Carmack: 3DS and NGP may be the last “specialized handheld game consoles ever built”

Wednesday, 9th February 2011 14:33 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

John Carmack is of the opinion that Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s NGP could be “the last generation of specialized handheld game consoles ever built.”

Speaking with The Dallas Morning News, the id Software wizard believes the new handhelds will be the last of their kind due to the insurgence of the smartphone and tablet market.

“The smart phone may turn out to be 80 percent as good at gaming as a dedicated gaming platform,” he said. “People are going to carry their smart phone, and if it’s an 80 percent gaming device, how many people in the gaming market will be satisfied with that? One of the things that we’ve seen is the type of games that people play on the smart phones, at the moment, tend to be pretty casual games.

“If that’s what the consumers are going to trend towards on there, there may not be much as developers we can do about that. You don’t always get to build pyramids just because you want to.”

Carmack added that some developers are a bit reluctant at the moment to consider smart phones and tablets as gaming devices, because consumers are still willing to fork over $40 or $50 for a DS or PSP title. These same consumers, Carmack believes, are still a bit shy when it comes to spending money on a downloadable game on their smart phone or tablet, no matter how inexpensive.

3DS is out in March and Sony plans to have NGP in stores in time for the holidays, and you can bet the farm the industry will be watching these devices more closely than ever.

Thanks, RipTen.



  1. OlderGamer

    Funny how the western game guys don’t understand eastern markets and vica versa.

    In JP handhelds are a way of life. Over here cellphone, PDAs, etc are.

    Those two things won’t be changing anytime soon.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. KAP

    2012 IS the end of the world then.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Erthazus

    3DS and NGP may be the last “specialized handheld game consoles ever built”

    Nope. The reason is simple:

    1) First party franchises like Mario and Uncharteds will help to build a huge hype on any device Sony or Nintendo is going to make

    2) Gamers enjoy playing with two thumbsticks and proper controls, so no way.
    I give a shit about my Android smartphone, because with touch screen i can’t play something with that stupid touch interface.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Blerk

    I think he’s right.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. typeface

    While Carmack is a smart guy I think I’ll have to disagree with him on this scenario. Handheld gaming devices and consoles aren’t really going anywhere. We’ll see a convergence of all devices at one point but that doesn’t mean different brands and dedicated devices will disappear.

    The most popular games on the app store are always the 59p and 99p ones. It’s very rare that games above that price are popular. If they are they have to be really good. Games above the 3 quid range don’t sell as much. Sure they may be profitable but the sales figures are usually lower. The thing is because people do not have a problem buying cheap and disposable games on their iPhones. The slightly higher priced ones do better if they have an iPad version or well sales which there are plenty of. In fact in some cases developers find it hard to support some of their older versions and scrap it entirely to release the same thing with a few more bugfixes and slightly more features perhaps. Like simcity being discontinued for simcity deluxe.

    People buy these titles cause they’re cheap and disposable. At the same time very rarely would you buy these same titles for your dedicated handhelds. Some titles might do ok when they cross platforms but not all. When you buy games for your dedicated handhelds you want them to be of a certain quality and you want them to be good. If these same titles are available on the iPhone their sales unless priced much lower do not sell at all. In fact I’ll go ahead and say it I do not think you can find lots of people willing to pay 15-25 quid on the iPhone for a good game. On the other hand you can for dedicated handhelds because you know people know they’re getting decent quality for it. There are exceptions to the rule.

    But until there exists a device that can bridge that gap we’ll not really see the death of a dedicated handheld to a mobile phone. Neither Apple nor Google wants to spread their focus onto having games. It’s an afterthought. For comparison, people do eat junk food from Burger King or McDonalds but it doesn’t mean that gourmet burgers are dead and no one should ever think of selling burgers outside those markets. Human commodities work like that because not everything is comparable for most people.

    As a footnote the NGP bridges the markets (PS Suite plus eventual Android PS certified games and the big budget ones) but isn’t a phone and that approach is something that really needs to be observed.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Catkiller

    Indeed. I heard that nonesense many times, but no way. Even I have handhelds and smartphone, but on smartphone I play just those Angry Birds. Oher games are much more confy to control via classic pad buttons and sticks like on every hanheld… Its seems hysterical to me trying to put almost every game to the handheld. Once this hysteric will calm people will realize why handhelds are better…

    #6 4 years ago
  7. Goffee

    So, John, on-rails shooters are the future then? But, seriously, I understand his point – but real games and gamers need some buttons and phones just can’t provide them!

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Zurtech

    Wow, for once I completely agree with Erthazus! ^_^

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Blerk

    The trouble is, you’re all coming at this from the point of view of gamers. There are many, many more ‘telephone users’ than ‘gamers’.

    As the phones get better at playing games, the casual players who dabbled in the DS before aren’t going to bother with a dedicated handheld console any more, so the potential audience for such a device dwindles. Meanwhile, gamers themselves have smart phones too. At some point (and I suspect sooner than you think) there’ll be no profit in even making a dedicated handheld – why target the much, much smaller audience when you can hit the much larger one?

    As for the ‘better controls’ thing, who’s to say phones won’t get better controls themselves?

    #9 4 years ago
  10. Erthazus

    @9 But not every telephone user play games at ALL.

    When you buy dedicated handheld GAMING device you expect ONLY games from it.

    DS sold already for 135 million units and still selling like hotcakes.

    Games were in mobile phones before. Remember “Snake” game on old Nokia 3310 and etc?

    So this is it. No point to argue about this, because everything depends on First party software and consumers who just want dedicated handheld device that does only GAMING.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Blerk

    If you only expect games from it, why are both of the new kids on the block offering a wide variety of non-game services as well? The answer is simple – to compete with phones, MP3 players, etc. Once you have a single device which can do all of these well AND answer calls, what’s the point in having separate devices.

    I don’t buy the whole first-party software thing. I think this generation of under-the-telly consoles have proven that the first-party exclusive is quickly becoming a thing of the past. I suspect that the huge casual audience that Nintendo coaxed into trying the DS don’t even pay attention to who the developer or publisher is – they just buy the games they want to play.

    What if, for instance, the next Professor Layton game was on iOS and Android as well as on DS? How many people would buy the cheaper version for the phone they always have with them? Especially when it’ll cost them a fraction of the price?

    In the West, at least, I don’t believe handhelds can survive as they are for much longer. Who knows, maybe they’ll turn into phones themselves? But maybe Sony and Nintendo will just start making phone games instead. Oh, wait – they did. One of them, at least.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Blerk

    Let’s put it this way. On Sundays, I take my kids to swimming lessons. While I wait for them to finish, I sit at the poolside with the other mums and dads and siblings. 18 months ago, everyone had books and DSes. These days, they all have iPhones and Kindles. Even the kids have iPhones, and they’re not making calls, they’re playing games. The DSes are gone.

    I still have a good old-fashioned book, btw. :-)

    #12 4 years ago
  13. Aimless

    I really see handheld and mobile gaming as separate entities. There’s some crossover, sure, but the latter has always been about killing time for 10-15 minutes whilst I’ve spent hours at a time playing Game Boy, DS or PSP games in bed/on the sofa/in the garden/on the beach.

    Handheld gaming hasn’t really changed, mobile gaming has simply become popular. I don’t think they’re the competitors a lot of people seem to think, though, or at least no more than Flash or Facebook gaming are impinging on the sales of Xbox 360s.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. Zurtech

    @13 I was writing a more serious post but you beat me to my points I was going to raise.

    There’s more than enough gamers who want a handheld console to keep one or even two afloat and healthy. Not to mention with exclusive titles that just won’t appear on ipod or the like, like Pokémon, LBP, Mario, Uncharted etc.

    If this is right tho, then surely by that same logic Facebook will replace home console and PC gaming?

    But personally I think if anything handheld gaming will be more replace home consoles in time. If Japan’s anything to go by, might already be on the way to that?

    #14 4 years ago
  15. SOMI

    People rather die of cancer the touch the 3DS, NGP FTW! sony FTW!

    #15 4 years ago
  16. mishuma

    Actually, the reason John Carmack is wrong is simply because the market is selling. I believe the real end of the line will come when people stop buying Nintendo / Sony handhelds … well at least Nintendo.

    However, If Nintendo decides to start selling a phone integrated gaming system then I would expect Sony to bail, as well. This would require Nintendo to team up with a carrier which means restrictions with a possibly equal partner which I don’t believe they have done since Sony and the discarded cd drive system.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. mishuma

    Clarification – stop selling, as in the release of the next handheld dips rather dramatically, pushing Nintendo / Sony to look for other outlets. However, looking at the 3DS sales it does not appear to be slowing down.

    #17 4 years ago
  18. fuchikoma

    Right… Sometimes I’m amazed at how such key figures can be so out of touch. Over here, I could see it, but these aren’t Western systems. I’d be less surprised if there were only handhelds in the future and they gave up on home systems.

    …but either one ranks with up there with the “one console future” pipe dream… Not happening soon!

    #18 4 years ago
  19. back_up

    noob carmack is idiot he should be given one tight slap

    NGP is the best and specialized handheld game consoles ever built not 3ds
    3ds sucks big time moron carmack

    #19 4 years ago

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