Apple has done something remarkable in the last 5 or so years. Due to the vast popularity of iPod, iPad and iPhone, portable gaming devices have fundamentally changed form. Now, instead of dedicated gaming devices, we have multifunction devices that are with us almost all the time. Not to mention, the average cost of a decent game is far lower on a phone than on a console.
Dedicated portable gaming devices, like Nintendo DS and PSP, have been struggling in recent years. Stagnation on game sales and low console sales have not been improved much by the introduction of the 3DS and Vita. Yes, 3DS is seeing a small surge of console sales right now, but that is likely to continue to fade over time and more and more of us have phone or other portable devices that can also play games. I'm sure you have heard the old expression, "the best camera is the one you always have with you." This has definitely proved to be true as low-end point and shoot camera sales are all but dead. I believe that the best portable gaming console is the also the one that you always have with you. Especially if it isn't something so large that it requires a special case to carry around and can just fit in your pocket.
Imagine this scenario. You go to a doctor's office for an appointment. The wait time is usually short, so you don't bother to bring a book or your PS Vita. As an adult, you probably feel embarrassed anyway carrying around a game console in public. People still judge and stigmatize gamers after all as immature or childish. It turns out that the wait will probably be more like a half hour.... great. But wait, you have your iPhone or Android! Great! Now you can play games on your phone and make it seem like you are texting, watching a youtube video or any other activity and no one will think twice. Messing with your phone is pretty accepted these days, often in situations where it is kind of rude to be doing so.
Let's discuss cost. The top paid apps on the Apple app store and Android store are often only $0.99. This is vastly cheaper than the average 3DS or PS Vita game at about $35-$40, new of course. Many games on iOS or Android are professional quality, high production value games. Infinity Blade 1 and 2 is a good example for iOS, which uses the Unreal 3 engine to deliver great gameplay and awesome graphics. Sure, there's also a ton of simplistic casual games like Angry Birds out there, but all game systems suffer from the occasional shovelware.
As for gimmicks, the 3DS uses a 3d screen technology that many people without perfect eyesight may not be able to see. I would argue that a screen with a high enough resolution makes the picture so clear that you may perceive more depth anyway. The Vita claims to be a portable PS3 to a certain degree. It suggests playing a game on your PS3 and then continuing on the go. While this is a neat concept, why not use the same device? iPhone 4s and future iterations will support mirroring, allowing you to use your TV as a screen when you want and continue on the same device you were just using.
What does all this mean? I predict the end of portable gaming as we have known it. With the emergence of smartphones and tablets, gaming is changing. The new iPad for this year is a computing powerhouse that rivals or surpasses current home game consoles. Each year, iOS and Android grow as gaming platforms. Thankfully, home consoles are not in danger yet. I love the Gears of War series and the Xbox I play it on. The social features of Xbox Live hae yet to be met by mobile gaming. However, the mobile platform is evolving faster than Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo can keep up with. A 10 yer hardware generation? That's the old world of gaming. We may be looking at new hardware every year. This means huge revenue for those who can make hardware that sells software and has a guaranteed model that is affordable to both the consumer and keeps revenues funneling to the developers. I think we are in for a gaming revolution in the next few years, and it may not be a new home console.