Smaller units, inflated prices

The world of gadgets and gizmos just got a little sweeter, with the introduction of a new twist to an old idea.

The idea of a portable gaming system, which surfaced in the late ’70s and early ’80s, found rocky beginnings when pitched by companies such as Milton Bradley and Nintendo.

Now, decades later, Sony’s entry into the market with the PSP and Nintendo, with its DS — short for Dual Screen — reshapes the world of handhelds. These new systems are going beyond the normal purposes of gaming systems, especially the PSP.

This market has always been one that thrives on the latest technology and the upgrading of out-of-date ideas to new, cutting-edge equipment, but at what cost to technology?

iPods hit the scene, offering consumers just what they needed: lots of hardrive space and an easy, on-the-go format to play music. The product’s high price tag failed to scare off consumers, creating an explosion of iPods on college campuses. Apple used different sizes and versions of the iPod to offer all income levels and demographics something to buy, taking its share of the mp3 player market in the process.

From successful handheld systems like the Game Boy and Game Gear, which played games but lacked any sort of multimedia capabilities, emerges a new generation of gaming systems that encompasses the latest trend of what’s hot. However, it hits consumers right where it counts: their wallets.

The PSP offers a look into the ultimate package of what Sony thinks on-the-go should mean. It offers the possibility of music, movies, wireless multiplayer and several other creature features that can tickle anyone’s fancy — except mine.

The issue here is not the fact that these new systems don’t offer enough, it is the price we pay for them. It seems as though price has been driven up by the success of technology’s latest toys, leaving many feeling out of the loop.

I remember the humble beginnings of handhelds; Milton Bradley manufactured several games called Microvision, but lacked the technology or vision to see the market’s viability. Following Microvison, a line of Game & Watch handhelds was developed by Nintendo in 1980, but it, too, lacked the technology to be successful.

Taking initiative where Milton Bradley did not, Nintendo looked further and hit big in 1989 with the introduction of the Game Boy, changing the world for gamers as we know it. Its success has driven the industry to strive and invest in the most up-to-date technology the market has to offer.

So who would have thought, nearly 16 years later, how far we’ve come? The price of the Game Boy in 1989 was $109, while Nintendo’s at-home console at the time, the NES, was priced at $199. PSP is valued at $250 for the bare-bones system with no games, where its at-home counterpart sold at $299, but can now be found for $150.

The progression of technology has led to a rise in demand for high-end technologies, and affordability has now become an issue. When a handheld gaming system garners a higher selling price than a home console, I begin to wonder.

So I began asking around to find out what makes this little handheld so exciting and worth the investment, and lo and behold I found the answer: It does everything, but you have to buy the stuff.

Sony took the old ideas from its elders and made a handheld that encompasses every walk of life, letting you watch movies, listen to music and play games. Who could ask for more?

How about a different price?

To take advantage of all the extra features and gaming options, one must purchase memory cards and other accessories. Before you hit the checkout counter you are looking at $500 rather than $250. Then there is buying the minidiscs, which cost the same as normal Playstation discs, $50.

Technology will always update itself and having new technology comes at a price, but this gamer can wait.

The world of handhelds has become out of reach and unaffordable, asking gamers to trade life and limb for new technology, offering up their firstborn for the latest trend. Simply put, I like my PS2 and XBOX at home on my big screen, not some 4-inch rectangle. And as for the other features, I’ll save my money and use the iPod I got as a Christmas gift for music on the go. For now, as a broke college student, I’m sure I can find some use for the extra money.