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.