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By 11 June 2012 | Categories: news

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It may not come as much surprise that tablets and mobile devices are continuing to put pressure on the likes of Sony’s PlayStation Vita and Nintendo’s 3DS portable gaming handhelds, but a new report indicates that these dedicated consoles are a sustainable niche nonetheless.
 
However, the report also emphasised that 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,” elaborated senior analyst Michael Inouye.
 
Inouye continued that 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,” he added.
 
The heart of the issue
 
This has been the crux of the argument for and against dedicated portable consoles.
 
Proponents of the 3DS and PlayStation Vita have pointed out that both offer a gaming experience that is different to what can currently be found on tablets; while critics argue that smartphones and tablets are far more ubiquitous than Sony or Nintendo’s offerings.
 
It appears to us as though both points are equally as valid. Indeed, having played around extensively with each, our experience has been that Vita titles such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss and the forthcoming Gravity Rush, and 3DS titles like Super Mario Bros 3D and the latest Zelda, offer wholly unique gaming experiences when compared to, for example Angry Birds or Cut the Rope.
 
Replacements for the likes of Golden Abyss are not so readily found on the Google Play market or on the iOS stores, even as there are increasingly higher quality and more hardcore games, such as Nova 3 and Infinity Blade 2 on those platforms as well.
 
Additionally, recent announcements by Sony in particular of forthcoming exclusives for its Vita system, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified and Assassin’s Creed Liberation, provide hope that there is still something to look forward to on the Vita.
 
Another ace up the Vita’s sleeve in particular when compared to mobile devices, is its physical controls. Indeed, for those used to playing games on consoles, there is a significant different between using touch controls and the more familiar dual sticks that Sony’s portable sports. Sadly, the 3DS neglected to fully capitalise on this, even though a second analog stick could be added by a third party accessory.
 
Not quite number one
 
On the sales numbers front though, the outlook for neither portable console looks overly positive. The companyrevealed that more than 38 million handheld gaming devices from Sony and Nintendo are expected to ship in 2013 – a maximum that is significantly lower than the previous peak of 47 million units in 2008.  
 
Inouye explained that 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,” he concluded.
 
To the point
 
In other words, the future of both the 3DS and the Vita relies on quality titles which distinguish themselves from, and stand head and shoulder above, those available for tablets and smartphones. Additionally, the companies need to be sensitive to the fact that both the Google Play store and the Apps Store have ‘taught’ gamers to expect to pay between R8 to R60 for mobile games, and price is still king.
 
Indeed, asking users to pay in the region of R350 to R500 for a Vita game may well act as a strong deterrent against the console, particularly for those who are already building up their mobile gaming library on their smartphone or tablet for a fraction of the price.

It should come as little surprise to neither Sony nor Nintendo that half hearted ports of games already available on other platforms simply will not suffice. Both company’s need to woo hardcore gamers with unique exclusive titles that are every bit as distinctive and that ooze triple A as those developed for the larger console, and which most importantly, virtually beg to be played. 

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