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The Rise of the Smartphone

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"We’ve been told it’s coming in late 2011."

This is the quote given to gaming site vg247 about the potential release date for the PlayStation Portable 2. We can't vouch for the claim, only hearing it came from "a British source familiar with the matter", but that isn't really the point. What is arguably more pressing is the reaction I've witnessed to it by colleagues and friends. In a word: "Meh".
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Jump back five years and the mood couldn't have been more different. Our original PSP review hailed the new console and the hype surrounding its launch had the gaming community on tenterhooks for months. Never before had so much raw horsepower been seen in such a compact device. It heralded a move away from simplistic, casual gaming seen on the likes of the Gameboy and - to a lesser extent - Game Gear and promised a future where the gaming experience of our living rooms could be taken on the move. Jump forward five years and while a lack of consistent quality titles hasn't helped, the PSP has largely been undone... by casual gaming.

What happened? Convenience happened. An iPhone 4 may not match the graphic splendour of an PlayStation Portable (though the Unreal 3 powered Epic Citadel {below left} tech demo will give it a few scares), but the rise of smartphones into mainstream usage has seen not only MP3 players and compact cameras hide behind their seats, but the PSP as well. Our hunger for a pixel perfect port of Ridge Racer has been replaced by an addiction to the quick hits of DoodleJump (below right), Angry Birds and their sub £1 price tags.
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Furthermore what was once a games console's greatest strength: its locked down specifications and five to ten year lifespan has now become a millstone around the neck of the PSP when compared to the constantly changing and improving world of smartphones. The iPhone, for example, has moved through four generations and nearly tripled its performance in just three years.

Hardcore gamers? They will likely find advanced FPSes and epic strategy games coming with the next leap in smartphone hardware come their next handset upgrade. After all dual core mobile processors, far more powerful GPUs and further improvements in battery life are scheduled to arrive in mid 2011 - again before the PSP2 - and none of this takes into account the organised online gaming which has recently arrived with iOS (Game Center) and will launch with Windows Phone 7 (Xbox Live).

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