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Epic: traditional portable gaming is safe

NGP is "ridiculously compelling experience".

What with its iOS title Infinity Blade still sitting in the App Store top ten three months after release, you might imagine that Epic Games is putting its money on smartphones and tablets as the future of handheld gaming.

Well, judging by a five minute long sermon handed down to Eurogamer by Epic vice president Mark Rein, that isn't the case. On the contrary, he argued - the next generation of dedicated gaming handhelds, specifically Sony's NGP, looks more promising than ever.

"It's a ridiculously compelling experience," he insisted backstage at the Game Developer's Conference last week.

"When you get your hands round that device and you see some of the things that are going to ship on it, you'll go 'Want. Want, want, want.'"

Rein went on to single out the twin analogue sticks as the NGP's primary selling point, pinning it as the first handheld to provide a true console experience on a handheld device.

"I love console game experiences. I love, love, love playing Gears of War, Call of Duty, Borderlands – I just love those kinds of games. And you really need the Dualshock type controls to do it effectively," he explained.

"The NGP delivers it in spades. You really do want to play those kinds of games on it for sustained periods of time. Sat down on your couch, or in a hotel room, or somewhere you don't have a big TV. It's a fantastic experience."

Initial industry reaction to Sony's new handheld might have been a little muted, with analysts concerned that the high-spec machine wouldn't crossover to the mass market. Rein disagreed, insisting Sony has a winner on its hands no matter what the asking price.

"Tell me, if they put Call of Duty on there – which they say they are - and World of Warcraft, don't you think it would sell like frickin' crazy? Of course it would.

"That's the thing that people are discounting. People happily pay $300 for each games console that comes out. I'd happily plonk down $300 for an Xbox 360, or $300 for a PS3, or $500 for a frickin' iPad. If you're a gamer, a lot of the time you're willing to put that kind of investment into the experience.

"Who would have thought iPad could survive?" he continued. "Everybody poo-pooed the idea of iPad and they've sold over 15 million of them. It's an indispensable part of your life now.

"The ability to have another device that can now play these kinds of [console] games really well – I'm using my thumbs here - is huge. Yeah, I'm going to buy one. All I can ever do is speculate on what I think. That's the trap people get caught in, saying 'Well, I'd like one, but nobody else is going to buy one.' No – you need to stop that sentence at 'I'd like one.'"

We'll have to wait a while to see if he's right. The NGP isn't launching until late 2011 at the earliest.

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Fred Dutton avatar

Fred Dutton


Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.