Saturday, June 9, 2018

Pocket PC - the forgotten era of handheld video gaming?

Fr Mark Higgins writes- 

Back in the early 2000s I was an owner of a Pocket PC, I managed to persuade my grandparents to buy me one when I was about 16, I owned, to begin with an HP Jornada 525, later on I had a NEC Pocket Gear 2060, then I had an Axim X5, before finally settling with an HP IPAQ 2495, this probably spans the years of 2002 to 2007, so that's a lot of devices in a short space of time.

Anyway, the reason I had so many of these things was because as a 16 or 17 year old I managed to find my way into reviewing games for Pocket PCs at a website now long defunct called, in fact, eventually I more or less ran the news side of the site by the time I was 20. The site was pretty popular back in the day and we made a lot through ad revenues and I got a share of the pot.

Anyway, sites like PDArcade existed because PDAs were a major platform, albeit a niche one, for video games. There were other websites dedicated to PDA gaming reviews such as, forums dedicated to discussing Pocket PC gaming like, if I recall,, and even Pocket PCs particularly marketed as gaming Pocket PCs, such as, I think some of the ASUS models. Peripherals existed like control pads to make gaming even easier.
And then, of course, there were software companies, often producing really, really impressive titles. PDA gaming, developer side of things, was a return to the days of 8-bit because games, that were selling 10000s of copies were being made by tiny teams of programmers. PDA game development also was a work of real creativity because often Pocket PCs did not have that much storage space. Some companies really excelled at being able to produce games that looked amazing, perhaps at times reaching close to game boy advance and they did so without the size of game going beyond 20mb.
 There was also a thriving emulation scene and at the end of its era the top Pocket PCs were able to play, without problems, all 8 bit, 16 bit and even 32 bit systems- that's quite something, considering that we are talking 2007 being able to play PS1 games released only 5 years previously- it would be like today playing a PS3 game on an iPhone using the hardware of the iPhone.

Perhaps if there is interest I will post some more on this subject, because I might well be one of the closet experts out there on it. I must have reviewed close to a hundred games for Pocket PC and played even more. The pictures in this article give you an idea of the kind of thing you could find on Pocket PC. 

Prices varied and top rate games reached up to $30 I think, but generally a top tier title would be something like $14.99. The place to buy games were the now defunct websites and of course directly from the developers. Usually you bought the game on PC and then transferred it over to your PDA but it was technically possible to to everything from the PDA. 

There was a lot of innovation, creativity and excellence in the short lived Pocket PC gaming system. Of course there were ports and a lot of the pictures show this, but alongside ports, developers pushed the limits of the system. Some memorable and excellent companies producing high quality were Hexacto, Ziosoft, PDAmill, Momentum games, Crimson fire, eSoft Interactive and many more.

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