly 2:1.

The PSP has managed to do significantly better than past Nintendo competitors -mostly because the PSP and DS occupy different niches in the handheld console market.

Sony has introduced three major updates to the PSP since 2004: the slimmed-down PSP-2000 in 2007, the PSP-3000 in 2008, and most recently, the PSP Go.

Present and future

The current generation of handheld devices blurs the lines separating multimedia devices, pocket computers, and game devices, emphasising wireless internet networking and online distribution of games - notably pushed by Apple on the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

Since Apple's astounding success with the App Store, both Nintendo and Sony have stepped up their online distribution efforts with their Nintendo DSi and PSP Go consoles, respectively.

As we look to the future, the complete extinction of physical game media (cartridges, cards, and discs) seems imminent.
Also, expect handheld game consoles to merge further with multifunction pocket devices such as smartphones as they compete for limited pocket space.

See also: I've seen the future, and it's the Nintendo DS

See all games reviews

See also:The 20 best games that never were

  1. We look at 30 years and the flops and successes
  2. Epoch Game Pocket Computer and Nintendo Game Boy
  3. Atari Lynx and NEC TurboExpress
  4. Sega GameGear and Genesis Nomad
  5. Tiger Game.com and the Game Boy Colour
  6. SNK Geo Pocket Colour and the Bandai WonderSwan Colour
  7. Game Boy Advance and Game Park GP32
  8. Nokia N-Gage and Nintendo DS
  9. PSP portable and the future

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