Last year was fantastic for handheld gaming, regardless of how big your hands are in real life.
We got an embarrassing amount of mobile gaming goodies in 2022, between the Steam Deck, Playdate, and a boom of vintage consoles, and cloud play is driving more innovation.
Even though Sony hasn’t brought back the Vita, the portable business is on the rise, so let’s celebrate the big things that happened this year.
A little Gaming History:
A landmark month for handheld gaming is December.
Sony introduced the PlayStation Portable on December 12, 2004, and the PlayStation Vita on December 17, 2011, in Japan.
Both of these systems were well received by gamers, reviewers, and developers; however, Sony decided against investing in handheld gaming after the Vita due to a disjointed marketing strategy and failed cloud ambitions.
We’ve been waiting (very patiently, mind you) for a revolutionary mobile device to make this industry viable for the past ten years.
In 2022, the handheld market will finally be profitable. Over the past few years, the Switch has pioneered the path for mobile gaming, and now giant firms like Valve are joining.
The market for portable Android and Linux gaming devices is booming, and well-known brands like Razer are getting involved. Cloud gaming has established itself.
Hidden companies like Ayaneo, Panic, and others make high-quality handhelds for retro, PC, and independent gaming.
1. Valve’s Steam Deck:
However, it goes without saying that in 2022, Valve’s Steam Deck ruled the mobile market.
The Steam Deck is large, heavy, and has a poor battery life, but it’s reportedly everything PC gamers have been waiting for.
Valve began shipping the Steam Deck in February, and by October, it had distributed more than a million of these monstrosities throughout Western Europe and the United States, with plans to reach new markets.
Compared to current handheld PC systems from firms like Ayaneo, Steam Deck is cheaper and is available in three flavors, ranging from $400 to $650.
It already has Steam loaded, but if you want to spend an afternoon asking why, you can also run Windows on it. At the device, you have it in your lap.
Despite its flaws, Steam Deck has shown that the market for mobile PCs will be hot in 2022.
It successfully blends the Steam software with decades of hardware innovation at Valve. Playing PC games on a portable screen is a reasonably easy solution.
It’s hoped that the success of The Steam Deck is just the beginning for a notorious corporation for readily losing its direction.
Even if Valve gets too busy making Steam Deck 2.0, a lot of businesses are ready to take over the mobile PC industry.
The most well-known brand is Ayaneo, which gained popularity in 2021 due to an Indiegogo campaign that raised more than $2 million.
Ayaneo is currently developing elegant, Switch-sized computers that can run games from Steam, the Epic Games Store, Game Pass, and other hubs in addition to its original PC device.
The Ayaneo Air Pro starts at $700 and can play high-fidelity games, but you’ll probably need to adjust your expectations regarding framerate, resolution, and graphics quality.
The Next Pro, the largest Ayaneo, costs $1,500 and can run anything a Steam Deck can, but without the added weight.
Ayaneo is emerging as Valve’s primary rival for supremacy in the portable PC market and manufactures incredibly adorable products.
The Ayaneo 2 is ready to squeeze even more power into a stylish package, but it’ll cost at least $1,000.
The intriguing aspect is real rivalry in the portable market; businesses invest more in mobile technology than before, not just PC gaming.
New devices made just for retro and cloud gaming run on mobile processors that have recently gotten better.
3. Miyoo Mini and Retroid Pocket 3:
By the end of 2022, there will be a thriving market for vintage handhelds that provide games from the NES to the GameCube at reasonable costs.
This year brought the release of the Miyoo Mini and Retroid Pocket 3: NES to PSP.
While the Android-powered Pocket 3 costs $120, the Miyoo Mini is roughly $60 and boasts a modern dual-core processor that can play some PS1 titles.
The Odin by Ayn can run PS2 and GameCube titles at 1080p on a 5.9-inch screen for more up-to-date emulation experiences.
The price of the Odin ranges from $200 to $290, depending on the model.
The usual rule with retro handhelds is that the hardware grows more expensive as a period goes on.
4. Analogue Pocket:
The Analogue Pocket, which plays actual physical Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges and is, predictably, roughly the size of a classic Game Boy, is included in the category of honorable mentions.
At the end of 2021, Analogue began shipping the Pocket, which had a successful sold-out year. Additional orders and accessories are expected in 2023.
A unique small portable called Pocket costs $220, roughly what a Game Boy would cost in today’s money and gives old cartridge libraries a new lease on life.
5. Kishi V2:
The Kishi V2, a $100 controller that essentially transforms your smartphone into a cloud gaming device, was also unveiled by Razer this year.
Backbone produces a comparable item for iPhone and Android users, and this year the business released a PlayStation gamepad that is only for iPhone.
The market for smartphone gaming will only expand as mobile CPUs advance, and cloud computing becomes more stable; major media businesses like Netflix are entering the race.
This year, Netflix, in particular, has brought beloved games to mobile platforms like Kentucky Route Zero, Into the Breach, and Spiritfarer, as well as gems like Poinpy and Hello Kitty Happiness Parade.
Read: Bikes of the Future
Last but not least, I want to recognise Playdate.
A tremendous independent gaming device the size of a business card was released in April; it costs $180, has a crank, and doesn’t fall under any of the established categories of video games.
Playdate is an innovative example. It’s an open-source, hand-cranked work of wizardry that distills some of the most distinctive video game industry experiences onto a tiny, monochromatic screen.
Playdate, the best portable of 2022, is pure joy in little yellow packaging.
If 2022 has shown anything, mobile gaming, which includes cloud and phone play, has a bright future.
Even Sony figured out how to use the cloud this year, and Microsoft has continued to expand its vast cloud network, which is inextricably linked to Game Pass.
Our slowly approaching subscription-based future has produced a rich ecosystem for Android- and Linux-based handhelds that don’t require a lot of onboard processing power like the Steam Deck.
The $350 G Cloud Gaming Handheld from Logitech was recently discontinued, while the $400 Razer Edge, an Android-based handheld, is scheduled to begin delivering in January.
It’s all done now. I salute you, mobile gaming. Thank you for a beautiful year, and may the momentum of 2022 foster more original thought in our field. Cheers to the years and games to come.