Handheld Gaming Systems on the Rebound

Posted by at 10:17 am on January 17, 2012

Handheld gaming systems like the Nintendo 3DS and Sony’s PlayStation Vita will trigger a “rebound year” that fends off iOS and Android, IDC estimated on Tuesday. A wave of revenue stemming both from the new hardware and from game sales attached to it was expected to last through 2012 and 2013. While Nintendo and Sony might still sell fewer units and fewer games, the frequent $30 to $40 prices of their games would trump the dependence on cheap or free titles on smartphones and tablets.

“It’s absolutely true that a mind-boggling number of games have been downloaded to iOS- and Android-powered devices in the past year,” gaming research lead Lewis Ward said. “But only a fraction of those games were paid for and most of those were of the $1 to $3 variety.”

Nintendo and Sony alike were helped by the child and teen demographics. Dedicated gaming systems made more sense for them, many of whom are still years away from being trusted with a smartphone or tablet. Younger gamers were also conspicuously more likely to pay, whether themselves or through their parents.

Researchers still saw games on phones and tablets getting a slight edge in revenue by 2015, but they would only get a four percent edge in this long term prediction. Most of it would come from the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as wealthier countries’ economic problems would slow them down.

Whether or not the predictions pan out isn’t certain. Nintendo’s 3DS sales have outpaced the Wii in first-year terms, but the company is known to depend primarily on releases of its own games for hardware sales. Sony has also seen Vita sales cool down considerably in Japan and has yet to know for certain whether it will compete closely enough with the 3DS in the long term.

The estimates also assume no wildcards thrown in from the mobile space, such as a breakthrough in gaming performance, lower hardware prices, or a blockbuster game release.

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