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Has the smartphone killed mobile gaming?

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In recent year we've seen the launch of the 3DS and the PS Vita. Both did terrible at retail, although 3DS sales picked up after a price drop and Nintendo rolling out some big guns like Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 and recently New Super Mario Bros 2. The Vita still seems to be struggling despite a pretty strong launch line-up and some excellent downloadables, and even big shots at Sony are now going public with statements that it's hard to cement third party software.

Looking at the festive season, the release schedule for both seem to be pretty dire. Am I being overly pessimistic, or is the often heard argument that people grab their iPhones/Androids for quick fix gaming on the road true after all? That the market for true, console-depth games for mobile platforms has pretty much dried up apart from a niche group of interested people? I got this lovely Vita and 3DS lying next to me and there doesn't seem to be coming out much of interest for months, WHY?

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Yes. But it' not just hurting the handhelds it's also hurting the home consoles. For many people - a short burst of gaming is all they want and the sheer volume of games available on a smartphone means that there's something for everyone.

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Its not just the smartphone. I'd argue its also the advert of social networking and social network gaming.

I mean all those grannies that would have bought a Wii, now just play Eastbourneville or whatever the latest game is.

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A prime example of the outdated Japanese business model for mobile gaming can be seen with the latest Square~Enix releases on iOS; £20 for a complete version of Final Fantasy Dimensions or £14 for The World Ends With You.

Both of these are probably awesome games but seriously, if a consumer base begrudge paying more than £8 for an album on the same digital distribution platform, what force on earth would make you think that they would pay that much for a game?

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The 3DS has sold more than the original DS in the same timeframe.

Checkmate.

meh.

come back again with 5year sales figures.

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A prime example of the outdated Japanese business model for mobile gaming can be seen with the latest Square~Enix releases on iOS; £20 for a complete version of Final Fantasy Dimensions or £14 for The World Ends With You.

This may be more to do with the cost of games in Japan, and then the japanese office releasing those games for approximately the same price worldwide. This doesn't happen with 'retail' titles because the prices are set by the local offices who take responsibility for ordering the carts from Japan and the marketing and distribution. TWEWY is slightly cheaper than the exchange rate for the japanese version's 1800yen (and that includes Uk Vat). i've not played the game so don't know what value for money it represents but given it's a role playing game it may well deliver more value for money than buying a handful of 69p games that get played for 5 minutes each.

There are two types of 'mobile' gamer. Those that want as many cheap/free games as possible and those that want fewer games, but deeper and with more length to them. Of course there is nothing wrong with having choice, but there are other factors that go beyond such simple categorisation. For starters the economy being in the state it is has lead to decreased spending on non essentials like gaming and smartphone gaming can offer cheaper alternatives.

Personally I'd rather play games on the 3ds/vita than mobile gaming because I want those longer, deeper more meaningful 'experiences' rather than something to quickly kill 5 minutes here and there. While there are many quality smartphone games around, most of them are of a debatable standard and would never get the attention they do if if it wasn't for the fast food approach they offer.

It's way too easily to claim that smartphone gaming has killed handhelds. It has influenced some people, but the death of the handheld has been exaggerated to an extreme.

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I don't think you can say it's killed it.

Handheld gaming is something that Nintendo have always dominated and there's always been utter dross released by third parties. Their competitors in the market have always struggled because of games because they don't offer the sort of games Nintendo do. Regardless of your tastes, you have to admit that they seem to make more games suited for handheld gaming.

What phones have done is given gamers (and consumers as a whole) a massive pool to pick from, it might not be anywhere near the percentage of good games on a Nintendo handheld but the sheer number means it doesn't matter.

I reckon Nintendo and Sony are a bit stuck now - they can't afford to offer the software cheaply with the hardware at a premium and they'd go out of business if they sold their handhelds cheaply but the games more expensive.

Traditional handheld gaming won't die because at the very least there'll be a niche market for people like us. The easiest way for them to adapt would be to start constructing the whole ecosystem that Apple has. In my opinion the best way for games manufacturers to keep themselves relevant is to make the transition from console to handheld gaming seamless. Obviously you're not going to get parity unless you start pegging back console specs but you should be able to access all the same services and purchases no matter what the device. Sony have made promising moves in that direction but the next step is to open up to smaller developers now.

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I reckon Nintendo and Sony are a bit stuck now - they can't afford to offer the software cheaply with the hardware at a premium and they'd go out of business if they sold their handhelds cheaply but the games more expensive.

Both offer services for cheaper, more disposable gaming, especially Sony.

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Both offer services for cheaper, more disposable gaming, especially Sony.

Nintendo do?

As for Sony, yes but as far as I'm aware the barriers to entry are quite high compared to the Apple Store.

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No. The only time I've seen someone with a mobile gaming system in public it have been young kids with a Nintendo. Kids that are still to young for a smartphone.

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I agree that the time where Nintendo and Sony can get people who aren't passionate about video games to buy dedicated handhelds is all but over (except kids, I see lots of kids with a 3DS). Gaming will follow other hobbies/entertainment media and simply become part of the one device combined experience for people who don't want rich, deeper experiences. The same way only audiophiles buy dedicated music players for their flac encoded audio with their £300 headphones, whereas the average person listens to music on their iPhone with the earphones that come with it. Gaming will follow a similar path. Nintendo will release software for these jack-of-all-trades devices and maybe release physical goods targeted at children. All game devs with develop for ecosystems such as iOS or Android if they want to appeal to the mass market. There might still be dedicated gaming handhelds but they will never reach the heights of the Gameboy era.

Eventually the same thing will happen to games consoles themselves. Google or Apple TV living room hubs will run games and make dedicated games consoles suffer. All the people who buy zumba fitness and wii sports will jump ship. Microsoft is already trying to combat this by making the xbox just as much a movie playing device as a games console. And Sony did something similar by making the PS2 play DVDs and the PS3 play blurays. Nintendo is sort of fucked though, since they're the only dedicated gaming company and all their huge sales have been from this audience.

Eventually gaming consoles will either be a bit more expensive (compared to how cheap the Wii is for example) and for a (sizeable) niche audience. Much like the current PC gaming audience/market. PC Gaming will stay the same while Apple boxes eat up the living room casual gaming audience.

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Yes. But it' not just hurting the handhelds it's also hurting the home consoles. For many people - a short burst of gaming is all they want and the sheer volume of games available on a smartphone means that there's something for everyone.

Anecdotal I know, but for me it's true. I don't play anything on home or handheld consoles anymore. That's partly because I don't want to be tethered to the TV, and nor do I want several different devices with me when out, but also because iOS gaming is just so damn good now.

Smart phone gaming is by and large a heap of shit. Sales of 3DS are healthy. So no.

Possibly the most wrong post in the history of the forum.

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I think it harms them people that buy a console and one game when it hits £99. Those that bought a Wii for Wii Sports or Wii Fit or bought a DS for Professor Layton. Mobile phone gaming just can't compete with the handhelds due to the lack of controls. They play a great game of Angry Birds or Wheres My Water but its quite telling that the same 'grab 3 stars' games are the ones that sell whilst ports of Driver or Resident Evil don't. Theres loads of great games and ports on the app store, for example you can get Dreamcast game Fur Fighters on an iPhone, yet the iphone lacks the controls for it so it doesn't play nearly as well.

Even if phones got controls i wonder if the battery life would harm them as games machines. A game of Angry Birds can drain the battery very quickly, let alone a fully 3D game. If my 3DS dies it doesn't matter i can find something else to entertain me. But if my phone dies? That could leave me in quite a pickle especially when out and about.

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Stanley, tell us about how the handheld consoles are still selling some units at all, and therefore it can't be said that smartphones are having any effect on sales.

Mobile phone gaming just can't compete with the handhelds due to the lack of controls. They play a great game of Angry Birds or Wheres My Water but its quite telling that the same 'grab 3 stars' games are the ones that sell whilst ports of Driver or Resident Evil don't.

Aren't you basically complaining that smartphones get unique types of games perfectly suited to their needs rather than the same old few genres that dominate everywhere else? I don't see that as a negative - the Vita brigade who seemingly want nothing but the same stuff on every platform terrify me tbh.

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I can't stand iOS games. I bought an iPhone last year believing it'd be host to all kinds of exciting new games but the truth is that on the whole it isn't - there is a much better and wider selection of games with decent input devices on other platforms.

It's a fad and there will always be a place for dedicated gaming devices.

Stanley, tell us about how the handheld consoles are still selling some units at all, and therefore it can't be said that smartphones are having any effect on sales.

Tell us about the rising costs of games.
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I can't stand iOS games. I bought an iPhone last year believing it'd be host to all kinds of exciting new games but the truth is that on the whole it isn't - there is a much better and wider selection of games with decent input devices on other platforms.

I think you're playing the wrong sorts of games, there's been a massive resurgence in stuff like digital CCGs, roguelikes fighting fantasy gamebooks and so on on those platforms.

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Personally I'd rather play games on the 3ds/vita than mobile gaming because I want those longer, deeper more meaningful 'experiences' rather than something to quickly kill 5 minutes here and there.

Y'see normally I'd agree with but I just got Bastion, which is nearly exactly the same as the XBL/Steam versions in both quality and length for £2.99. If other publishers cotton onto this then I'd say you're going to end up with less and less reason for the man on the street to opt in buying 3DS/PSvita, other than "exclusives" obviously.

No. The only time I've seen someone with a mobile gaming system in public it have been young kids with a Nintendo. Kids that are still to young for a smartphone.

But I know of several parents who have opted to get their kids an iPod Touch 8gb because it's literally a few pounds more than a PSvita wi-fi or 3DS XL and, in their eyes, it does more for the money and is just as accessible to them.

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No one is arguing is that smartphone games are superior to dedicated handheld games. (Well, I hope not)

But the point is that for most people, who only have a casual interest in games, they are good enough. Good enough to distract them for the duration of a train or bus journey. Or maybe in a dentist's waiting room. Good enough for them not to feel they have to buy a 3DS or Vita. Although this does raise the question of whether these people bought any handheld games consoles prior to owning a smartphone anyway.

This sort of complex market analysis is probably beyond my conjecture. There must have been proper academic or business market research done regarding this

I think handheld gaming has been traditionally dominated by children. And kids still like handheld games consoles.

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I think you're playing the wrong sorts of games, there's been a massive resurgence in stuff like digital CCGs, roguelikes fighting fantasy gamebooks and so on on those platforms.

Perhaps (although I'm not exactly salivating at your description). I just prefer playing games for devices designed to play games on. Don't get me wrong I've enjoyed the odd game here and there but in the future as digital services become the normI'd prefer to carry a dedicated gaming device around with me for those needs. Fuck iOS.

As for sales this generation as sold more consoles in total, and more software, than any generation prior.

I can see mobiles becoming more intergrated with consoles - smart glass and so on, but I don't see people abandoning their consoles or PC's any time soon.

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When they play to the device's strengths then abso-bloody-lutely I am saying that.

Their strengths being what?

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I don't think you can blame the smartphone alone hitting the likes of Sony and Nintendo for their portable gaming. The introduction of iPads and Android tablets have also taken their slice of the mobile gaming cake. Rarely do I see any commuters these days on trains every day playing a handheld console. They're either on their smartphone or tablet playing some game or other. With the ladies it's more about them checking into fb and the like.

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I can see mobiles becoming more intergrated with consoles - smart glass and so on, but I don't see people abandoning their consoles or PC's any time soon.

Aren't PCs already some tiny portion of the market? It's all about laptops for most people.

Their strengths being what?

Small games that can be played in short sessions and can make use of stuff like a touchscreen, accelerometer and always available cellular networking for multiplayer?

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But the point is that for most people, who only have a casual interest in games, they are good enough. Good enough to distract them for the duration of a train or bus journey. Or maybe in a dentist's waiting room.

Or good enough to sink tens or even hundreds of hours into (if my Happy Street addiction is anything to go by). And free, or nearly free, most of the time. 30 hours I played Undercroft for, and that's "just" a free old school dungeon crawler. Then there's stuff like Waking Mars, Bastion, Real Racing HD2, Galaxy on Fire 2. The list is endless. Loads of full length games for next to nothing with perfectly good control schemes, all on a device you probably already have anyway.

Or, if you only want a quick fix, some of the best twitch games ever made. But there's plenty out there to distract you for far longer than a dentist's waiting room.

Their strengths being what?

Making best use of the touchscreen and the tilt controls (Like Real Racing HD say, which would be infinitely worse on a trad handheld). Or things like Facebook connectivity (I can exchange items in Happy Street with people I am friends with on FB). Far easier than Animal Crossing's setup.

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