Is Razer's tablet really an interesting proposition?
Razer has become a household name these days; if you live in a house that happens to be the dwelling place of a hardcore PC gamer, anyway. Famous for innovation and a regular fixture in the competitive gaming circuit as well as consumer electronic exhibitions, Razer's latest addition to its already impressive bag of magic tricks is the gaming tablet referred to only as 'Project Fiona'. If last year's Razer 'Switchblade' laptop was a sign of things to come, Razer has made its intentions very clear with Fiona. It would seem that the peripheral manufacturer has decided to diversify into areas that are not necessarily niche, while not drawing focus away from the core nature of its products. With Fiona, however, it is also planning to create something unique: a product that is more portable than a laptop which also offers an experience that doesn't feel constrained like on other mobile gaming platforms such as the Sony PSP or Nintendo DS. What is more interesting is the fact that this superior experience can be had for less than a $1,000 according to initial reports. But the question remains: is the idea of a serious portable gaming tablet relevant in the first place? There's a lot to consider before we can answer that question.
Currently, mobile gaming isn't an expensive proposition, particularly in the casual gaming space. Games on the Apple's iPad and Android tablets are extremely affordable, and with the development of core games on the rise, tablet owners can play games such as Infinity Blade II and Grand Theft Auto III for hours together (tablets tend to have very good battery life — something Fiona might not be able to deliver). However, a Windows-powered (presumably) core gaming tablet would take the inexpensiveness of portable gaming out of the equation since gamers will be required to pay retail prices for games and while Steam could potentially ease the pain a little, new games will still cost a pretty penny, putting Fiona, really, in the same space as gaming laptops. While this might not be a comfortable place to be in, there are areas in which Fiona will score over its bulky brethren. For starters, gaming laptops, including Razer's very own Switchblade, cost upwards of a $1,000 (or even more in the case of India), have appalling battery life and are incredibly heavy. Despite Fiona's slightly clunky features (in tablet terms), it is substantially more mobile than its competitors. It might not be able to win over PC gamers who are fond of mouse and keyboard controls or love mouse pads that outsize the average bathmat, but even they will surely acknowledge its benefits.
But to determine whether Fiona will be truly successful, a couple of important questions need to answered. First, what about upgrades? PC gaming is hardware dependent, now more so than ever (The Xbox 360 will not be the lead development platform much longer), and if Fiona is going to mimic its laptop predecessors by being non-customisable (this will most likely be the case), gamers will not be able to enjoy new games on high levels of detail. Sure, Skyrim runs well now, but what about Battlefield 4? Second, what about support from game creators? Interestingly, the second question could potentially provide a solution to the first problem. Strong publisher and developer backing could lead to optimised games for the Fiona platform. However, for the platform to be taken seriously, it needs to be profitable — a classic chicken and egg story. It is doubtful if any publisher will be willing to take a chance at this point, but an effective digital content delivery system could prove key here by helping publishers keep logistical costs down. As of now, Fiona looks interesting, but it isn't entirely relevant at this stage. So until then, with the release of the PSP Vita imminent, you're better off giving your money to Sony, come February.