Mobile phone gaming kills casual gaming handhelds

Is casual gaming, the supposed vampire sucking on the life-blood of the “hard-core” market, heading into a downward spiral? According to a report by analysts Cowen and Company, it is.

The report states that 26% of the market is rocking out with the Sony PSP, 3DS or non-3D Nintendo DS, in a slow but steady decline. “Over the last five years, the penetration of dedicated handheld platforms into survey respondents self-identifying as casual gamers has declined by 29 per cent, with the vast majority of that decline occurring in the last two years.”

Since Android and iPhones hit the market, demand for a console-like gaming experience on phone handsets has driven developers to create titles which try to ape the best Sony and Nintendo has to offer. Titles such as Infinity Blade use the Unreal Engine 3.0, software which was once confined to the likes of powerful consoles such as PS3 and Xbox 360.

“We believe mobile and smartphone gaming is significantly impacting demand for dedicated handheld devices,” the survey continues. Of those surveyed, 52% play games on their mobiles, while only 37% use a dedicated handheld gaming device.

“We do not view the decline of casual handheld gaming as a particular problem for the US publishers, as they have migrated their exposure away from dedicated handheld platforms, and in some cases (particularly EA) have invested significantly in phone and tablet platform game development. However, we do view this trend as a negative one for Sony and especially Nintendo.”

EA, the world’s most powerful games publisher, has recently tapped into the emerging gaming markets as it begins to release titles for entry-level Nokia smartphones.

Why the move towards mobile games? The report singles out the excessive cost of gaming titles on dedicated handled consoles. “There is a substantial gap between the average prices that our respondents were willing to pay and prevailing hardware retail price points.”

With Nintendo suffering in the handled and console market, it’s only hope lies in tapping the lucrative mobile market, but with a history of grimly sticking to its hardware systems only, smartphone users may never see the likes of Mario or Zelda in their hands in the way they’d like. In words that may come to haunt them, Nintendo says it could care less for the mobile market. Nintendo of America said, “Nintendo has no intention or plans of publishing its IP on non-Nintendo platforms.”

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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