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Other Gaming Platforms
It's easy to imagine that consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360,
along with PCs,
are the only way to play videogames. But they're not: not by a long shot.
games are everywhere. You'll find them on handheld game devices
like Nintendo's DS
and Sony's PSP. You'll find them on cellphones. You'll even
find them buried amidst
other "platforms," such as the Facebook
social networking web site.
In fact, some of these "alternative" gaming platforms might just
be the future of
gaming - especially for "casual" gamers who aren't prepared
to bury themselves in
complex, extremely difficult game worlds for hours at a time. Let's take
a look at these
new ways to play videogames, starting with the handhelds...
Handheld Game Consoles
Handheld game consoles are lightweight, portable devices designed to play miniature
video game cartridges. They contain everything that's needed to play,
screens, and speakers.
Along with their smaller size, they have less powerful computing and video
hardware than full-fledged game consoles. So their games tend to be simpler
realistic looking. But, as players of games like The
Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
and Mizuguchi Lumines
have learned, handheld games can be every bit as much fun as
games running on bigger systems.
Originally, handheld game consoles were primarily popular amongst younger
children, but they've gained popularity among older players, too.
Today, two leading handheld game devices virtually own the market. The
Nintendo DS Lite, available for around $129, dominates the market: various versions
the DS have sold more than 65 million units. Sony competes with the slicker,
multimedia-capable PSP (PlayStation Portable), which was once far more expensive
the DS, but is now widely available for roughly $169.
Cell Phone Games
These days, most folks keep their cellphones handy virtually 24x7. If those
could play games, wouldn't that be a great way to waste a few minutes
while you've got
nothing better to do? Heck, yes. In fact, according to the Gartner market research
that casual urge to play games on cellphones has already triggered the creation
of a $4.3
billion business. (By 2011, we're looking at $9.6 billion!)
Most cellphone games are simple, quick, and easy to learn: they're designed
to offer fun
in small, brief chunks of time. Some games might come preloaded with your phone;
others might be downloadable for use offline. Some can be purchased on flash
cards that plug into your cellphone; others force you to stay connected to your
network (often, using precious minutes). While it's sometimes possible
to buy games
from third-party web sites, most folks in the U.S. purchase or rent their games
With advances in cellphone technology, cellphone games are about to get more
and sophisticated - perhaps even rivaling those available on handheld gaming
Apple's next-generation iPhone is likely to offer innovative games that
will take full
advantage of its improved video, faster Internet connections, and maybe even
GPS location information.
You might think of Facebook purely as a social networking site, but it's
also become one
of the world's most popular gaming platforms. In late 2007, it was reported
that one of
Facebook's games, Vampires, has built an audience of some 440,000 daily
Another game, an unauthorized Scrabble® clone called Scrabulous, has blown
that number. More than 600,000 people now play it every day: if you're
you can check to see which of your friends have installed it, and start a game
with any of
them right this minute.
(The official owners of Scrabble are trying to catch up with Scrabulous, but
primitive version is only just now getting out of the gate.)
Facebook has made it technically easy for game developers to reach their audience,
they're creating new games in droves. But Facebook won't be the
only social networking
site with games: Google, MySpace, and several other companies are working together
simplify the development of games that can run on nearly any social networking