Is Streaming the Future of Handhelds? I Kinda Get It Now

I never thought I’d say this, but: I can see what the whole game streaming to handhelds deal is about now. Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot to say about the portability of a dedicated gaming handheld. But as I told you a couple of weeks ago, I’m Finally Playing Through My PC Games Backlog – On My Vita! This is the first time I’m actually playing a game on a device different than the device where the game is running… and it’s been a bit of a revelation.

The Good

There are quite a few things going for game streaming. For instance, you can do it with things like Game Pass, where you don’t even need to own games. Or you can do it via GeForce Now, where you don’t even need to own a PC!

It also opens up the library tremendously, because I can play games on my Vita that were never released for it, like Fallout 3 or No Man’s Sky.

It’s also nearly infinitely upgradeable. As long as the streaming clients are available, you can change devices, upgrade your PC, CPU, GPU, whatever, and continue playing the latest games on the same portable hardware.

I have to admit, it’s been intoxicating to play Fallout 3 on the Vita. It looks amazing, there’s only a tiny bit of input lag, and I can be on the couch with my dogs rather than in front of the PC.

The Bad

Obviously, this comes with a lot of big red flags, particularly for people with a conservationist mindset. If the GeForce Now servers go down, your games go down. If you cancel your Game Pass subscription, bye bye games. Even in my case, the Moonlight client on the Vita can stop working, or the Sunshine client on my PC can start getting compatibility issues with my PC, my operating system, my network, etc. Just look at Stadia: whole libraries, gone. With a refund, sure, but what a waste.

So it’s a feeble, fleeting experience. I certainly wouldn’t want to make huge investments in games to be played this way. I’m happy to play through my backlog, for example, but I won’t be day-1 buying games at US$70 to play this way, only for the possibility of them disappearing to be looming in the horizon.

I’ll still focus on that side of gaming via physical games for my Switch. Call me old school, but you can’t beat ownership.

The Balance

So, is the future of handhelds in streaming? I don’t know. The Steam Deck has been doing really well and that’s mostly a dedicated gaming device. The ROG Ally, devices from Ayaneo and AYN are also coming out thick and fast.

But Playstation’s next handheld will be a streaming device. Logitech also released a similar thing recently. And my ability to play PC games on my Vita will keep me busy for a while.

I don’t think we’ve resolved the issue, though. I honestly have no idea where the future of gaming is, particularly from a conservationist approach. But for the time being, I’ll continue playing my games in as many ways as I can.

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About Marcos Codas 384 Articles
Lover of portable gaming and horror cinema. Indie filmmaker and game developer. Multimedia producer. Born in Paraguay, raised in Canada. Huge fan of "The Blair Witch Project", and "Sonic 3D Blast". Deputy head at Vita Player and its parent organization, Infinite Frontiers. Like what I do? Donate a coffee: