While the spotlight at E3 2014 will shine mostly on home console releases, both Nintendo and Sony still have handheld devices to consider. Conferences and showfloor booths will be filled with new and recently revealed AAA experiences for the PlayStation 4, Wii U and Xbox One, but the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita are still making their presence known at this year's expo.
The major handheld title in Nintendo's catalogue is Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. The Wii U version will likely receive the bulk of attention — the already announced tournament and chance to play at Best Buys during E3 certainly indicate that. Nintendo hasn’t yet moved the game from its announced summer release window, however, so the handheld version should play some role in the Nintendo Digital Event.
The Pokémon remakes, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, can also be expected, but the most alluring exclusive title is one that hasn’t been announced yet. Nintendo revealed it will devote a 90-minute developer roundtable to a mystery 3DS game. Nintendo has not hinted at the nature of the game, though best guesses include the rumored Mario Maker or a game employing the Nintendo Figurine Program.
Third party publishers continue to demonstrate interest in the 3DS, even if the bulk of their lineups include licensed titles or sequels to existing franchises. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call are the biggest third-party offerings.
While Nintendo relies on a few major games, Sony’s PlayStation Vita is not lacking for titles at E3. Sony has promised more than 20 titles for the handheld will make an appearance at the show. Though many are also releasing on Sony’s home consoles, the hardware manufacturer looks to deliver a steady stream of releases over the coming months.
Many speak to Sony’s dedication to indie developers, such as Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and Rogue Legacy on the Vita during the show. However, few of these titles are exclusive to the system, save for games like Danganronpa 2 and Persona 4: Dancing All Night.
None of the games look to tout the PlayStation Vita’s original promise of home console-quality experiences in a handheld environment, though the relative success of Borderlands 2 did not hurt the promise of similar titles.
Sony also has the opportunity to push its handheld’s connectivity to the PlayStation 4, whether through the rumored bundle of the two systems or via a demonstration of PlayStation Now. Providing players with opportunities to play PS3 games or to use the Vita as an extension of the successful PS4 may be the company’s best chance to highlight the capabilities of its handheld.
The handheld presence at the show is a far cry from the most popular days of the DS and PSP, but Sony and Nintendo can still make a strong case for their devices. The PS4, Xbox One and Wii U may rule the next week of coverage, but the Vita and 3DS are still offering plenty to keep longtime owners entertained, and maybe even to entice a few new adopters.