Casual Players Walking Away From Dedicated Handhelds

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It seems that the debate of whether dedicated handhelds can survive the changing portable market will continue after a survey by analysts Cowen and Company has revealed that more casual gamers continue to flock to smartphones for their portable needs, with less casual gamers looking at the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS and Sony PSP to tend to their portable needs.

“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,” their report states. “We believe cellphone and smartphone gaming is significantly impacting demand for dedicated handheld devices.”

The survey revealed that They believe that US publishers will not be affected of this decline, using EA as an example of a publisher who has significantly invest in this emerging market. However, they believe that the news on the casual decline would hurt Sony and Nintendo, quoting, “However, we do view this trend as a negative one for Sony and especially Nintendo.” Sony and Nintendo are in the dedicated handheld market.

I do have to note that there are a few problems with this survey. Firstly, the survey relies on two handhelds that have been on the market for over five years and both companies have moved onto new handhelds. Second, the Nintendo 3DS has only been on the market for nine months, which is not a reasonable amount of time to assess how it has impacted on the market on a long term scale. Third, the Sony PSP main demographic was never the casual market. With exception of a few titles, most of the PSP games focused on the other side of the coin, or hardcore gamers. The Vita will also be targeting the same market, with a few casual titles no doubt.

Which leads me to another point. What these surveys by analysts seem to forget is that there will be a market for dedicated gaming handhelds. Why? Simply put, there are a group of people who don’t want over-simplistic, short experiences on the go. This may be a shock to all of these analysts, but there are a number of people who want a deeper experience when they travel on the train or bus. Hopefully we see a co-existence of both markets rather than a complete abandonment of the dedicated market.


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Josh is the name, writing is my game... well my degree will say that. But, when uni gets me down (and it does), there is no better way that to grab a chair, sit back and slicing up some Darkspawn I started my gaming interest back in the good old 16 bit era with the Sega Mega Drive and Sonic The Hedgehog 2. I was roughly five years old. To this day I still try to fire up the dusty companion and speed through the wacky and bright levels, jumping on some Badniks, collecting those damn Chaos Emeralds. Then I moved onto Sony's disk based console the Playstation (thanks to my uncle). Since then I have picked up each of Sony's consoles from the 5th to current generation that has been released in Australia (with more to come). In terms of writing about games, I am quite new to the field. I started out late last year with my own blog before deciding to move to greener pastures. I have written a few reviews for the Playstation 3 and Playstation Portable. Features as well. I hope I can flex my muscles while writing with Capsule Computers. If I'm not gaming, however, I'm writing narratives. I am currently trying to kickstart a high fantasy novel (which, hopefully, turns into a complex RPG) that I want done in five years or so. My passion of writing has been there for a long time and has flourished as I grew. I'm into the fantasy genre, both games and novels, and thoroughly enjoy a deep and complex RPG, whether it comes from the East or West. Oh and anime is awesome!
  • Kyle Moore

    3DS and Vita I think will be fine, but they need to offer more to their buyers. The dual screen, 3D, back touchscreen and added technological features work to the extent that, right now, you can’t get that gaming experience anywhere. Furthermore, those features wouldn’t work on a phone, which is already a cluttered ecology of mulit-media as it is.

    To be fair, I own a 3DS and hardly play it with the exception of reviewing titles. The majority of titles don’t utilise the 3DS functionality and lack innovative design, except for the 3D but I feel that is a wasted experience.

    I would just finish with that smartphones are pervasive and have been for years, where as handhelds don’t have the same cultural discourse. 3DS does a good job trying to match this with their streetpass, trying to make players take their device everywhere. Their downloadable titles are at a loss for me, they could be doing so much more with it but refuse to “cheapen” the industry. By the way, great article 🙂

    • I would say you don’t play your 3DS because there’s nothing to play on it yet. It’s a great little piece of tech, but if the Wii and DS are anything to go by, Nintendo are the only ones who seem to make full use of the unique features of their devices, at least for the first few years.

      The first party games are the reason people support Nintendo. Amongst all the shovelware and the occasional third party gem, all the best Wii and DS games are Nintendo’s.

      The 3DS has a lot of sub-par third party games already, but the best games on the system are first party – Ocarina of Time and Starfox, both of which are remakes!

      But Nintendo are about to break the drought with Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus, Luigi’s Mansion 2, and we can expect instalments in 2012 of some of their other franchises, like Kirby, Donkey Kong, Animal Crossing, Wario, Yoshi’s Island, Mario Party, and maybe Zelda, Metroid and Pikmin.

      And we’ll start to get the quality third party titles as well.

      Nintendo really need to understand that they need more of these at or near the hardware launch to sell the tech. Hopefully they don’t make the same mistake with the Wii U. Mario or Link or someone better make an appearance at launch.

      • That is to say we won’t get ALL of the franchises i listed in 2012. I meant that we’ll probably see some of them, but the rest are likely over the years.

        Just thought I’d clarify.

        PS – how did I forget to mention Pokemon?!

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