2023 was an unbelievable yr for handheld gaming

Written by Jeff Lampkin

The previous yr was stellar for handheld gaming, regardless of the scale of your precise palms. Between the Steam Deck, Playdate and an explosion of retro consoles, we obtained an embarrassing quantity of cell gaming goodness in 2023, and cloud play is simply encouraging extra innovation. Regardless that Sony nonetheless hasn’t revived the Vita, it appears like the hand held market is within the throes of a renaissance — so let’s rejoice the milestones of the yr proper right here.

December is a historic month for handheld gaming. Sony launched the PlayStation Transportable in Japan on December twelfth, 2004, after which debuted the Vita in Japan on December seventeenth, 2011. Each of those consoles have been hits with gamers, critics and builders, however a disorganized advertising and marketing scheme and failed cloud ambitions stored Sony from investing in handheld gaming after the Vita. RIP, and so on. Principally, for the previous decade we’ve been ready (very patiently, thoughts you) for a breakthrough cell gadget to lastly make this trade viable once more.

Lastly in 2023, the hand held market is flush. The Swap paved the way in which for cell play over the previous few years, and big companies like Valve are lastly getting in on the motion. Cloud gaming has discovered its foothold, and the marketplace for moveable Android and Linux gadgets is buzzing, with main names like Razer getting concerned. In the meantime, extra underground firms like Analogue, Ayaneo and Panic are quietly churning out high-quality handhelds for retro, PC and indie gaming.

Steam Deck review 2023


However in fact, Valve’s Steam Deck dominated the moveable dialog in 2023. The Steam Deck is large, it’s heavy, it doesn’t have an awesome battery life – and it’s every little thing PC gamers have been ready for, apparently. Valve began rolling out the Steam Deck in February, and by October it had shipped more than 1 million of those beasts throughout the western world, with plans to broaden into further areas. Steam Deck is available in three flavors starting from $400 to $650, which makes it extra inexpensive than current handheld PC gadgets from firms like Ayaneo. It comes with Steam pre-installed, however it’ll additionally run Home windows in the event you actually need to spend a day screaming why? on the machine in your lap.

Imperfect although it might be, Steam Deck proved there’s warmth within the handheld PC market in 2023. It’s a comparatively accessible strategy to play PC video games on a conveyable display, and it efficiently combines the Steam software program with many years of {hardware} analysis at Valve. The Steam Deck is a good begin from an organization that’s recognized to lose focus simply, so hopefully it doesn’t all finish right here.

Steam Deck review 2023


Even when Valve will get too distracted to make a Steam Deck 2.0, loads of different firms are keen to choose up the thread within the cell PC area. Essentially the most outstanding title is Ayaneo, a model that took off in 2021 because of an Indiegogo marketing campaign that raised greater than $2 million. As we speak, Ayaneo is continuous to iterate on its unique PC gadget with glossy, Swap-sized machines able to working titles from Steam, the Epic Video games Retailer, Recreation Cross and different hubs. The Ayaneo Air Professional begins at $700 and may technically deal with high-fidelity video games, although you’ll doubtless should decrease your framerate, decision and expectations. The beefiest Ayaneo, the Subsequent Professional, begins at $1,500 and it’ll run something a Steam Deck can, however with out the additional bulk.

Ayaneo makes extraordinarily cute devices and the corporate is rising as Valve’s primary competitor for moveable PC glory. The Ayaneo 2 is poised to pack much more energy right into a glossy package deal, although it’ll have a price ticket of $1,000, not less than. The thrilling factor right here is that there’s precise competitors within the handheld area – firms are investing in cell {hardware} greater than ever, and never simply in relation to PC play. Current upgrades in cell processors are powering a ton of recent gadgets constructed particularly for retro and cloud gaming.

Ayaneo Air Pro

James Trew / Engadget

On the finish of 2023, the marketplace for retro handhelds is lush, masking each period from NES to GameCube at comparatively inexpensive costs. On the NES to PSP aspect of issues, this yr we received the Miyoo Mini and Retroid Pocket 3: The Miyoo Mini prices about $60 and has a contemporary dual-core processor that may deal with even some PS1 video games, whereas the Pocket 3 is an Android-powered handheld that prices $120. For extra fashionable emulation experiences, there’s the Odin by Ayn, which may run PS2 and GameCube titles at 1080p on a 5.9-inch display. The Odin prices between $200 and $290, relying on the mannequin. For retro handhelds, the overall rule is the {hardware} will get costlier because the period progresses.

Within the honorable point out part, now we have the Analogue Pocket, which performs precise bodily cartridges from the Recreation Boy, Recreation Boy Colour and Recreation Boy Advance, and is unsurprisingly in regards to the measurement of a traditional Recreation Boy. Analogue began delivery the Pocket on the finish of 2021 and it loved a sold-out yr, with extra orders and equipment due in 2023. Pocket is a particular little handheld that breathes new life into traditional cartridge libraries, and it comes with a price ticket of $220 – which is nearly what a Recreation Boy would value in right this moment’s coin.

PS Plus Xbox Game Pass


OK, that’s sufficient in regards to the previous. If 2023 has confirmed something, it’s that moveable gaming has a robust future, and that is going to incorporate cloud and cellphone play. Cloud know-how has lastly develop into dependable sufficient that even Sony figured it out this yr, and Microsoft has continued to develop its huge cloud community, which is intrinsically tied to Recreation Cross. Our slowly encroaching subscription-based future has created a wealthy surroundings for Android- and Linux-based handhelds that don’t want a ton of on-board processing energy, because the Steam Deck does. Logitech just lately dropped the G Cloud Gaming Handheld, which prices $350, whereas the Razer Edge is an Android-based handheld beginning at $400 and anticipated to start out delivery in January.

This yr Razer additionally launched the Kishi V2, which is a $100 gamepad that primarily turns your smartphone right into a cloud gaming gadget. Spine makes an analogous product for iPhone and Android gamers, and this yr the corporate rolled out an formally licensed PlayStation gamepad only for iPhone. As cell processors proceed to evolve and cloud know-how additional stabilizes, smartphone gaming is simply going to develop as an trade, and already mainstream leisure firms like Netflix are becoming a member of the fray. Netflix particularly has ushered acclaimed video games like Kentucky Route Zero, Into the Breach and Spiritfarer onto cell gadgets this yr, and it’s launched gems like Poinpy and Good day Kitty Happiness Parade.



Lastly, I’d prefer to take a second to honor Playdate. This good business-card-sized indie gaming machine got here out in April; it prices $180, it has a crank, and it doesn’t match into any current online game class. Playdate exemplifies innovation. It’s an open-source, crank-powered piece of magic providing a few of the most original experiences the online game trade has to supply, distilled on a miniscule, monochromatic display. Playdate is pure pleasure in a tiny yellow package deal, and for me, it’s the standout handheld of 2023.

And that’s a wrap. Right here’s to you, handheld gaming. Thanks for a incredible yr, and will the momentum of 2023 proceed to generate inventive concepts on this area. To the years and video games forward, cheers.

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About the author

Jeff Lampkin

Jeff Lampkin was the first writer to have joined He has since then inculcated very effective writing and reviewing culture at GamePolar which rivals have found impossible to imitate. His approach has been to work on the basics while the whole world was focusing on the superstructures.