Tablets in handheld gaming smackdown

Over 38 million handheld gaming devices from Sony and Nintendo are expected to ship in 2013 – a number that is significantly lower than the 47 million units sold in 2008.

Although post 2013 unit shipments are projected to decline slightly, ABI Research analyst Michael Inouye believes gaming devices are a sustainable niche, despite tracking a relatively flat forecast through 2017.

Indeed, smartphone and tablet use for gaming continues to expand, making the mobile gaming market an increasingly important companion to dedicated handheld gaming. 

“Mobile devices will compete with dedicated handheld gaming devices, but select consumer segments like core gamers and those individuals who do not want or have a smartphone or tablet will still provide some demand,”  Inouye explained in an industry note obtained by TG Daily.

“The addition of mobile gaming is not necessarily a zero sum situation; in fact, many feel there is plenty of room in the gaming market for both portable and mobile gaming.”

According to Inouye, Nintendo’s 3DS experienced a far weaker second quarter, following an initially strong 1Q 2011 launch, which prompted the Japanese-based corporation to dramatically lower the price of its handheld console from ~$249 to ~$170. The lower price, coupled with additional titles, spurred sales to over 15 million through the 2011 calendar year. 

Similarly, in late 2011, Sony launched the Vita in Japan with a wider launch in February 2012 to decent sales – although price might ultimately prove an issue for Sony as well, despite significantly more robust hardware. 

“The mobile and tablet markets have increased consumers’ price sensitivity.  First party developers and key game franchises will be vital cogs for the industry in the future, since hardware alone is not going to cut it given the shorter upgrade cycles for mobile devices,” said Inouye.

“[In addition], recent announcements at E3 from Nintendo and Microsoft, coupled with past mobile-centric initiatives by Sony, make clear that mobile experiences will be integrated into ‘dedicated’ gaming experiences – both console and portable.”