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Mobile Gaming: A Threat or Blessing to Handheld Consoles?

Mobile Gaming: A Threat or Blessing to Handheld Consoles?

Sep 17, 2013

Nintendo and Sony have been challenged in the handheld market because of the introduction of casual gaming on mobile devices. Smart phones and tablets have given life to a form of casual handheld gaming that has a different feel than games offered by the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita. The handheld audience has grown significantly because of mobile gaming, and it is important for both Sony and Nintendo to make the most of the growing handheld audience.

Gaming on phones is a much cheaper alternative than gaming on a 3DS or PS Vita. Mobile phones have become somewhat of a necessity in life, so using it as your handheld device for gaming means you needn’t spend money elsewhere on a different handheld console. App stores allow people to access and purchase cheap, simple and easy gaming, which is great for casual gamers who don’t mind paying a few pounds for the titles. Spending £20+ for a PS Vita/3DS title, on top of the console, might be too much of a tall order for somebody unfamiliar with handheld gaming. Popular games such as Angry Birds and Doodlejump have great success in the casual market because of their wide appeal and simple game mechanics. They are easy to pick up and learn, regardless of a person’s “Gaming Ability”. On the other hand, Most people own a mobile phone because of their necessity in modern life, and therefore it is easier for a mobile phone user to get into casual gaming. Unfortunately for Sony and Nintendo, neither of their handhelds are ‘required’ to be on a person at all times.

Angry Birds has become its own brand

Angry Birds is one of the best selling mobile games of all time.

Although sales have been relatively strong for the Nintendo and Sony (not overly amazing, though), the rise in mobile gaming is potentially great for them. Although the casual mobile gamer is a different demographic to 3DS and PS Vita gamers, it is putting a handheld device, capable of playing video games in the hands of those who wouldn’t have previously picked one up. The new, cheaper PS Vita 2000 and Nintendo 2DS are cheaper alternatives to the handheld market that are looking to pick up these new casual gamers, capitalising on the new gaming audience that has been created. The Nintendo eStore could be the sales platform the 3DS/2DS could use to sell these cheap, casual games and has the potential to provide a service for the Nintendo handhelds that functions like the App. store for mobile devices. Although the Nintendo eStore allows people to purchase older, less complicated games, it still doesn’t have that same “casual” feel as those available on mobile devices.

Mobile gaming has evolved and adjusted quickly to fit in with peoples’ daily routines. For instance, on a train or a bus, you are more likely to see people on their phones (not necessarily gaming, however) than reading a book or playing other handheld devices. If a mobile device could feature something similar to Nintendo’s StreetPass, it could integrate multiplayer casual gaming extremely well. Imagining sitting on a train, doing the daily commute, when somebody from your carriage challenges you to a game, or joins you in co-op from their phone. It might just make packed journeys on public transport a little bit more enjoyable.

Handhelds have obviously improved over time, but they seem to have slowly evolved rather than transitioning into “newer” generations, like the home consoles. The original Nintendo DS, which launched in 2004, saw many upgrades and re-iterations of the product. The Nintendo DS Lite, DSi and the DSi XL all sold well, but offered nothing particularly exciting (other than the much needed WPA internet support). Even the progression to the 3DS still felt like an add-on and upgrade rather than a new generation of handheld consoles. Similarly, the PSP to Vita transition felt like a progressive improvement, rather than a ground-breaking step-up. The new PS Vita 2000 and 2DS are more of a side-grade than a push forward in technology, but their function is to act as a cheaper alternative, aimed at more casual gamers.


The DSi featured several quality of life upgrades from previous DS handhelds

The Nintendo DSi allowed for WPA internet usage, upgrading from WEP, as well as a camera and improved back-lighting.

It therefore begs the question, when is there going to be a large breakthrough and emergence of next gen handheld devices from Sony and Nintendo? How will they compete with the huge, fast growing market of casual mobile gaming?


What if the next generation of handhelds from Nintendo and Sony could also function as a mobile phone device? We’ve seen cameras, video recording and  the internet integrated into our phones, so why shouldn’t we see phones integrated into our handheld consoles? By absorbing telecommunications into the hardware and device, the potential market for Sony and Nintendo would increase dramatically. In addition, imagine calling your friend from the next gen Sony handheld, and they could either answer the call with their PS4 or their mobile phone? Nintendo, of course, doing a similar thing with a next gen handheld and the Wii U. It is expensive to own a mobile and handheld console, so if Sony and Nintendo could make a handheld that merged these together, surely they’d be onto a winner?


Will phone usage be the next step for handheld consoles?

Imagining calling a friend on your PS Vita, and being able to choose between calling them on their phone or their PS4.

Before the Nintendo DS and Playstation Portable were released, it would’ve seemed alien and completely unnecessary for Nintendo and Sony to consider integrating telecoms into their handhelds. Now, however, it feels like it should be the next transitional step forward. If mobile gaming wants to compete with handheld consoles, why shouldn’t the consoles return the competition?

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