The Handheld War: A Challenger Emerges
During the hour-long commute with my fellow drones, many train passengers can be seen burying their heads into illuminated screens. While some of them are checking e-mails or selecting a song, one trend has become prevalent in the past few years: less people are carrying handheld gaming systems around me.
There once was a time when I would give the nod to more than one person, because we both had the electric blue Nintendo DS. But as the number of players dwindled, that nod became rarer and rarer, until I opted to pass time on my iPhone rather than lugging around an extra device.
More and more, smart phones are becoming a real market player in the handheld segment. I walk by just as many gamers as I did five years ago, but they’re almost unrecognizable from a distance because most of them are playing on their phones.
That’s not to say that Sony and Nintendo are going anywhere – handheld consoles still deliver a rich, immersive experience that few smartphone games can match especially in terms of game length. However, the gap between the devices is closing, which begs the question: are developers making enough money out of handheld gaming to be profitable when smartphones are taking an increasingly larger share?
It’s a question I plan to answer in the coming weeks, but the effects of such trends are already around us. Cutting hardware costs may seem like a good thing, but when you consider how weak the 3DS launch titles have been thus far, it seems more like an act of desperation than anything else. Sony’s Playstation Vita hasn’t escaped its share of bad publicity either, and that’s prior to the device’s release.
Slumping hardware news coupled with publishing giants such as Electronic Arts investing heavily in mobile gaming reminds us that tablet and smartphone gaming is the real deal. Tread carefully mobile gamers, your medium is evolving.