NGP vs. 3DS vs. iOS vs. Android: Which Gaming Platform Will Earn Your Love?

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WiFi’s pretty much standard for any mobile device at this point. It’s Street Pass is what Nintendo’s calling their passive communication mode for the 3DS. It’s supposed to let you interact with other units even while the 3DS is off or otherwise occupied. Near on Playstation NGP sounds like it’s got some things in common with it but there’s no sign about just how flexible it’s going to be.

Cellular capability’s a realm that gaming-centric handhelds are just beginning to dabble in and the 3G option on the Sony NGP could open up location-specific game designs that exist in some form on iOS or Android. Of course, most smartphones already have a cellular/WiFi combo baked in. So, one could argue that the key differentiator will be speed. Android’s the clear leader here, with multiple phones on 4G networks.

Control options
The most interesting element of the NGP’s architecture is the combination of a front and back touchpad. It seems that Sony may be trying to add an element of depth to the kinds of touchscreen controls that have become ubiquitous in recent years. Reports from the PlayStation Meeting event said that one game had a user pushing a ball ‘through’ the back of the NGP onto the screen. Such a feature could lead to some mind-warping game design ideas.

While the 3DS finally adds gyroscope and accelerometer sensors to the DS family, such features have become common in most smartphones. Outside of the new movement-sensing options, the 3DS adds an analog nub to complement the touchscreen/stylus input, d-pad and face/shoulder buttons. Most smartphones at present feature some mix of touchscreen, QWERTY and/or control pad. I think the nod here has to go to the NGP. It give developers to ability to mix and match analog and touch in interesting ways, and two touch-sensitive areas could lead to even more interesting ideas.

Nintendo recently announced that the 3DS will launch at $250 in the United States. It’s a price point that’s raised some eyebrows, coming in at more than $60 more than the first DS when it debuted. For a similar expense, you can score an iPod Touch, which boasts a formidable library of games will also doubling as a first-rate communications and productivity platform. In typical Sony fashion, we don’t yet know how much the wonder of the NGP is going to cost. Keep in mind, too, that Sony’s never been shy to charge consumers huge chunks of money for PlayStation products. Don’t forget that, at $199, Apple’s carrier-subsidized iPhone 4–and many Android smartphones–offers a ton of features that Nintendo and Sony won’t have. How much a person will spend depends on what they want a device for but the fierce competition ultimately means the consumer wins out.

Advantage: Draw

Right now, it seems like Nintendo’s hitching its hopes to a trend. 3D may be driving lots of box office for Hollywood studios, but it remains to be seen it can do the same for TV manufacturers or content providers. Sony, by contrast, seems to be wanting to give players and developers a platform for hi-def gaming experiences that could move easily between NGP, PS3 and other devices. While Apple and Google aren’t directly devoting institutional resources to game development, they almost don’t need to, with the ecosystem that evolved around their platforms.

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